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The Theater throughout History

According to Robinson (1), the development of theater can be traced back to 600BC when many ancient Greeks performed the rites of Dionysus and ritual in honoring the god of fertility. He points out that during those ancient times, men would stage themselves by satirically dressing up as mythological creatures that were half-men and half-goats. Accompanied by their Dionysus songs, they would ecstatically emulate their female counterparts’ dancing styles. He notes that the Greek theater was characterized by chanting choruses. He observes that those who participated wore masks and high-sold boots which limited their movements. Robinson (1) emphasizes that it is during the ancient days that the formal choral lines were created by the actor known as the Arion of Methymna.

Robinson (1) notes that the ancient Greek theater, which was largely staged on the hillsides, resulted into the diminishing of chorus in the drama in favor of character interplay and the emergence of character itself. Moreover, he points out that the comedy became central type of plays staged during 300BC where actors solemnly dependent on tropical humor and satire in their unilaterally theme component. However, the decline of the Greek government and societies in the 180BC resulted into the rise of the Roman Theatre of which their playwrights were primarily based on incidents like gladiators and horse racing. He notes that it is the Roman Theater that resulted into vigorous active stage performance based on written playwrights. However, with the development of Christianity, Roman Theater emulated Christian playwright such as coarsely pagan and non-Christian playwright condemnation. Starting from that century and till the period of Renaissance, and protestant reformation, during which the theater began to undergo transformation, especially after the fall of the Roman Empire.

As centuries passed by, new style and content of theatre evolved especially with the invention and evolution of new digitized technology. This has tremendously contributed to the development and integration of theatre since the fall of Roman Empire to the present date. The write up, in addressing the history of theater, discusses various historical stages of theater development. These include Renaissance and Reformation (1300-1600), the Age of Imperialism (1800-1920), and the Contemporary World (1945-Present).

Renaissance and Reformation (1300-1600)

According to Patrick (12), the period from 1300 to 1600 was characterized by the rebirth of learning and cultures in Europe. He points out that this was the period of the rebirth of classical worlds of Rome and Greece through nationalism, thereby building the nation-states of England, France, Spain, Germany and Italy. He notes that the creation and rebirth of the new nation-states changed the content of theater as it was transformed beyond the traditional secularization format that was dominated by Christian playwrights and drama. While Renaissance and Reformation had impacted adversely on artistic arts in Europe, its major influence on theater was evident in Italy (Patrick, 12).

As pointed out by Patrick (14), the rebirth of learning and arts in Europe began in Italy in the 1300s due to the development of major cities in Italy which were mainly dominated by wealthier and powerful merchants and bankers. Additionally, on the territory of Italy there were many ruined buildings that not only reminded Italian artistic and scholars of the past classical Rome, but also inspired their artistic work. By this they developed a Renaissance culture which saw their artistic work giving deeper understanding on humanism opposing to Christian teachings (Patrick, 14). According to him, the impact of such inspiration on worldly things was evident when wealthy and powerful Italians paid artists, scholars and musicians such as Leonardo da Vinci to create for them attractive works of art.

This resulted into the use of paint based arts, sculptors and architecture in promoting the deeper understanding of life which was evident on Leonardo da Vinci painting on the world known portraits called the Mona Lisa. Furthermore, he points out that Italian Renaissance writers were high achievers in the society as they developed artistic writing which were based on their native languages, where they were able to express their own thought and feelings in form of theatre. Moreover, he notes that the development of picture frame staging originally comes from Italian artistic and currently takes a central stage on the playwrights and artistic performances.

Patrick (10) notes that in 1450, Renaissance started spreading to the northern Europe in countries like Europe, France, England and Germany. But contrary to Renaissance in Italy, Renaissance in northern Europe saw many educated artist combining the classical learning with religious ideas in their artistic work (Patrick, 10). He points out that, these artists through their writings advocated for church and society reforms that would enable people to be more devoted to God. For instance, the Martin Luther through his writings condemned the act of church officials of making people pay money to churches in order to win salvation (Patrick, 10). This resulted into the reformation and the foundation of new Christian churches.

According to Robinson (1), the fear of plague which caused lot of death in Europe, made it difficult for the establishment and organization of theater performance in Renaissance and Reformation days. He notes that since stage performance were characterized by audience surrounding the stage and even sitting on the stage itself, civil authorities sometimes banned the play performance with fear of plague outbreak. However, the beginning of Elizabethan theater in England which is comprised of notable playwrights including William Shakespeare, Christopher Marlowe, and Ben Jonson among others, greatly boosted the theater industry (Robinson, 1). He points out that the Chinese invention of a movable type, which was the processes of carving characters onto wooden blocks and then pressed into printing papers, enabled the printing and spreading of various Renaissance ideas.

