Entertainment and Education



Both entertainment and education have been integrals parts of the human

experience since the beginnings of time. Many scholars insist that the two

institutions often serve jointly, with entertainers and entertainment

serving as a main source of education. There is little argument, then,

that in addition to generally appealing to the masses, entertainers have

regularly fulfilled the role of a teacher to typically unsuspecting

audiences. Entertainers have served as educators throughout history, from

the origins of oral narratives through the Middle Ages.

The earliest forms of unwritten communication were essentially

used to spread knowledge from one source to another. Religious disciplines

were the first information passed from person to person through

entertainment. In the third century B.C., Buddhist monks tried to win

converts outside India through the use of theater and song (Burdick 97).

They taught the precepts of Siddhartha and Buddha in such theatrical epics

as Ramayana and Mahabharata, setting exacting rules for theater

performance in the process (Burdick 99). Similarly, Irish monks

established singing schools, which taught uniform use of music throughout

the church (Young 31). Through chants which were all the same, they spread

identical teachings. Christian psalms and hymns in Apostolic times



were sung to spread the knowledge and faith of Christianity. In fact,

Christianity was promoted from the start by music. Churches were for long

the only centers of learning, with monks teaching all lessons through

music (Young 39). Through the use of sacred music, monks and clergy

successfully spread the teachings of their religions in a practical

manner.

Entertainers used the theater as a place to tell the stories of

the day, both fictional and topical. The African oral tradition was rich

in folk tales, myths, riddles, and proverbs, serving a religious, social,

and economic function (Lindfors 1). Likewise, Asian actors covered their

faces with masks in order to act out a scandal of the day without the

audience knowing who was passing along the gossip (Archer 76). European

puppets were another medium which permitted entertainers to spread current

gossip without revealing the identity of the storyteller (Speaight 16).

The theatrical productions of the Greeks further explored the use of

theater as an instructional tool. Because the theater provided such a

diverse forum for expression, stage actors and playwrights consistantly

utilized this locale to eduate the general public.

Oral communication was widely used to educate society about morals

and basic truths. The most highly developed theoretical discussions from

ancient times were those of he Greeks, who passed on this knowledge

through music and stories. Homer, the eighth-century B.C. poet, court

singer, and storyteller, embodied ideal Greek morals and heroic conduct in

his spoken epic, The Iliad (Beye 1). Homer and other poets used qualities

not found in written language to make the memorization of their works

easier so their sagas could be repeated for generations (Edwards 1).

African tribes people and Native Americans also instilled morals and

lessons to their communities through stories and fables (Edwards 1). These

oral narratives were soon after recorded on paper as early forms of

literature became prevalent.

Many of the thoughts previously expressed through oral

communication only could now be recorded for the future as writing became

wide-spread. The era of writing began with Chinese literature more than

3,500 years ago, as the Chinese recorded tales on oracle bones (Mair 1).

The Greeks, however, were the first known civilization to translate their

oral history into writing (Henderson 1). While the earliest Greek

literature was produced by the Indo-Europeans in 2,000 B.C., the most

essential works began in Ionia with the epics of Homer in the eighth

century B.C. (Henderson 7). This oral poetry is the foundation of Greek

literature, and epic poetry such as Boetian?s Hesiod explored the poet?s

role as a social and religious teacher (Henderson 8). These written works

clearly informed those who read them, but were not as successful in

educating the masses as the Greek dramas. Any spoken works that were

especially significant could now be transcribed for posterity and future

use.

Greek plays were also recorded on paper beginning around 500 B.C.,

reflecting issues of the day and entertaining audiences concurrently. The

tragedies of Euripides reflect political, social, and intellectual crisis.

Plays such as The Bacchae reflect the dissolution of common values of the

time, while other works criticized traditional religion or represented

mythical figures as unheroic (Segal 1). Each Greek drama was similarly

structured: problems were ?presented by the chorus, and resolved in purely

conventional--but always instructive--ways? (Burdick 18). Topical comedies

reflected the heroic spirit, and problems facing Greek society during

times of great change (Henderson 2). Meanwhile, the dramas of Socrates

spoke about ethical and moral change, while Demosthenes? speeches hardened

Athenian opposition to Phillip of Macedon (Henderson 2). Similarly, the

Greek dramatist Aeschylus used his plays as a ?forum for resolving moral

conflicts and expressing a