Drama—Time Line Analysis

Time Line

(Critical Edition of Dramatic Literature)

c. 30,000 b.c.e

Protodramas performed by Ice Age peoples.

c. 20,000-15,000 b.c.e

Cave drawings in France, Spain, and Africa show performers in animal costumes.

c. 4,000-2,000 b.c.e

“Pyramid texts” confirm existence of drama in ancient Egypt.

c. 2,000 b.c.e

Beginning of Egyptian Abydos passion play, dedicated to the god Osiris, as detailed on the Ikhernofret stele.

1500 b.c.e

Chinese emperors sponsor dramatic presentations at court.

534 b.c.e

Pisistratus, ruler of Athens, legalizes the Dionysia, an annual drama festival and play contest in honor of the god Dionysus. Thespis is named the first archon (producer) of the festival and is first to win a prize for a tragedy production.

499-408 b.c.e

Aeschylus, Sophocles, and Euripides write the great Greek tragedies.

487 b.c.e

Comedies are added to the Dionysian drama contests.

429 b.c.e

Sophocles writes his tragic masterpiece, Oidipous Tyrannos (Oedipus Tyrannus, 1715).

411 b.c.e

Aristophanes writes his comic masterpiece, Lysistraté (Lysistrata, 1837).

400-300 b.c.e

Greek tragedy declines.

c. 342-291 b.c.e

Life of Menander, important writer of Greek New Comedy genre, whose masterpiece is Dyskolos (317 b.c.e.; The Bad-tempered Man).

c. 334-323 b.c.e

Aristotle writes De poetica (Poetics, 1705), the first major work of literary and drama criticism.

c. 254-184 b.c.e

Plautus and Terence bring Roman comedy to its heights.

c. 17 b.c.e

Horace writes Ars poetica (The Art of Poetry, 1567), which will influence literary and dramatic theory during the Renaissance.

c. 4 b.c.e-65 c.e.

Life of Roman tragedian Seneca, whose work is influential in the Renaissance.

200 b.c.e-300 c.e.

Nṭya-stra (The Nṭya tra, 1950), a study on dramaturgy, appears in India.

c. 300-600

Sanskrit drama, such as Mṛcchakaṭik (Mrchhakatika, 1898, also known as The Little Clay Cart, 1905), emerges in India.


Conversion of Byzantine empress Theodora to Christianity draws all dramatic performances to an end.


Drama is discouraged in Europe by the Christian Church.


Chinese rulers establish a drama school known as the Pear Garden.

c. 925

The first dramatic trope, or sacred play, presented inside a church as part of a Christian mass.

c. 935-972

Life of Hrosvitha of Gandersheim, a Christian nun and writer of six religious comedies in the style of Roman dramatist Terence.

c. 1000

Javanese shadow puppet plays are presented at the Javanese court.

c. 1100

Tropes move out of European churches to be presented in village squares.


Hildegard von Bingen writes the first morality play, Ordo Virtutum.

c. 1200

Mature Chinese drama emerges.

c. 1200-1500

Medieval cycle plays, mysteries, and moralities are staged in village squares throughout Europe. Among these plays is Secunda Pastorum (commonly known as The Second Shepherds’ Play), later known as part of the English Wakefield Cycle.


Japan’s Zeami Motokiyo writes more than one hundred N plays, giving rise to this important dramatic form.

c. 1495

Everyman, the most famous English morality play, is first presented.


Rise of the Italian commedia dell’arte, or professional street theater.


First Italian secular comedy, La cassaria (The Coffer, 1975), by Ludovico Ariosto.


Bernardo Dovizi da Bibbiena’s comedy La calandria is produced.


Niccolò Machiavelli’s produces his comic masterpiece, La mandrogola (The Mandrake, 1911).


Giambattista Giraldi Cinthio’s Orbecche, the first modern Italian tragedy, is produced.


Italian Renaissance drama critics Antonio Sebastiani Minturno, Julius Caesar Scaliger, and Lodovico Castelvetro contribute to the revival of classicism by publishing translations and adaptations of Aristotle and Horace.


Life of the “Spanish Shakespeare,” Lope de Vega, author of eleven hundred plays.


William Shakespeare lives, writes thirty-nine verse plays.


Torquato Tasso’s Aminta (English translation, 1591) is the first dramatic pastoral, influencing plays such as Shakespeare’s As You Like It (c. 1599-1600).


Teatro Olimpico, first permanent proscenium theater, built in Venice by Andrea Palladio and his student Vincenzo Scamozzi.

c. 1588

The University Wits emerge in England to give life to Elizabethan verse drama with works such as Christopher Marlowe’s Doctor Faustus.

c. 1598

Jacobo Peri and Ottavio Rinuccini’s Dafne, the first full-length Italian opera, is produced.


Shakespeare’s company, headed by actor Richard Burbage, opens the Globe Theatre.

c. 1600-1601

Shakespeare’s Hamlet, Prince of Denmark, is produced.


Ben Jonson’s Volpone: Or, The Fox is produced.

c. 1610

Flaminio Scala becomes prolific publisher of commedia dell’arte scenarios.


Second generation of English verse playwrights, known informally as the Tudor dramatists, including Shakespeare.


Life of playwright Molière, one of France’s greatest dramatists.


Spanish playwright Pedro Calderón de la Barca publishes La vida es sueño (Life Is a Dream, 1830).


Pierre Corneille, French tragedian, writes Horace (English translation, 1656) in accord with the three classic unities of time, place, and action, establishing the ideal of French classicism.


Puritans seize control of English government; Oliver Cromwell closes all theaters.

c. 1650-1700

Japanese Kabuki drama emerges.


Chikamatsu Monzaemon, Japan’s greatest puppet theater playwright, is born.


The English...

(The entire section is 3071 words.)