by: Martha Fletcher Bellinger

Drama Defined
War Dances
Primitive Plays a School for Youth
The Dionysiac Procession
Significance of Unconscious Drama

To the historian of the drama the most important of all early rituals were the dithyrambic choruses and dances with which the festivals of Dionysus were celebrated by the Greeks. We know comparitively little about them. Looking back in the light of later development, however, we can see that there were two groups of participants: those in the sacrificial processions through whom tragedy developed; and the bacchanalian revelers through whom, a little later, developed comedy. The former were dressed in goat skins and represented the companions of the god. Singing the dithyrambic hymn they marched to the altar and sacrificed a goat. It may have been true also that certain incidents in the life of Dionysus were enacted, and that one of the leaders of the procession himself impersonated the god. The second group of participants was called the komos (comus). The members of this group also paraded at the Dionysiac festivals, acted out crude farcical incidents, and imitated coarse episodes. Up to the middle of the seventh century before our era, these Greek ceremonies were probably in no way superior to many other examples of unconscious drama. In them, as in nearly all the early rituals, the three arts of singing, dancing and play-acting were combined.

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This article was originally published in A Short History of the Drama. Martha Fletcher Bellinger. New York: Henry Holt and Company, 1927. pp. 3-8.


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