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Ancient Greek Theatre

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					Ancient Greek Theatre
 About 600 BCE - about 250 BCE
                    Origins
• Religious ceremonies
  – Funerals
  – Seasonal celebrations
  – Ceremonies honoring the gods
• Of particular significance were
  ceremonies honoring Dionysus, god
  of wine, fertility and revelry.
• Some historians believe Greek
  drama originated in the dithyrambic
  choruses
  – Dithyramb: long hymn, sung and
    danced by a group of 50 men
                 Thespis
• Thespis is credited being the first actor
  – In 534 BCE, he stepped out of the chorus and
    delivered a prologue and dialogue while
    impersonating a character
• That is where we get the modern term
  “thespian” as a tribute to Thespis.
                  Festivals
• Business came to a standstill during
  dramatic festivals – even wars were
  stopped to celebrate and honor the gods
  – Has no modern day equivalent
• City Dionysia
  – Held at the end of March when spring had
    arrived to honor Dionysus
  – In 534 BCE, tragedy was incorporated – In
    486 BCE, comedy and satyr plays added
              City Dionysia
• Lasted for several days
• Before the opening of the festival, parades
  and sacrifices were held to honor
  Dionysus
• 2 days for dithyrambs, 3 days for plays
  – Each playwright had to enter 3 tragedies and
    1 satyr play – this was called a tetralogy
• Awards were given – similar to Olympics
             Greek Tragedy
– Violence and death
  offstage
   • Frequent use of
     messengers to relate
     information
– Usually continuous
  time of action
– Usually single place
– Stories based on myth
  or history, but varied
  interpretations of
  events
Aeschylus
     • His are the oldest
       surviving plays
     • Has the only
       remaining Greek
       trilogy
       – The Orestia
          • Agamemnon
          • The Libation Bearers
          • The Eumenides
     • Introduced the 2nd
       actor
    Sophocles (496-406 B.C.)
• Introduced the 3rd
  actor
• Fixed the chorus at
  15
• Wrote:
  – Oedipus Rex
  – Antigone
Euripides (480-406 B.C.)
            • Very popular in later
              Greek times
              – little appreciated
                during his life
            • Sometimes known as
              "the father of
              melodrama"
            • Wrote:
              – Hecuba
              – Medea
                    Aristotle
• Wrote The Poetics (c.
  335 BCE) in response to
  Plato’s The Republic
• Aristotlean Elements
   –   Plot
   –   Character
   –   Thought
   –   Diction
   –   Music
   –   Spectacle
            The Satyr Play
• Afterpiece to the
  tragedies
• Thematically tied to
  trilogy
• Poked fun at honored
  Greek religion and
  heroes
• Had elements of
  vulgarity
Comedy
   • Satirical treatment of
     domestic situations
      – Called "Old Comedy"
   • Commentary on
     contemporary society,
     politics, literature, and
     Peloponnesian War.
Aristophanes
      • Wrote plays in the style of
        Old Comedy
         – Reflected the social and
           political climate in Athens
         – Plays full of bawdy wit
         – Distinguished for their
           inventive comic scenes,
           witty dialogue and pointed
           satire rather than for plot or
           character
      • Wrote:
         –   The Clouds (423 BCE)
         –   The Birds (414 BCE)
         –   Lysistrata (411 BCE)
         –   The Frogs (405 BCE)
Greek Theater
   Scenery and Special Effects
• Periaktos
  – rotating triangles used for changing scene locations
• Ekkyklema
  – platform on wheels used to bring out characters from
    inside the building
• Mechane
  – Crane hidden behind the upper level of the skene,
    used to lower the actor playing the god to suggest a
    descent from the heavens
     • Later changed to deus ex machina which means “god from a
       machine”
              Acting Styles
• Acting styles:
  – Only three actors
    • Actors usually played more than one role
  – Men played all the parts
• Chorus:
  – Entered with stately march, sometimes
    singing or in small groups.
  – Choral passages sung and danced in unison,
    sometimes divided into two groups.
       Costumes and Masks
• Masks
  – All tragic players wore masks.
  – None survive - made of cork, linen, wood.
  – Covered whole face - hair, beard, etc.
  – Comedy - more varied often birds, animals,
    etc. Probably not realistic.
  – Characters had exaggerated masks, some in
    chorus wore identical masks.

				
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posted:11/2/2011
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