1.1 Background to the Study
Drama is one of the three genres of literature. It occupies a very vital position in the society. It functions as a mirror through which an individual or the general public see what happens in the society. Life gives substance to drama; it does not exist in a vacuum. Drama imitates the life of the people, their history, beliefs, traditions, cultures and others. Through drama, one acquires the knowledge of the history, tradition, belief and custom of the people.
Drama is of great significance; it divulges the events in the society and aids the people to have a better and more comprehensive understanding of what goes on in the society.
The contemporary society is characterized by numerous societal vices namely murder, political instability, economic hardship, bribery, corruption, bad leadership, bad followership, and prostitution. Others include abortion, political thuggery, rigging of election, examination malpractice, lobbying, kidnapping, embezzlement of public fund, rape et cetera. Drama therefore exposes these societal anomalies to the masses with a view to arousing them to take action as well as helping in preventing the societal ills. From the above explanation, it is obvious that drama pictures the society. This is because for it to effect a positive change or put an end to the abnormalities in the society, it should mirror the society exactly the way it is and seek a way of resolving some issues consequent upon which a better lesson could be learnt.
For the purpose of this study, two texts namely: A Parliament of Vultures and War Without End will be critically studied to show how drama features as a mirror of the society.It would however be necessary to discuss the basic concepts that will enhance the reader’s comprehension of the work.
1.2 Definition of Concept
The basic concept in this topic is drama. This concept will be discussed in details below.
World Book Encyclopedia 5. (Page 324-325) defines drama as an art form that tells a story through the speech and action of the characters in the story. Most drama is performed by actors who impersonated the characters before an audience in a theater. Although drama is a form of literature, it differs from other literary forms in the way it is presented.
Forms of Modern drama includesː
• Tragedy ː maintains a mood that emphasizes the plays serious intention though there may be moments of comic relief. Such plays feature a tragic hero an exceptional yet flawed individual who is brought to disaster and usually death. The hero’s fate raises questions about the meaning of existence, the nature of fate, morality and social or psychological relationships.
• Serious dramaː which developed out of tragedy, became established in the 1800ˈs. It shares the serious tone and often the serious purpose of tragedy, and like tragedy it concentrates on unhappy events. Serious drama can end happily, and it’s heroes are less imposing and more ordinary than the tragic hero.
• Melodrama ː involves a vivan who imitates actions that threaten characters with whom the audience is sympathetic. Its situations are extreme and often violent, though endings are frequently happy. Melodrama portrays a world in which good and evil clearly distinguished.
• Comedy ː tries to evoke laughter, often by exposing the pretentious of fools and rascals. Comedy usually ends happily. But even in the midst of laughter, comedy can be both critical and playful, and it may arouse various responses.
The structure of drama includes plot, character, thought, diction or dialogue
The academic American Encyclopedia (1989:257) defines drama as “actions or deeds as they are performed in a theatrical setting for the benefit of a body of spectators”. It states that the word drama is derived from the Greek verb “dran” which means “to act” or “to do”.
The World Book Encyclopedia (1997:284) defines drama as “an art from that tells a story through the speech and actions of the characters in the story”. It further explains that “most drama is performed by actors who impersonate the characters before an audience in a theatre or before television cameras for an audience in their homes”. It asserts that “although drama is a form of literature, it differs from other literary forms in the way it is presented. For example, a novel also tells a story involving characters. But a novel tells its story through a combination of dialogue and narrative and is complete on the printed page. Drama achieves its greatest effects when it is performed.
Martin Esslin in Anatomy of Drama has the following definitions of drama:
1. Drama can be seen as a manifestation of the play instinct as in children who are playing mother and father.
2. Drama is something one goes to see which is organized as something to be seen.
3. It is an enacted fictional art, from elegant expression of thought nearest to the truth (reality).
4. It is the most concrete form on which art can recreate human situation, human relationship.
The Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary (2005:443) defines drama as “a play for theatre, television or radio”. Funk and Wagnalls New Encyclopedia volume 8, defines drama as “a literary composition either in verse or prose that tells a story through action and speeches and is usually intended to be performed by actors before an audience.
Jacobus (1989:1) opines that drama is “the art of make-believe. Make-believe consists in part of acting our events that happened or that we imagine to happen”. He says that “the primary ingredients for drama are characters represented by players, action described by gestures and movements; though implied by dialogue and actors; spectacle represented by scenery and costume; and finally, audience who respond to this complex mixture”.
Aristotle refers to drama as “mimesis that is representation of life or the imitation of an action”.
From the above definitions, drama is obviously the presentation of an action on stage before an audience.
