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.
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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).