Entertainment and Education

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 (Burdick 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 (Burdick 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
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 Boetian¹s Hesiod explored the poet¹s
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
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 (Burdick 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 Demosthenes¹ speeches hardened
Athenian opposition to Phillip