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DRAMA AND THEATRE AS TOOLS FOR HISTORICAL ANALYSIS

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DRAMA AND THEATRE AS TOOLS FOR HISTORICAL ANALYSIS

 

 

ABSTRACT

An abstract is a very short account of a work. This short account gives idea of the purpose of the work, brief description of the methodology and the major findings in the study.

The first chapter introduces the issues to be treated by presenting a background introduction of the socio-historical background and traces the condition for the study. It also gives an idea of the scope, the limitation of study and defines traditional terms and concepts. It also gives an idea of the research method applied and summarizes the chapter.

The second chapter reviews the relevant literature plus a summary.

The third chapter is basically a textual analysis of the plays under study and treats the major issues of this project, with also a summary.

The fourth chapter which is the lost, looks at the social relevance of the plays and concludes the research.

 

 

 

 

 

CHAPTER ONE

1.1 INTRODUCTION

In the 9th century, the British attempted to promote “legitimate” trade in palm oil as an alternative to trading in slaves. The Niger Delta region proved to be so well endowed with this product that traders began calling it the “Oil Rivers”. The length of time required to collect palm oil encouraged European settlement, which ultimately promoted colonization. Even though mortality rate also increased, many Delta residents speak regretfully of this era, for it brought prosperity to communities that had previously been shut out of the trade by coastline middle men. Britain began to interfere increasingly in the internal affairs of the region. Beginning with a naval blockade aimed at stamping out slave trade, it established a protectorate known as the “Oil Rivers” protectorate, which later became the Niger coast protectorate in 1893 with the intention of protecting its financial interest from piracy and other threats.

During this period, they (the British) advanced their agencies undermining the authority of local deities and opening the area to legitimate trade – by mounting a series of’ punitive expeditions, plundering shrines, deporting unruly leaders and persuading local leaders to sign treaties. It was in this atmosphere of tension that the Nembe people launched a surprise attack on the Akassa base of the Royal Niger Company on January 29, 1895 in an attempt to Stem thetide of British imperialism. Naturally, the British retaliated, destroying towns, seizing canons and exacting fines.

A dramatic re-enactment of this incident is found in the two plays under study — King Jaja by Henry L. Bell —Gam and OdumEgege by Miesoinuma Minima. King Jaja was famous for having risen from slavery to became an enterprising African leader and a successful palm oil trader. Faced with heightened economic rivalry from within the Delta and from British traders, his rule officially ended when Vice- Consul Henry Johnson lured him into a gunboat with a false promise of protection, only to kidnap him and to deport him shortly thereafter.

As a social document, drama and theatre have always served to produce the outlines of social history. Drama and theater always served a variety of social functions in man’s attempt at existence. But in no other area of knowledge has drama and theatre been more effective than its attempt to define, interpret and refine history. It has served philosophy, religion and many more but its focus on the historical level has not been surpassed in its thrust to broaden the scope of man’s quest for knowledge.

Drama, theatre and society can be looked at more relevantly from the viewpoint of the text and the performance. There exists a closer relationship between Drama, Theatre and Society from the point of view of’ the critical analysis of drama and theatre as social documents.

According to Thomas Warton, the first real historian of English poetry, drama and theatre always served a purpose of recording rather faithfully the features of their time. For example, Ben Jonson and William Shakespeare were able to give us a graphic account through their works of the historical format of the Elizabethan middle class society. The same could be said of America, France and Russia. For instance, we have vivid memories of love in post-Restoration Paris and the handling of social stratification of the decaying French aristocracy.

As a result, one finds that the relationship between drama, theatre and society is functionally a symbiotic one, one illuminating the other. This is so because just as drama and theatre attempts to reveal our past and open up the world and society for us to see, so does society provide the social background for drama and theatre to function. Indeed history and society remain the major preoccupation of drama and theatre. Through imitation, drama and theatre light up society in order to expose the historical foibles of the past and by implication bring about change. Drama and theatre expose the contradictions of the past in the society by looking at the social organizations along the lines of institutionalized patterns of a social system. More and more play wrights find it convenient to write historical plays.

Firstly, historical materials provide the writer with the story, secondly, the story is a familiar one to the community to whom the materials are derived from. This is not to state that historical plays are easy to write, in fact they could be more difficult since the writer finds himself undersevere pressure not to distort the actual event and to present a convincing replica of the event and this could be tasking indeed.

In king Jaja by Henry L. Bell-Gam, the playwright uses the transitional growth of a slave boy to a successful entrepreneur and later to a dethroned hero. Whereas, in OdumEgege by MiesonumaMimima, the playwright chooses to take on aspect of the king Jaja story, played down the story of king Jaja, and instead, highlight the story of one man, EzeEgege who led his people in opposition against the tyrannical rule of king Jaja.

In the plays under study, both playwrights have attempted to raise the meaning of the historical materials to contemporary meanings, andtherefore make the historical drama, no matter how old the history may be, into contemporary reality.

What then is the relationship between drama, theatre and history? How does drama and theatre function as a creative tool for historical analysis? These and others are the questions this research seeks to answer through a systematic analysis of the actual incident and the dramatic re-enactment as presented by both playwrights.

