Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts

Degree Discipline



Dramatic expression is as old as civilization itself. The primitive peoples sought relations with gods, ghosts, and spirits through dramatic expression. Loomis Havemeyer in describing dramatic expression in primitive society defines it as "conscious" and "unconscious" drama. "Conscious drama is the results after man's feelings had become so refined that he could express them in a form of definite play. Unconscious drama is the crude manner in which the primitive man gratified his desires by religious ceremonies and religious rituals.

Religious passion was at the heart of all primitive dramatic expression and served the purpose of worship, prayer, and instruction. Through them, the worshipers made known their desires. If they wanted rain they had a certain ceremony that was supposed to acquaint their deity with the fact. They had a wide range of dramatic rites and observances through which they hoped to gain the goodwill of the gods.

The Medieval Morality play was used by the Catholic Church to instruct. In the Allegorical Moralities of the Middle Ages, the Church instructed the illiterate laymen through the use of drama, using it as an instrument of political propaganda in the conflict between Catholics and Protestants. One side would produce a Morality showing up the weaknesses of the other. Then the opposing party would respond with a Morality that aimed to outdo the rival in ridicule and contempt.

The Morality play introduced the Allegorical tendencies in religious literature, namely the effort to illustrate moral doctrines and abstract idea in dramatic form. Virtues, vices, mental faculties, inclinations, moral and evil influences were the characteristics of the Morality play. These plays included conception such as the fall of man, and thus that of the human race.

There is a didactic element that is ever-present in drama. When real life is enacted, behavior patterns are changed consciously or unconsciously. Satire may be used as an example. While ridiculing human follies by holding up some vice, satire instructs or teaches at the same time.

Catharsis in Greek drama was also intended to teach. Greek drama presented kings or some high official coming to a tragic end because of forces from within or without. Through Greek drama, the audience was purged and as a result, certain behavior patterns changed. The instructional point comes from witnessing the downfall of the subjects and the resulting elevation of the viewers in their way of thinking.

Committee Chair/Advisor

Horace Bond


Prairie View Agricultural and Mechanical College


© 2021 Prairie View A & M University

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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.

Date of Digitization


Contributing Institution

John B Coleman Library

City of Publication

Prairie View





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