Staging “Lamentations” and “Triumph”: New Methods of Understanding Two Ancient Egyptian Dramatic Texts
Keywords:Egypt, History, Theatre, Ritual, Drama, Performance, Religion, Ancient
Archaeological evidence for the content, context, and intention behind ancient Egyptian dramatic texts is extremely limited. In rare instances, performance iconography can provide clues. On the walls of the Temple of Horus at Edfu, illustrations of dramatic scenes appear in relief alongside the text of what translator H. W. Fairman entitled “The Triumph of Horus.” Dating to approximately the second century BCE, the Edfu text represents a dramatic reenactment of the legendary battle between the gods Horus and Seth for the Egyptian throne, a tradition attested on royal documents more than fifteen hundred years earlier. For this reason, Fairman and others have dubbed “The Triumph of Horus” the oldest play in the world. In December of 2019, theatre students at an American university performed a new staging of “The Triumph of Horus” as well as another dramatic text, “The Lamentations of Isis and Nephthys,” as translated by R. O. Faulkner. The intention was to determine if embodied practice could reveal new ways of understanding and transmitting knowledge about ancient Egyptian dramatic performance. This paper will discuss the development, rehearsal process, and outcome of this production, incorporating research methodology from the field of performance studies.
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