Since the appearance of Sylvain Levi's admirable treatise, Le theatre Indian, the first adequate sketch of the origin and development of the Indian drama and of Indian dramatic theory, in the last decade of the nineteenth century, the discovery of important fragments of the dramas of Asvaghosa and Bhasa had thrown unexpected light on the early history of the drama in India, which necessitated a fresh investigation of the origin and development of the drama in the light of the new materials available, resulting in the publication of the present work by Prof. A.B. Keith in 1924.
The Indian tradition, preserved in the Natyasastra of Bharata, the oldest of the texts of the theory of drama, claims for drama divine origin. It is said that the god Brahma created a new form of literature by taking from the Rgveda the element of recitation, from the Samaveda song, from the Yajurveda the mimetic art and from the Atharvaveda sentiment; then he bade Visvakarman, the divine architect, build a play-house in which the sage Bharata was instructed to carry into practice the art thus created.
Anyway, in tracing the development of the drama, Prof. Keith, in this work, has laid stress only on the great writers and on dramatists who wrote before the end of the first millennium. of later works he has selected few typical specimens for description.
The book treats the subject in four parts, viz. The Origin of the Sanskrit Drama, The Development of the Sanskrit Drama, Dramatic Theory and Dramatic Practice spread over fourteen chapters.
Arthur Berriedale Keith was a Scottish constitutional lawyer, a scholar of Sanskrit and an Indologist. He became Regius Professor of Sanskrit and Comparative Philology and Lecturer on the Constitution of the British Empire at the University of Edinburgh. He served in this role from 1914 to 1944