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Some of the earliest known theater can be traced back all the way back to the glorious days of Greece when the blind poet Homer wrote about the epic battle between Troy and Sparta in “The Illiad”. What became a story between the two warring factions read aloud on an overlook, evolved into a visual structured display that people could watch. Then came the three tragedians - Aeschylus, Sophocles and Euripedes - who each had their own style but brought about modern innovations elements such as the “duality of origins”, the existence of “The Other” and gender construction. Other playwrights like the Greek comedian Menander and social science historian Heodotus, were motivated to express their ideological point of views and common current affairs, following the theater framework of the three tragedians and helped to push theatrical conventions even further along. It was through these early playwrights that theater became a part of life, counted on to interpret the intentions of God and man while constructing the base of early philosophy through the teachings of Socrate, Plato and the first theatrical critique Aristotle who is also responsible for creating the “Elements of a Well-Written Play”.
As theater became more of a vessel for entertainment, the government took note of the influence it has over the free-thinkers of the common people. During Roman rule, theater became more comedy than tragedy as a way to distract society from a crumbling polis. In Medieval theater, church and religion utilized the stage for liturgical and secular drama to utillize fear as a means of control. Then came Shakespeare who wrote in two styles of theater - Jacobian and Elizabethan - as a way of connecting the elite, privileged society with the commoners that made up the majority of the population. This gave rise to the Western ornate language and asymmetrical display of Baroque theater seen in Italy and France which paved the way for “Age of Enlightment” Neoclassical theater known for plays written with good sense and reason, distinct stage movements and decorative and visual arts. And this is where modern theater has taken over, built upon centuries of theatrical innovations, ideological playwrights, and the power of live performances that enabled creative thinking for the ever-growing, supportive audience. Today’s plays may not resemble antiquity performances but they owe much to its development.
Theater is more alive than ever. Most cities have some sort of theater district - like Drury Lane in England and Broadway (as well as Off-Broadway) in New York. There are still long lines of desperate patrons that want nothing more than to be entertained. Even though many of these plays are contemporary in style, you can still find venues and festivals that put on shows in the style of Dionysis theater, Shakesperean and Neoclassic.
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