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Overview of Theater - EXISTENCE OF THEATER., THE STUDY OF EGYPTIAN THEATER., REDEFINING THEATER.

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The primary question in a discussion of ancient Egyptian theater is whether or not it existed at all. Theater in modern American culture is primarily a mode of entertainment, though it can examine political, religious, or social topics. Actors perform theater on a stage, speaking dialogue. If ancient Egyptian culture had included a similar sort of drama, they would have had words for “actor,” “theater,” and “performance.” Yet all of these words are lacking in the Egyptian language. Theater buildings did exist in Egypt during the time period when the Greeks and then the Romans had conquered the country (after 332 B.C.E. ), but Greek dramas and Roman comedies were undoubtedly performed in these theaters rather than native Egyptian drama. If Egyptian theater did exist, it must have taken a form different from theater in Greek and subsequent Western cultures.

THE STUDY OF EGYPTIAN THEATER.

At least three early twentieth-century Egyptologists claimed to have identified ancient Egyptian dramas similar in form to ancient Greek drama: Kurt Sethe (1869–1934), Emile Drioton (1889–1962), and Herbert Fairman (1907–1982). Though Sethe, Drioton, and Fairman represent three successive generations of Egyptologists, they shared a common desire to represent ancient Egyptian culture as the equal of ancient Greek culture. For them, this equality meant that Egyptian culture had all of the same cultural institutions as the Greeks. Thus they sought to identify the mythology that would have been represented in Egyptian drama and further sought the dialogue for drama in surviving Egyptian texts. All three men were great scholars whose command of the ancient Egyptian language and numerous other contributions to Egyptology won them the respect of their colleagues and of Egyptologists living today. For this reason, their misguided search for a Greek-style drama in Egyptian culture has remained a part of Egyptological literature.

REDEFINING THEATER.

Louis Boctor Mikhail, a Swedish Egyptologist, published a study of Egyptian theater in 1983. By redefining theater in Egypt as a ritual drama that was present in the festival of Osiris held during the month of Khoiak (mid-September to mid-October), Mikhail was able to analyze a particular kind of Egyptian theater. This theater was an element of Egyptian temple ritual, took place over many days, and incorporated priests and puppet-like statues as actors. Various locations within the temple served as the stage. Only by accepting Mikhail’s definition of drama is it possible to discuss theater in ancient Egypt.

Overview of Visual Arts - ANCIENT VIEW OF ART., NATURALISM., EGYPTIAN WORLD., MOVEMENT., INTEGRATION OF VIEWS AND SYMBOLISM., LABELS., MAGIC. [next] [back] Overview of Religion - COMPONENTS., MEANING OF NETJER., CHARACTERISTICS., MULTIPLICITY OF APPROACHES., SPOKEN WORDS AND NAMES., EVIDENCE., TEXTS., NEW KINGDOM.

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