1.3 Origin of Drama
According to The World Book Encyclopedia (1997ː284) drama is a universal art. Nearly every civilization has had some form of it. Drama is also an ancient art. Staged performance using actors took place as long ago as 500B.C and probably occurred even earlier. But scholars have insufficient evidences to state definitely when drama first began. Nor do they know for certain what led to the creation of drama. However, they propose a number of theories. One theory suggests that drama may have developed from ancient religious ceremonies that were performed to win favour from the gods. In these ceremonies, priests often impersonated supernatural beings or animals, and sometimes imitated such actions as hunting. Stories grew up around some rites and lasted after the rites themselves had died out. These myths may have formed the basis of drama.
Another theory suggests that drama originated in cultural hymns or praise sung at the tomb of a dead hero. At some point, a speaker separated from the choirs and began to act out deeds in the hero’s life. This acted party gradually became mere elaborate and the role of the chorus dimished. Eventually, the stories were performed as plays;
According to the third theory, drama grew out of natural love for storytelling. Stories told around campfires recreated victories in the hunt or in the battle, or the feasts of dead heroes. These stories developed into dramatic retellings of the events.
According to lgiligi and Ogenyi (2002:38), the cradle of drama like poetry, has been traced to ancient Greece. Two important facts attest to the veracity of this claims. Firstly, the word drama had its etymology from the Greek Word, dran meaning “to do”, or “to act”,or “to perform”. Secondly, the widely accepted ancient ritual ceremonies from which the root of drama has been traced is believed to have first started among Greece in about 4th and 5th century B.C. The account has it that the ancient Greek society has choral songs, chants, incantations and ritual dances during the celebrations of their deities and other gods. For example, the earth goddess. Hence the conclusive view that “Ancient Greek drama never lost its connection with the cult of Dionysus”, Encyclopedia Americana, 1995:332.
It is believed that during these ceremonies the priests and other adherents perform some ritual activities, that is, the Dionysian ritual. Dionysus, according to history of theatre, was the vegetation spirit/god whom the Greece first appeared before the cultivation or their soil. During one of such ceremonies, a man named Thespis walked out of the group and instead of singing about the gods sang like them. Consequently, Thespis from thence was regarded as the pioneer actor and of course the founder of the first generation drama.
Onuigbo (2006:206), states that the history of European drama dates back to the Greeks, a highly religious people who can say had as many gods as there were human activities: Two of the Greek dramatic forms, the tragic and the satiric, originated in the worship of Dionysus, the diety of wild vegetation, agriculture, sexuality, fertility and wine. In his honour at the opening of spring the Greeks performed dithyrambs, hymns rendered by a chorus who dressed like satyrs, the legendary followers of Dionysus. They presented the stories of the adventurous life of the god whole on earth through songs and mimic dance. It is from these dithyrambs that both tragedy and satiric drama sprang. All of this took place at the threshing floor of the Greek communities.
The movement from the threshing floor where the fertility rates were performed to the foot of mount Olympus where the national festival Dionysus was born was a gradual but steady one. It is reasonable to conclude that increased attendance at the festival either as a result of increase in population or because many guests were invited from other cities or centuries could have contributed to the search for a more central, more spacious venue for a festival that would unite the often divided Greek people. And the choice of Mount Olympus was only natural: first, the gods live on top of the mount; and second, a gama that involved all the Greeks was already taking place there, the Olympic Games.
It was Aaron of Corinth who made the first move that suggested the ideal of drama. He detached himself from the fifty satrys singing dithyrambs and mounted the sacrificial table from which he explained to the audience the significance of each action taken by the satyrs and what part of the sacred history of the life and activities of Dionysus they were watching. He also answered their questions; that must have necessitated the early Greek name for the actor, hypocrites, meaning “the one who answers”. But since the presentation was basically narrative, albeit active narrative, it cannot, strictly speaking, be called drama at this stage. The inebriated chant of the goat skin-wearing satyrs had pomp and gaiety in it, but these alone cannot make a drama. It was purely a religious ceremony even if some people derived some intellectual edification from it. One great change was necessary before we could really call it drama; the use of impersonation, for really without impersonation, there cannot be drama.
One great change was necessary it was not playwright who is impersonated, but the characters appearing in the story and they must perform even if the performance is just speaking for drama is taken from the Greek Word “Dran” which means “ to do “ or “to act”. That invention attributed to Thespis makes him the founder of European drama. Thespis was also said to have discarded the crude dithyrambic make-up by making use of unpainted linen masks. By the use of the Thespian mask, a differentiation could take place; the king would wear the helment along with his own mask. The Thespian character instead of narrating the events of the scared history, the legendary activities or Dionysus would speak in his own person, as Dionysus as an eye-witness to his heroic action. By retiring to the book while the chorus performed, he could change his mask and costume and reappear as another person. By hearing and discussing what was said by his supposed predecessor, he could exhibit the play of emotion or the construction of a plan. It was Thespis invention of the first actor that set the ball rolling down the theatre to our day.
