chapter  3
Ritual: action and meaning
Pages 10

A play is not, however, the same as a religious ritual. Seldom in Europe has attendance at a theatre involved worship of a supernatural power or promised either spiritual rebirth or human benefit. Seldom, since the late middle ages, has one play been like other plays in representing a significant event or action on which they have all been modelled. (The variety of the ancient Greek plays that have survived was not a feature to which the ritualistic critics paid much attention; like Aristotle, they were trying to define common factors, rather than account for individual examples.) In so far as a priest re-enacts a past action or kills a beast to represent the death of a hero, victim, or scapegoat, a ritual can be called a dramatic representation, but turning this statement around, to claim that theatre is like a religious ritual, is a confusing half-truth.