The Age of Imperialism (1800-1920)

According to Hodge (689), the age of imperialism was characterized by industrial revolution as most colonial countries overused their powerful nature in invading other countries for slave workers or more resources. He points out that the impact of industrial revolution was not only evident among the people, but it also appeared on the face of theater. For instance, gas lighting which was first introduced in 1817 in London’s Drury Lane Theater clearly demonstrated the impact of industrial revolution on theater (Hodge, 689).  He notes that this gave rise to arc-lighting and the electric lighting which played a significant role at the performing stages. According to him, the controlling of lighting effect during stage performance was imperative on initiating the transitional appearance and disappearance of actors. However, he points out that due to the poor quality of lighting effects, performance resulted into melodrama which was characterized by less emphasis on the play content and acting, but more of action display.

On the other hand, Hodge (691) notes that the industrial revolution during the age of imperialism led to the development of enthusiastic mechanism of artistic transition which was based on flying of scenery. He points out that with the invention and development of fly-lofts, elevators, and revolving stages which resulted into an interactive stage performance, people actively started engaging artistic works. According to him, the rise of playwrights such as Henrik Ibsen, George Bernard Shaw, and Anton Chekov among others in 1800 to early 1900 resulted in artistic works which promoted the development of theater during the age of imperialism. For instance, the artistic work of Konstantin Stanislavsky, “An Actor Prepare,” formed a foundation for the development of actor’s studios during the 20th century. This enhanced the spread of artistic works (Hodge, 691).

Hodge (692) points out that since the age of Imperialism was characterized by political movement as various societies battled out for their political independency, it had enabled the commercial theater to develop and advance. He observes that the various developments and advancements gave rise to a number of interactive full-blown musical plays with the invention of new technologies resulting into the production of spectacular shows such as, “The Phantom of the Opera”. According to him, the high cost of film production limited the competition of live theaters with the Hollywood entertainment arena.

The Contemporary World (1945-Present)

According to Mee and Helene (118), the period from 1945 to the present has seen the innovation of new technologies which have greatly influenced the work of most actors. Such innovations have resulted into more the envying of more of entertainment rather than art in the theater. They point out that the age of contemporary world has incorporated modernization and more desire for entertainment which has resulted into rapid changing of the nature of playwrights and drama.  They argued that even though theater was threatened by the rapid development of television, it utilized television streaming in enhancing the artistic work. For instance, the invention of television enabled the streaming of American playwright Eugene O’Neill’s plays into the American society (Mee and Helene, 119). They note that O’Neill’s plays had a significant role in promoting the society’s moral behaviors. The Eugene O’Neill’s “The Iceman Cometh,” play educated the society on the impact of addiction of alcoholism and the motive which should be taken towards rehabilitation.    

As pointed out by Carson (167), the evolution of digitized technologies in the present day has enabled actors to create artistic products in 3D dimensions. She points out that the 3D dimensional appearance has brought out the individualism, personality, and originality in the artistic work which has resulted into active populist entertainment followers. She notes that the digital technology has not only integrated the content of arts produced, but it has also given the general population ample time of interactively discussing various artistic works. For instance, the innovation of internet has enabled most of the institutional theaters to interact with their audience, which tend to delineate their work into public participation (Carson, 172).

On the other hand, Carson (174) points out that the invention of digitized technology has changed the content of the artist works. She notes that most of the theater studios and artists incorporate less of educational plays by just concentrating on promoting their own identities through interactive but non-educative playwrights and films. For instance, the Royal Shakespeare Company which was established under strong educative humanism and religious playwrights is currently dominated by non-educational materials.


The write up, in highlighting the history of theater, has pointed out how the distinct historical ages of revolution have influenced the development of artist work. It has made it clear that the Renaissance and Reformation period in Europe saw various actors using their art in reforming both the society and Christianity. The Renaissance artist used their playwrights in sensitizing people on the importance of understanding human life. On the other hand, the development of electric and gas lighting effect during the industrial revolution at the Age of Imperialism enabled artists to initiate interactive playwright and art performance. Also, the Age of Imperialism led to the development of action based playwrights. Moreover, the write up has pointed out that the evolution of new technologies in the Contemporary world has improved the artistic work of the theater industry. However, there is need for both artist and theater industries to use digitalized technology in improvising knowledge rather than promoting entertainment.

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