Like many innovations, even in our time, the birth of the actor met with some distraction. One recorded distractor was named Solon, who opposed it on moral grounds. He went to Thespis after one of his earlier performances and asked him if he wasn’t ashamed to tell so many lies before such a number of people. Thespis replied that it was no harm to do so in a play. The old legislators reply was this: “if we honour and commend such play as this, we shall find it someday in our businesses” (Nagier 1952ː12)
Further contributions were made by Aeschylus. He introduced the second actor and reduced the number of the chorus from fifty to twelve, and assigned leading part of dialogue consequently demolishing the importance of the chorus. Without a doubt, the introduction of dialogue laid the groundwork for the development of sustained conflict. The Thespian character had to come back in order to learn what was said by his predecessor. But the Aeschylian character would argue out a point and act out their grievances on stage. Sophocles added the third actor and increased the number of the chorus from twelve to fifteen, and added scene on painting. Sophocles’ use of Periaktoi and Pinakes heralded the modern use of painted flats and painted background curtains. Different settings could now be depicted differently by adding to the aesthetics of the theatre and emotional appeal. Polyhadrons brought on the first female actor, the role previously played by men. Patinas invented the satiric play. This should not be confused with satiric play to which it gave birth. Satiric works, though always showing playful characteristics and a touch of obscenity, was never confounded with comedy. Stately figures of legend and theology regularly appeared in it. It was added to the trilogy, which each playwright must present at the drama competition of the 5th century, B.C.E making a tetralogy, mainly as a tribute to the divine sponsor of the festival, Dionysus. Euripides, who wrote mainly trigger- comedies, also contributed to the development of drama by his use of the prologue. Unlike the other playwrights, Euripides used a non-dramatic prologue or narrative enabling the spectator to understand at what point in a legend the action is to begin. It is from the Euripidean use that the modern meaning of the word is derived.
1.4 Statement of Problem
The pursuit of drama to achieve its main aim or serving as a mirror to the society has been greatly hampered within the last decades as a result of decline in the practice of dramatic performance.
When the federal government mooted the idea of giving away the national theatre in 2007, it was a reflection not just of the decay of that architectural master piece but also of the decline of the stage drama in Nigeria.
Ahmed Yerima,(2007ː12) blames the decline on stage drama on the emergence of video and the huge sums involved in putting up plays these days. Venue, costume, and publicity cost much. He also cites poor remuneration for stage actors as well as their low social status in the society as other reasons for the decline.
Femi Osofisan,(2007ː23) theatre producer and director is also of the opinion that live dramatic performance before live audience are in dire straits. “ it has lost its appeal and is rapidly on the wane”. Also among the many problems which had hindered drama from mirroring the society and reaching out to the audiences are:
1. Poor theatre going attitude on the part of the people or audience.
2. Lack of government sponsorship.
3. Low patronage of the theatre.
4. Poor publicity of dramatic performance.
5. Mass apathy towards the importance of drama and theatre.
1.5 Purpose of the Study
This research or study is embarked upon with the following objectives:
i. To study the effects of drama in the society.
ii. To examine the uses of drama in highlighting happenings in our society.
iii. To assess the place of drama in shaping of the future of the society.
iv. To suggest or recommend ways of improving drama performance in the society.
1.6 Significance of the Study
The major goal of this research is to bring to lime light the importance of drama as a mirror of the society. It is believed that this work would go a long way in educating the public especially students on the importance of drama in the society and how drama could be used to mirror the society. Drama provide platform for assessing the positive sides of events in society which could be preserved and the negative aspects of the society which ought to be discarded.
1.7 Scope of the Study
The issue of drama is already a global concern. Right from the 5th century B.C to date, a lot of writings have been done on the issue of drama. So many scholars both the ancient and the modern scholars have written a lot of books, and journals on drama.
Drama have also been elaborately discussed in Mass media, such as in the print media and in the electronic media. Efforts will be made to focus on highlighting the themes of drama in mirroring the society and in educating the populace.
This work also tries to examine the origin of the drama, its overall importance or significance to man and his society, and the use of drama as a tool for social change. In other to effectively analyze this topic and to bring out a convincing argument that drama is indeed a mirror of the society, an indept analysis will be carried out on the play of these notable Nigeria play writers Nwabueze’s A Parliament Of Vultures and Igiligi’s War Without End.
1.8 Research Methodology
For a clear and competent analysis of the texts for this research it will be appropriated to adopt the sociological theory. Sociological theory will enable sufficient analysis of drama and its impacts on the society, societal norms, and belief system.
1.9 Theoretical Framework
The theoretical framework is the structure that can hold or support a theory of a research study. The theoretical framework used in this research is sociological theory. Sociological theory is statement of how and why particular facts about the social world are related. They range in scope from concise descriptions of a single social process to paradigms for analysis and interpretations. It explains aspects of the social world and enables prediction about future events.
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