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Ethics In Theatre Essay

3555 words - 15 pages

Ethics in Theatre
Theatre is a form of communication that has been influencing the world for thousands of years. At its most basic form, theatre is story-telling. However, today’s modern society has pushed theatre to be bolder and bigger in order to stay above the waters. Much of this has come with the sacrifice of morality in order to have the most “shock factor”. This brings about the question, can theatre maintain Christian principles without hindering communication and the development of art, especially in a modern society? With a deep analysis on different aspects of ethics in theatre such as community, technology, duty, and propaganda it is very clear that in order to be true ...view middle of the document...

However, the main question that always rises is who decides what is ethical? Because what may be unethical to you, may not be to me. Ethics is categorizing values, or truths (Landauer). The sophists were one of the earliest group of philosophers to figure out how we know what we know; this is called sophistic epistemology. We discover truth through our sense, but since the senses are flawed, we can never fully truth. Then Plato challenge the idea by stating that we live in a world of shadows. We find truth, the forms, through the use of rhetoric and communication, and theatre is one of the greatest forms of communicating. Aristotle wrote a book on ethics called Nicomachean Ethics where he came to the conclusion that the main purpose of human life was to follow the law and live a virtuous life (“Aristotle”). He recognized that theatre is a crucial part of living a virtuous life because it allowed for a purging of emotions. Aristotle was able to recognize that the action was the very soul of drama and that a purging of emotions through pity and terror, especially in a tragedy, made it easier for one to follow the law (Bellinger). Just as each community defines what is ethical, as does each theatre, but in order for a theatre to maintain its purpose, it must always chose the most interesting choice over the most ethical choice.
Theatre is an extension of life, an expression of the unconscious, a school where one is always learning, a stimulation of imagination, not imitation but creation. Asking the main purpose of theatre is like asking the main purpose of people- you will get many different views based on varying opinions. However, all of the theatre world will agree that theatre is about provoking thought among the audience. The main goal of theatre is not to teach a lesson or interpret the text for the audience, but rather to host a conversation between the play and the audience (Opinion: The Purpose of the Theater is to Present Themes, Not to Teach Lessons to the Audience”). As humans, we seek pleasure and avoid pain and anything that makes our happiness last longer is better. Theatre is all about the human struggles of seeking pleasure; it is an extension of life and is all about choosing the highest stakes to astonish and shock and tantalize by avoiding the safe route. It is all about evoking, not preaching. However, there are some who are highly against theatre because they think is it a misrepresentation of truth; they see it as “a school of vice and profligacy” (“The Christian and the Theater”). Aristotle articulates that “Tragedy [drama] is an imitation, not of men, but of actions” (Bellinger). It is merely an exaggeration of everyday life that is represented by real people. Theatre is necessary for the freedom of the soul. The exploration of possibilities and ethical conflict raises profound questions (Dutton). These questions of morality have been around since the beginning of time, making the purpose of theatre timeless.

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