Essay, Research Paper: Education And Entertainment


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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 (Bur*censored* 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 (Bur*censored*
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
Boetianıs Hesiod explored the poetıs 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 ³presented
by the chorus, and resolved in purely conventional--but always instructive--ways²
(Bur*censored* 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 Demosthenesı
speeches hardened Athenian opposition to Phillip of Macedon (Henderson 2).
Similarly, the Greek dramatist Aeschylus used his plays as a ³forum for
resolving moral conflicts and expressing a grandeur of thought ! and language²
(Segal 1). Because all social classes of the community could enjoy and
understand the plays, Greek drama was a major force in educating the public.
Following the onset of the second century, considerable movement took place
across Europe. Between 950 and 1350, the population of Western Europe doubled
(Lindsay 26-33). A shortage of teachers caused eager minds to look elsewhere for
education. Many of those traveling were instrumental in spreading ideas,
stories, and songs across the countryside. A new kind of entertainer, the
troubadours, served as the new commentators of the day, successfully blending
verse and music. Their poetry was the first to ³set about the conscious
creation of a literary speech in the vernacular² (Bogin 44). In songs called
sirventes, the troubadours discussed current affairs, politics, personalities,
and scandals (Grunfield 25). Many troubadour songs have texts referring to the
Crusades of the fourteenth century. Their crusading songs, such as those
undoubtedly connected with the campaign against the Arabs in Spain, brought
political unrest to the attention of the average citizen (Lindsay 61). Rog! er
II, however, protected Arab-speaking poets who rubbed shoulders with his own
Latin writers (Lindsay 44). Bertrand de Born became famous for writing
warmongering songs that ³stirred up barons and provoked kings into going to war²
(Grunfield 25). Walther von der Vogelwiede attained a unique position among
troubadours by transforming ³the short poem of proverbial wisdom into a
political weapon of satire and patriotism² (Hering 1). Wandering troubadours
sang most often about courtly love, but used their unique form of entertainment
to express concerns regarding social and political topics to the general public.
Entertainers of the twelfth century also informed the public of the principles
of topics such as chivalry and religion. Troubadour Guilhem de Poitou caused a
sensation among friends and courtiers after writing about love in a way that
became the code for chivalry (Bogin 37-39). He later spent a year among people
of Antioch learning Arabic songs of Syria, which he brought back to France
(Lindsay 4). Poet Gerbert made contributions to geometry, music theory, and
arithmetic in his works which customarily valued philosophy over prayer (Lindsay
45). The religious songs of Martin Luther forced poets and scholars to take
sides during the Religious conflict of the Reformation (Hering 2). Lutherıs
chorale ³Einı feste Burge² became a national hymn during the reformation of
the Catholic church, encouraging followers to fight to worship in their own
languages, not the universally used Latin texts (Young 66). While the
troubadours were viewed primarily as entertainers who wandered aimless! ly about
the countryside singing about the virtues of courtly love, their contribution as
educators to the public cannot be mistaken. As the troubadours slowly began to
disappear, new kinds of entertainers took their place, continuing to inform the
general public through different mediums. The meistersinger replaced the
troubadour in the late fourteenth century (Sebastian 2). Middle and lower class
meistersingers established schools for the cultivation of their craft, ensuring
a more structured form of entertainment than that of the wandering troubadours
(Sebastian 3). A famous early fifteenth-century manuscript at the University of
Heidelberg contains hundreds poems by the most famous meistersingers as well as
illustrations which are ³as entertaining as they are instructive² (Young 44).
John Wilbye represented another new form of entertainer, the madrigalist, and
provided studies of English landscapes in the words and music of his madrigals
(Young 71). Again, there is a wealth of evidence to show that music was used
extensively to support the spread of religious belief. For example, King David
in the Cante! rbury Psalter tells that ³musical sonorities² were introduced
into the service of the church (Young 46). Monteverdiıs opera LıIncoronazions
di Poppea educated audiences with its historical context and characters (Young
77). The popularity of music remained dominant throughout the Middle Ages,
although writers began to entertain through the use of written poetry as well.
