Ritual primitive form of theatre?
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Pekka Mehtala Ritual primitive form of theatre? This issue interested me because of its historical aspect and I felt like I could use my knowledge in pre historic material in favour of writing this essay. I started by looking for exact definition for ritual, I found out that although I could find books that try to define theatre and ritual, most of them end up in dead end. If there was a definition it didn't cover the broad range of rituals. Oscar G. Brockett in his book "The History of the Theatre" has few examples of what rituals may have been used for. Ritual may have been a form of knowledge. It might be the way to pass knowledge and preserve it before written language was invented. Rituals may be intended to influence certain events like the rainfall or the change of the seasons. They are often performed to glorify a supernatural power, victory in hunting or in a war. And finally rituals may entertain or give pleasure. As those examples show rituals are used widely and in very varied occasions and purposes and that makes the difference between ritual and theatre very difficult to define.
But as their society became more sophisticated they left the religious context and so rituals became theatre as it was performed out of its religious context. This theory has its weaknesses as well, since these scholars thought that all cultures go through same cultural stages in history. As we look at culture around the world one can clearly see that every culture develops on individual unique way. I have noticed that as I arrived to a new culture here in England and so will anyone who might visit a country with different geographical location or culture. Might we find answer to the question from rituals that are still present? Might there be a piece of theatre that has turned into a ritual as time passed by? Perhaps marriage, ritual that is still performed widely and in various ways in all different religions. It may have been just a piece of performance of two people joining and making a family, but by the time it has become more important and it has been developed into a ritual and simultaneously gained its religious context? The slaughter of twelve bigs and a bull during carnival, in Venice became ritualized into an elaborate allegory of justice and domination.
Or was there a medicine man that acted out rituals as he tried to order the bad spirits to leave the sick person? Perhaps the spoken language was invented, what kind of occasions might they have had to create theatre or ritual? It is well known that many of the ritual takes place in spring for example the "Mephite Drama" performed by Egyptians in 4000BC. Spring was time of celebration for anyone who has spent time in a cold snowy environment for a whole winter. The winter season was probably the worst hunting season, what made living bit uncertain, but as spring came there was food to gather and people could get hunting again. That certainly would be occasion worth celebrating, perhaps that celebration became a ritual that glorified spring and the spirits that took the cold relatively dangerous winter away. One way or the other I think that theatre and ritual are so closely connected that they have had influence on each other somehow as they have developed. Whether ritual was the origin that theatre grew apart from one can only speculate, play with the idea, agree with Frazer and his colleague anthropologists or take a imaginary journey to the past time before time and see what you might find?
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