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History Through Drama An Online high school course

Course Outline

This Course Outline will give you a preview of the 15,000 word Teacher's Guide that accompanies the History Through Drama main lesson block.

Class 1: The Roots of Drama [38:30]

The nature of "Drama": Dream and Trauma, Action and Reaction. The 6th Century BCE, the age of Pythagoras, Thales, Buddha, Confucius, and Lao-Tze. The Greek Mystery Centers: dramatic reenactments of the myths. Thespis and the first public presentations of dramas. The great tragedians, Aeschylus, Sophocles, and Euripides. The amphitheater and the birth of the performing arts.

Class 2: Triads and Tragedies [32:45]

The 5th Century BCE and the Golden Age of Athens. The power of the Triad in Greek in all aspects of Greek life. The reflection of the three orders of Greek architecture in the philosophies of Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle and the dramatic creations of Aeschylus, Sophocles, and Euripides. The threefold structure of the amphitheater. The Athenian dramatic festivals. The democratic nature of Greek theater.

Greek Ampitheater

Class 3: Aeschylus [37:10]

The power of the Chorus in the early dramas. The introduction of actors standing apart. Aeschylus as sage, poet, dramatist, and the first true "director." The myths reinterpreted, and the "betrayal of the Mysteries." His plays as models of the "unities." The Orestia.

Class 4: Sophocles [40:30]

His life extended from the naval victory of Salamis to the tragedy of the Pelopenesian Wars. The most prolific of Greek writers, composing dramas into his nineties. He introduced third actor onstage and also made the Chorus less omniscient. Dramatized the story of Oedipus, creating what is to this day the most famous dramatic situation. Love and Freedom: new elements in literature.

Class 5: Euripides and Aristophanes [37:10]

Euripides was the least popular of the three great playwrights, but more of his plays survive; he is the most "modern" Greek dramatist. Euripides weakened and finally eliminated the Chorus; individual actors carried his plays. Men and gods are equal in his plays. Aristophanes was the greatest writer of comedies in Athens, and created the first "docudramas." Lysistrata, the play of social activism.

Class 6: Roman Drama [31:00]

The imitative nature of Roman culture derived the art of drama from the Greeks. Plays were written, but mostly to be read and not performed. The first real Roman theater was built in the last years of the Republic. The birth of the "formulaic" comedy with its "stock" characters. The Romans' love of spectacle and entertainment provided little space for serious drama. Plautus, Terence, and Seneca, the Roman triad of playwrights.

The Roman Colosseum Exterior and Interior

Class 7: Medieval Drama [33:40]

The closing of the Roman theaters by Justinian. The "performing" of the Liturgy in the medieval church. The regeneration of theater through the participation of priests, soon banned by the Pope. The rebirth of "Mystery" and Miracle plays around the cathedrals. Hroswitha, the first real medieval playwright, and also the first woman playwright.

Medieval Mystery Play

Class 8: Tudor Drama - The Royals [36:10]

The 16th Century and the rise of the Tudors. Henry VIII: independence from the Church and the ascendancy of the English language. Henry's reign was a tragic-comedic drama in itself. A dizzying array of successors culminating in Elizabeth I. Her coronation was a Mystery Play, written and directed by John Dee. Elizabeth was the first "star," a celebrity-Queen whose reign was to support a golden age of English drama.

Class 9: Tudor Drama - The Common People [22:00]

Outdoor plays popular during Henry's reign, particularly Robin Hood. Sports banned because of their hazards, and hunting big game only a royal prerogative; only "bear baiting" and traveling theater remained as amusements. Elizabeth had theaters built in London, the first theaters in Europe since Justinian's time. The physical structure and social structure of the London theaters.

Elizabeth I, Henry VIII, John Dee, Globe Theater

Class 10: The Life of William Shakespeare [36:10]

Remarkably little is known about Shakespeare. Of all the great playwrights who lived in England and Europe at this time, Shakespeare had the least formal education. Once he found his way to employment in the Globe Theater he rose quickly though the ranks, and by his mid-twenties he was an established playwright and business partner. Three periods of dramatic creation: Histories, Comedies, and Tragedies -- and a fourth period of plays that are "unclassifiable."

Class 11: Shakespeare's Histories [27:25]

Although they served as propaganda for the Tudors, Shakespeare's historical plays body presented English monarchs of flesh-and-blood. Shakespeare dramatized their inner life as much as their outer deeds, and revealed how the struggles of fathers and sons reverberated in the wars of nations. We explore Henry IV, Parts 1 and 2.

Class 12: Shakespeare's Comedies 1 [36:50]

If "Fathers and Sons" is the ongoing theme of Shakespeare's Histories, then "Love and Marriage" (or "Husbands and Wives") is the motif of his Comedies. Histories are placed in England and France, but the comedies range all over Europe and encompass myriad time periods. They mark the first time that the experience of "falling in love" was carefully scrutinized and joyfully celebrated. We look deeply at the complicated relationships of twins and namesakes in the comedy Twelfth Night.

