Theatrum Mundi

The Globe Theatre, 1576. Photo: Wikipedia.

The first European book with pictures and text as methodology for education was written by Jan Amos Comenius (Komenský in Czech, 1592-1670). With this book he sought to champion for world peace through education by combining visualization and texts. The title of the book, orbis sensualium pictus, means the visible world. By the time of publication in 1658, ten years after the end of the Thirty Years War, Comenius initiated a new order of universal world knowledge. Pictures and texts aimed at employing sensual, pictorial observation to arrive at an understanding of concepts and thus to an extensive system of knowledge.

Around the same time the concept of theatrum mundi (the world as stage) entered the stage again as metaphor for viewing the world. Both the concepts of Comenius and the theatrum mundi are a reflection of globalization. Printing, discoveries of new territories, inventions and above all secularization of world politics led to new visions and curiosity. The devastating consequences of the Thirty Years War, the visions and writings of contemporaries and his own background as Moravian Brethren inspired his writings.

The concept is closely related to the present use of internet and the globalization of knowledge. It is striking that globalization is not an restricted to the modern world, but is a as old as mankind. Globalisation is not just a consequence of  liberal world economy, but a natural process that pervades and fundamentally alters all areas of human coexistence.

The concept of theatrum mundi can also be taken more literally. What is the historical perspective on the interrelation between world, picture and theatre under the conditions of globalization ? The theatricalization of society started by Greek theaters, but it was in particular during the last days of the Roman Republic and the first emperors of the Principate that the theatre became institutionalized as political medium. Theatre and politics are inseparable ever since (Sources: B. Anderson, Imagined Communities Reflections on the Origin and Spread of Nationalism’ London 1985) and