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The Rudolf Steiner Archive

a project of Steiner Online Library, a public charity

Speech and Drama
GA 282

Foreword by Marie Steiner

It is the desire and intention of the Anthroposophical Movement founded by Rudolf Steiner to meet man's hunger for the spirit and for freedom from the fetters of a soul-destroying materialism, to guide him also to some solution of the riddles of the great world in which he lives. Among those who have looked to the Movement for help have been actors, who have suffered under the conditions and methods of the modern stage and have not been able to find an answer to the problems that vexed and harassed them in the pursuance of their art and in their endeavours after deeper knowledge and understanding. Some of these came to Rudolf Steiner, and he responded to their call. He gave for them this course of lectures on the Arts of Speech and Drama which is now appearing in a second edition. The actors had to wait a long time for the lectures while still more urgent problems were demanding his attention.

Rudolf Steiner saw in art a redemptive and healing power for man's life of soul, that cannot be too highly valued; and he was untiring in his efforts to plant and foster there seeds for the future. Right through all the activities he undertook for the spiritual and social life of mankind, his work in the field of art was never interrupted; it reached a kind of zenith in his own Mystery Plays. In eurhythmy he gave a new art that has power in it to animate and fructify all the other arts. And in the very last days of his outer activity, full as they were to overflowing, he added also these lectures on the Arts of Speech and Drama. The interest and eagerness with which the announcement of the course was greeted made it impossible to limit the audience to actors alone, as had been at first intended. No sooner, in response to urgent entreaty, had a few exceptions been made, than a whole stream of people began asking to be allowed to take part. Had the original plan been adhered to, the lectures would perhaps have had a different, a rather more professional character. The fact that they were delivered to a wider audience may however have helped to give them a certain large and universal quality and afforded occasion for some of the humorous and topical allusions.

Although the shorthand report of the lectures was imperfect, there was an urgent call for it to appear in print in order that the suggestions contained therein might be taken up and worked out. And publication having once been decided upon, obviously the only thing to do was to retain the spoken word in all the freshness and directness in which it was heard. The reader is asked to remember that the words were spoken right out of the immediate situation, and to make allowance for the quick responses in feeling and the silent questionings that they met with in the hearers. Obviously, the content of the lectures would have been given a different form had it been intended from the first for publication.

Many may be disinclined to enter upon a study of the advice given here, because a particular philosophy lies behind it, — and that for them is taboo! Anthroposophical terminology will even be found to occur in the explanations. Yes, it will certainly mean that one is under the necessity of forming for oneself a picture of man in body, soul and spirit; and for this one will have to undertake study. A plentiful supply of literature exists on the subject. Besides Rudolf Steiner's more general works on Spiritual Science, his many lectures on education will be found particularly helpful. The opinion prevails today, however, that art and a philosophy of life do not go well together. And yet every art, in the time of its full flowering, has had as its content a living philosophy, a living conception of the world. And this is what we need today if the decadent tendencies of a worn-out civilisation are to be overcome. To understand what is offered to us in these lectures on the Arts of Speech and Drama, we must be ready to affirm the cosmic spirituality that lies hidden behind the world of appearances; and if we want to go further and put into practice what we have learned from the lectures, we shall find we need to have real experience of this hidden cosmic substantiality. Prejudice should not be allowed to stand in our way, nor any aversion to the things of the spirit, — which in the last resort is bred of fear. Provided our vision is free and unclouded, we shall be able to recognise in the sounds of speech our divine teachers, and to know the very breath of man as cosmic substance actively at work within him. These are the materials, these are the instruments, for the artist in speech. Through them he can indeed come to know himself anchored in the spirit, and can then follow the spirit on its path into matter and into the course of history. He will see drama coming to birth in long-past times in the original Mystery Play; he will see it shaping the souls of men, inspiring them, stirring them to their very depths, and purifying them. And he will see how drama afterwards loses its way in the low levels of the ebb-tide of civilisation. And then he will come to recognise that it is for him, strengthened as he is in soul, and awakened in his ego-consciousness thanks to the gifts and achievements of long epochs of cultural development — it is for him now to restore to drama its character as of a Mystery. And speech, as it gradually reveals its hidden depths to bis consciousness, will be his guide, will verily show him the way.

Dornach, September 1941.