Class 13: Shakespeare's Comedies 2 [27:45]

We continue our close reading of Twelfth Night. Elizabethans learned much more through hearing, and much less by seeing, than we do. The images and metaphors in Shakespeare's lines are also "characters" in the plays and have a life of their own. The interplay of blank verse and rhyming couplets -- Shakespeare is masterful at both -- also play an important role in this comedy.

Francis Bacon, Lope de Vega, Calderon, Moliere, William Shakespeare

Class 14: Shakespeare's Tragedies 1 [34:00]

Age 35 as "the middle of our life," poised between birth and death. Shakespeare was 35 in 1599, the turn of a new century, and the final months of Elizabeth's long reign; now he is ripe to bring the tragic element into his plays. As "The Great Chain of Being" foundered, the certainties of the medieval world were coming to an end, and Shakespeare's tragedies reflect a new kind of consciousness, at once darker and yet more light-filled than what had preceded it. We begin our study of Romeo and Juliet.

Class 15: Shakespeare's Tragedies 2 [33:00]

We continue our close reading of Romeo and Juliet. The remarkable resemblances of Romeo and Juliet, the tragedy, to Twelfth Night, the comedy we have just studied. In both plays the plot turns on a melancholic hero, the mistaken identities, and the feuds between families or individuals, and agonizing obstacles to true love. It is testimony to Shakespeare's genius that in his hands the very same elements can be deeply tragic or very funny. We also touch on the fathers and sons motif in the Histories that recurs in Hamlet.

Class 16: Shakespeare's Last Plays [37:45]

During the reign of King James, the life of theater continued to be generously patronized. The reclusive James preferred that plays were brought to his Court, and often they took on the form of pageants rather than carefully-plotted dramas. We see this pageant-like quality in Shakespeare's final plays, none of whose genre may be easily classified. Shakespeare now wrought a synthesis of history, comedy, and tragedy, creating a new type of "mystery" play. We do a close reading of what is likely to be the last play that Shakespeare wrote by himself, The Tempest.

Class 17: Foundations of Modern Drama [34:10]

The closing of the theaters in London by the Puritans was another landmark in the history of drama. When the theaters opened again under King Charles II, for the first time they were interior spaces, and they were no longer theaters in the round. We examine the many changes in theater construction, stage arrangement, lighting, and architecture that profoundly affected not not only the way plays were presented but also the way they were written. Moving into the nineteenth century, we also the effect of steel and electricity on theaters, and the challenges that the novel and the opera posed to the very existence of the art of drama.

Class 18: Creators of Modern Drama [41:10]

The main impulses for modern drama arose in northern and eastern Europe. The Norwegian Henrik Ibsen depicted characters struggling to think with clarity about their dilemmas, while in the Swedish writer August Strindberg's dramas the oppositional forces of will leads to tumultuous and tragic confrontations. Anton Chekov created plays in which the finely nuanced feelings of aging aristocrats are overcome by the newly-minted plutocrats arising from the peasantry. We look at their plays, and their pioneering achievements.

Class 19: The Stage and the Screen [32:40]

Even as modern drama was rapidly developing in Europe, a powerful challenge to its primacy among the performing arts arose in the United States. The "movies" -- silent for their first years, then able to synchronize action and speech -- made it possible for millions of people to experience what theater alone had been able to provide for over 2500 years. We explore the work of Thornton Wilder, an American playwright who recognized what was unique about live stage performances and brought theater fully into the twentieth century. Closing thoughts on the art of drama in our time.

Henrik Ibsen

August Strindberg

Anton Chekhov

Thornton Wilder

Although he was devoted to live theater, Wilder recognized the power of film, and wrote a successful screenplay for an Alfred Hitchcock movie. (The actual film is not as lurid as its poster!)

Thornton Wilder was one of the few American playwrights to be placed on the cover of Time magazine . . . .

. . . . And he was the first playwright to appear on an American postage stamp.

About the Instructor

Eugene Schwartz is a graduate of Columbia University, where as an undergraduate he studied English literature with Lionel Trilling, F.W. Dupee, and Edward Said. Eugene served as the Columbia Daily Spectator’s first Drama and Film critic and in the course of his years as an undergraduate and graduate student he was able to view countless Broadway and Off-Broadway productions and new films. As a class teacher at Green Meadow Waldorf School in Chestnut Ridge, NY, Eugene wrote nine “class plays” for his students, ranging from pageants based on fairy tales and biblical stories to historical dramas. The only class teacher ever invited by the Green Meadow Waldorf High School faculty to teach high school classes, he also served as a visiting instructor at the Shining Mountain Waldorf High School in Boulder, CO. Eugene has been Director of Teacher Training at Sunbridge College in Chestnut Ridge and he has lectured extensively at Rudolf Steiner College in Fair Oaks, CA. He has served as a school consultant to over 150 public and private Waldorf schools worldwide and is the author of ten books on education and Anthroposophy. He lives in rural Pennsylvania with his partner Raine, their cat Clawsna and their dog Pawsna. Eugene has provided many free resources for Waldorf teachers and parents on his web site www.millennialchild.com

Questions? Contact us at iwaldorf@icloud.com

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