The enlightenment and revival plays of Jovan Sterija Popović and Matija Ban (particularly Mejrima and Hajduci)
Jovan Sterija Popović polarized his work on drama into two directions: towards the past and towards the contemporary time, or towards a tragedy and comedy. He used the background from the national (ethnic) past for his tragedies or "sad theatrical pieces", as he called them. He glorified in them the old Serbian State and its rulers having emphasized the Kosovo Myth and its moral grandeur. His goal was to incite the dormant national awareness and to strengthen the belief into better and brighter future among his compatriots. Sterija's most famous plays are Nevinost ili Svetislav i Milena //Innocence or Svetislav and Milena/, Miloš Obilić, Nes- rećno supružestvo /Unhappy Marriage/, and Ajduci /Outlaws/. Sterija appears in his works as a humanist who condemns any barbarism wherever it may take place. He points out that misdeeds are not the feature of one people or religion only, in this case the Ottoman Turks, but they are equally present in the past and current times in all countries.
Matija Ban (1818-1903) also wrote poems and plays that had for its topics certain events from the Serbian, Croatian or Slovenian history. With his 13 plays and tragedies, and the total number of about 40.000 verses, Ban is one of the most prolific Serbian playwrights in the older period, but he has earned his place equally in the Croatian literature. The best literary qualities can be found in his melodrama Mejrema or Bošnjaci /Meyrem or The Bosniaks/, "a work for theatre subdivided into five parts". It is a nationalist and romantic play with strong accents on the liberation. Its action is dynamic, with frequent turns and surprises, the motives of which have not always been dealt with in the best way available.
There is no doubt that both Jovan Sterija Popović and Matija Ban have given a brand new direction to the historical plays having presented the Turks, or the Moslems for that matter, in the Serbian literature. One can find the similar standpoints in the works of Vojislav Ilić and Laza Kostić, who also exposed to ridicule the primitive Turkophobia. These two authors criticized heavily the works of Jovan Jovanović Zmaj.