1.2 Purpose of Study

The purpose of’ this study is to contribute my quota in documenting the history of my people. A lot may have been written on the king Jaja phenomenon, however most of these write-ups have only looked at the historical incident, but none (to my knowledge) has attempted to look at the dramatic works written on the subject. Hence, my purpose of embarking on this research is to contribute to scholarly research for posterity sake. This forms the purpose of this research.

 

 

1.3 Scope and Limitation

This research is structured into four(4) chapters. It does not aim at reviewing all the plays written on the king Jaja Saga, as this would be beyond the Scope of this study. Only two plays related to the issue are treated. However, brief references will be made to other plays with similar subject matter to (where necessary) to buttress my view points.

In terms of limitation, this research has suffered the obvious problem of inadequate research materials. Most of the available ones one archaic ones while the new ones are scarce to come by

1.4 Definition of Terms and Concepts

In this sub-section, terms and concepts whose meanings are not obvious in the context of the study are defined and explained. These include terms and concepts whose meanings are not ordinarily known or which have been used in specialized sense of the study (i.e. different from the ordinary sense).

DRAMA AND THEATRE: Drama is simply defined as an imitation an action before an audience. According to Ohiri (1999), drama goes beyond providing entertainment.

Drama and theater really provide Entertainment. They make people Laugh and smile when they should frown and lament, but this is not all to it.

Even this entertainment quality of drama and theatrestretches further into a curative use, A man, on a lighter Mood, said that drama cures hypertension.

 

What Ohiri means is that drama can prevent emotional strain which is the main cause of hypertension, which means that drama can provide some sort of relief.

Theatre on the other hand, is derived from a Greek work Theatron. In this sense ii refers to an architectural structure built to offer dramatic performances and other types of performances (Encyclopedia Americana vol 26, 1829:601). Oscar Brockett in. The Theatre: An introduction, observes that theatre is the art that comes closes to life as possible.

For this research, we shall accept the definition given by Gassner 1953:17, where he defined theatre as the art of acting out something without necessarily having a space. However no definition can be broad enough in words. We can safely define the theatre for this research as a place where dramatic performances take place for entertainment.

Drama will be the thing done while theatre is the entire process of doing. According to Clurman (1972, ix)

Theatre precedes drama. This historical Fact has immense aesthetic importance but in ourtraditional modern theatre we reserve the process:

we convert or trans/ate drama into theatre. This creates a confusion from which theatre criticism

and theatre practice have both suffered —- drama is a child of the theatre. It goes to my heart that the child should be brought up to despise its parents (Harold Clurman)

 

What then is the difference between drama and theatre? According to Lynn McGregor et al (1977:18), the major difference between drama and theatre lies in performance.

Yet there are equally obvious differences. By far the most important of these is the idea of performance. The word theatre means a number of things. It suggests a profession and the work of the artists and technicians who are part fit. But the concept of ‘theater’ is to do with performance. Theatre exists in performance, in communicating with an audience.

 

Another definition of drama that is appropriate is appropriate is given by Umukoro (1994) “drama is concerned with action, with doing and seeing”. Drama according to him,has a method that needs no advocacy because it is like the good wine that needs no bush.

SLAVE COAST:- It is the geographical name for that section in the West coast of Africa lying North of the Gulf of Guinea along the Bight of Benin between present day Ghana and the mouth of the River Niger. It includes the coastal area of present day Dahomey, Nigeria and Togo. The West African slave trade formally centered in the region.

SLAVERY: According to Funk and Wagnall‘s New Encyclopedia Vol: 21, Slavery refers to as:

Social institution defined by law and custom as the most absolute and involuntary form of Human servitude. The definitive characteristics of a slave are as flows: His labour and services aregotten through force, his physical being is regarded as a property of another man, his master man, his master’s or owners will (2004:42).

 

He could he bought, sold, traded, given as a gift, or pledged for a depth by his master, usually without any recourse to personal or legal objection or restraint. Slavery was an accepted feature, often quite basic to the economy of the society of all ancient civilization.

1.5 Research Methodology

The research method applied in this study involves the following:

(1) Identifying and defining the problem

(2) Reviewing the interview

(3) Textual analysis

(4) Drawing necessary inference/conclusion based on the analysis.

To achieve this, the PRIMARY and SECONDARY source methods are applied.

Primary sources:- are those sources which contain a direct account of an event or phenomenon given by someone who actually observed it this is through oral interview. Oral interview involves eliciting information from the respondent through some verbal interaction between him and the researcher.

SECONDARY SOURCE: Are those materials which contain anaccount of an event or phenomenon by someone who did not actually witness the event or phenomenon. Examples of secondary sourcematerials include textbooks, review of research reports, encyclopedia etc.

1.6 Summary

This chapter has basically been introductory; we have identified palm oil trade as the major attraction of the British to The Niger Delta. Under the guise of creating protectorates, the British mounted series of raids and forced uncooperative African leaders to sign treaties. One of the victims was King Jaja, who was forcefully sent on exile. Drama and theatre seek to recapture history by functioning as social documents.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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