Most scholars agree that the Mahabharata was not written by a single individual. Instead multiple authors compiled it over the course of several centuries. According to mythic tradition, however, the rishi (sage) Vyasa—who is also a character in the Mahabharata—wrote the work. In Sanskrit, the name Vyasa means "collector," "compiler," or "arranger." Thus, Vyasa represents the countless individuals who put together the various tales, stories, histories, legends, and treatises that are known collectively as the Mahabharata. A legendary figure occupying a prominent position in ancient Sanskrit literature, Vyasa is said to have composed the eighteen puranas, or "ancient tales," and to have written the four Vedas, the sacred texts of the Hindu religion. Also according to myth, he is supposed to have written more than 3 million stanzas of the epic poem, the majority of which were for the entertainment and enlightenment of the gods, while only one hundred thousand of the stanzas were to be repeated among human beings as the Mahabharata. The legend of Vyasa's creation of the poem is this: The great seer Vyasa wanted to write down the story of his people, the Bharata (an ancient Aryan tribe whose name has became synonymous with India). While meditating on how he would give the work to his disciples, the elephant-headed god of writers, Ganesha, appeared. The deity offered to write down Vyasa's story on the one condition that...
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The author of the Nibelungenlied is not known. The author is thought to have been male, possibly an Austrian from the Danube region, either a minstrel poet (a travelling poet or one associated with a court), a knight, or a clergyman associated with court life. Some critics express doubt that the author was a knight, primarily because the epic does not contain convincing or extensive details about military skill and technique, despite the numerous battle scenes. Critics believe that the "final'' version of the poem was written by only one author because of its consistency in tone, language, and action. It was conventional at the time not to sign literary works. In fact, many written works that survive from the Middle Ages (the years 500 through 1500, approximately) are anonymous.
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Everyman is a morality play that first appeared in England early in the sixteenth century. The author is unknown, but it has been speculated by scholars that the play was written by a cleric or under the direction of the church. It is now thought to be based upon a Dutch play, Elckerlijk (‘‘Everyman’’), written in 1495 by Petrus Dorlandus, a Carthusian monk. Four copies of the sixteenth century editions of Everyman still survive, with all four published between 1510 and 1535. Although the author is unknown, the play's content, themes, and ideology reflect those of Catholic Europe. The play's emphasis on good deeds as a mechanism for salvation reflects medieval Catholic ideology.
The use of Christianity as a topic and a force behind theatre reflects a significant change from Christian opposition to early drama. Traditionally, the Catholic Church opposed the theatre because it frequently included nudity, fights with wild beasts, and because Roman sacrifice of Christians was often included as a part of pagan spectacle. An additional reason for church opposition was the use of falsehood. In drama, an actor pretends to be someone else. Although modern audiences accept this as "acting," it was interpreted by the early church to be lying. By the tenth century, drama would again become acceptable to clergy when it was reborn as liturgical drama.
The earliest liturgical dramas were included as a part of the church service and frequently took the form of a simple dialogue, often sung, between two clerics. Eventually this exchange began to include additional participants and by the thirteenth century, these dramas became a means to educate an illiterate congregation. More elaborate staging of plays began to be included in feast day celebrations, and they eventually moved from the church to the town square, which accommodated a larger audience. Eventually plays were sponsored by various guilds or trades, and they became known as miracle or mystery plays, derived from the Latin word, minister. By the end of the fifteenth century, these early mystery plays evolved into morality plays, of which Everyman is the best known.