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. In this case performance gained more contexts and became a ritual just like the example about the marriage. It seems that in ritual the content is more serious and meaningful than in theatre, although theatre can be religious, glorify someone or something, or educate.
If we would rely on written evidence, where should we start looking for a beginning of the modern western drama, as we know it now? The ancient Egyptians had performances that might be called drama or ritual depending on the viewpoint. Why, well if one would look a people having a Holy Communion in the Church of England wouldn’t that be a ritual? But if you imagine you wouldn’t know anything about Christianity and you saw the Holy Communion served would that look like a piece of performance to you? But as we know by the knowledge achieved from the hieroglyphics that they had a religious context in the rituals they performed, that is why I think they didn’t perform theatre but ritual. And the ritual was performed annually on the first day of spring, which indicates towards ritual as well.Order now
Why didn’t Egyptians develop their ritual into a drama? What didn’t the Egyptians do that Greeks did so that they are considered the first who performed theatre, as it is known in Europe nowadays? As we look at the civilisation in Egypt we notice that it stayed about the same for 3,000years not changing much. That suggests that their civilisation resisted change and that was the reason why they didn’t develop theatre into a similar way as the Greeks did.
Finally I would like to do what Oscar G. Brockett suggests that we do in order to find the beginnings of theatre, imagine time before theatrical elements were discovered. That would take us back as far as before The Ice age about 30,000 years ago. Man hunted mastodons and climate was generally cooler than it is now. What such man would do to invent rituals or theatre? I assume that people as social beings had by that time discovered that it is beneficial to group up so that you could specialise yourself to certain task. Now there for certain were people who were hunters and the ones who gathered food from the ground, but were there poets?
Dramatists? Probably not. So what might have ignited such behaviour? Could it have been the fact that spoken language was still yet to be discovered? Theatre or mime was needed in order to communicate. Perhaps at wintertime, what probably was bit similar that I have experienced in Finland, people got bored and told stories of past summers hunting trips to each other and made them more vivid by acting the movements and creating some costumes to imitate the game. 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?