European writers of the Middle Ages continued to comment on morals and
acceptable behavior through their works as their predecessors did almost 2,000
years before. Hroswitha von Gandersheim, the first known woman writer, was a nun
who used the Roman playwright Terence as a model for her morality plays (Hering
1). Dutch writer Jacob van Maerlant wrote poems that showcased chivalry (Flaxman
1). Spanish playwright Lope de Vega encouraged national patriotism and honor in
his works that dealt with dramatic conflicts and combined tragic and comedy
elements (Gasset 3). Calderon also stresses the Spanish code of honor in his
masterpiece The Mayor of Zalamea (Gasset 3). Later Francisco Gomez de Quevedo Y
Villegas wrote moral works in which he explored the decadence of Spain (Gasset
3). Social concerns inspired the writings of Italian reformer Pietro Verri,
whose cynical interpretation of history established a new scientific discipline
(Alvaro 1). His peer Leon Battista Alberti published On the Family, which
reflected the concerns Italians for social and ethical topics (Alvaro 1). Still,
other authors such as Prince Juan Manuel of Spain wrote such seemingly simple
tales as ³The Emperorıs New Clothes,² from which reader could extract the
moral lessons (Gasset 3). During this era, Europeans were constantly discussing
politics and social issues, prompted by the opinions of writers who commented on
the subjects. Entertainers throughout history have undoubtedly served as
educators to the public, in addition to their conventional roles as musicians or
writers only. While a few performers sought only to amuse with their acts, the
majority of entertainers have crafted their art with a deeper purpose in mind.
Each who chose to address societyıs problems and speak to the general community
through their art is as worthy an educator as a modern-day college professor.
Because many of the works of these great artists were recorded on paper or
passed down from generation to generation through oral history, the insightful
thoughts of these entertainers continue to educate the public in the
twenty-first century.
Jennifer Bender AP English 4 November 22, 1996 Mr. Kile The Role of
Entertainers as Educators Bender 9 Works Cited Alvaro, Richard. ³Leon Battisa
Alberti.² Grolier Multimedia Encyclopedia. 1996 ed. Archer, Katherine. ³Asian
Literature.² Grolier Multimedia Encyclopedia. 1996 ed. Beye, Allan. ³The
Iliad.² Grolier Multimedia Encyclopedia. 1996 ed. Bogin, Meg. The Women
Troubadours. New York: Paddington Press, 1976. Bur*censored*, Jacques. Theater.
New York: Newsweek Books, 1974. Edwards, Scott N. ³Homer.² Grolier Multimedia
Encyclopedia. 1996 ed. Flaxman, Jacob. ³Dutch Literature.² Grolier Multimedia
Encyclopedia. 1996 ed. Gasset, John. ³Spanish Literature.² Grolier Multimedia
Encyclopedia. 1996 ed. Grunfield, Frederic V. Music. New York: Newsweek Books,
1974. Henderson, Florence. ³Greek Literature.² Grolier Multimedia
Encyclopedia. 1996 ed. Hering, Jack. The Gypsies: Wanderers in Time. New York:
Hawthorne Press, 1969. Lindfors, Sven. ³African Literature.² Grolier
Multimedia Encyclopia. 1996 ed. Lindsay, Jack. The Troubadours and Their World.
London: Frederick Muller Limited, 1976. Mair, Helen. ³Chinese Literature.²
Grolier Multimedia Encyclopedia. 1996 ed. Bender 10 Sebastian, Gerald. Music In
Time. Philadelphia: J.B. Lippincott Co, 1952. Segal, William. ³Greek Drama.²
Grolier Multimedia Encyclopedia. 1996 ed. Speaight, George. Punch and Judy.
Boston: Publishers Plays, Inc., 1970. Young, Percy M. A Concise History of Music
from Primitive Times to Present. New York: D. White Co., 1974.

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