Greek Tragedy

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					    Greek Tragedy

Everything you wanted to know
 about Greek tragedy but were
         afraid to ask
    What are we going to talk about?
   The Origins of Tragedy
   Which Cities Performed Tragedy
   When Tragedy was Performed
   The Parts of a Greek Theater
   The Theaters Themselves
   The Major Playwrights
   The Way a Greek Tragedy Was Staged
        - number of actors
        - the costumes
        - the masks
        - the audience
     The Origins of Tragedy
 Originated from the dithyramb: a choral
  song in honor of Dionysos
 Arion of Methymna (7th century) was
  the first to write a choral song, practice it
  with a chorus, and perform it
 Lasus of Hermione was the first to do it
  at Athens
 Connected with the worship of Dionysos in
            The Origins of Tragedy
   Thespis of Corinth
       The first travelling
       Active c. 538-28 BCE
       Added prologue and
        speech to choral
       Said to have invented
        the mask
     Who Performed Tragedy?
 Corinth: c. 600 (Arion)
 Sicyon: c. 550
     - Cleisthenes (not the Athenian)
     - Epigenes
 Athens: c. 510
    - only Athenian dramas left
    - “school of Hellas”





    When Was Tragedy Performed?
   City Dionysia @ Athens
         - aka “Greater Dionysia”
         - end of March
   Rural Dionysia
         - different demes had performances
         - “off-Broadway”
         - various dates in December
   The Lenaea
         - less prestigious
         - sometime in late January/early February
 Where Was Tragedy Performed?
 almost every Greek
  city had a theater
 Theaters could be
  very small or huge
 Each theater had
  specific parts
 Usually in the center
  of the city
          The Parts of a Theater
   The Orchestra
      The acting area
      semi-circular
      Had a small altar to
       Dionysos in the
      Where the Chorus
       danced and the
       actors spoke
            The Parts of a Theater
   The Skene
     The  large backdrop
     Could be decorated with scenery
     Where the action actually took place (hidden)
     Roof was accessible
     Originally one door in the center, but
      eventually had three doors
The Skene
            The Parts of a Theater
   The Ekkyklēma
       A wheeled platform
       Used to display set
       Agamemnon
   The Mēchanē
       a large crane
       Used for the entrance
        of gods
       Deus ex machina
                  The Theaters
   Theater of Dionysos
     Athens
     Main theater for
     4th century remains
     c. 20,000 seats
     Located on side of
Theater of Dionysos
Theater of Dionysos
Theater of Dionysos
                    The Theaters
   Theater of Epidauros
       The best-preserved
       Largest surviving
       Located near Argos
          in the Peloponnesus
       Sanctuary of
       Still in use today
Theater of Epidauros
Theater of Epidauros
Theater of Epidauros
                  The Theaters
   Theater of Pergamon
     In Asia Minor (Turkey)
     Extremely steep
     Fit to the terrain
     Pergamon one of the
      most wealthy Asian
Theater of Pergamon
              The Playwrights
   Three major tragedians
     Aeschylus
     Sophocles
     Euripides

 All active in the 5th century
 All won first place in multiple competitions
 Only Athenian plays survive
   b. 525 d. 456 (Sicily)
   Fought at Marathon
       “Aeschylus, Euphorion's
        son of Athens, lies under
        this stone dead in Gela
        among the white
        wheatlands; a man at need
        good in fight -- witness the
        hallowed field of Marathon,
        witness the long-haired

   First tragedy 499
   First first prize 484 (13
 Introduced the second actor
 Wrote over 70 plays (seven survive)
 Always revered
 Main interest is in situation and event rather
  than character
   Oresteia, Seven Against Thebes
 Pericles directed the chorus for Persians
 Both sons were very successful playwrights
   b. 496 d. 406
   Served as a general
    with Pericles (441)
   Very active in city
    politics (413)
   First tragedy 468
   First first prize 468
       Won 18 first prizes
       Never finished third
 Introduced the third actor
 Wrote over 120 plays (seven survive)
 The most successful of the Big Three
 Challenged conventional mores
 Introduced more dialogue between
  characters (less Chorus)
   Oedipus Tyrannus, Oedipus at Colonus,
    Antigone, Electra
 b. 485 d. 406 (in
 Not active militarily or
 First tragedy 455
 First first prize 441
     Won only four first
     The least successful of
      the Big Three
 No innovations on the stage
 Wrote ninety plays (19 survive)
 Sophocles: “I present men as they ought
  to be, Euripides presents men as they
 More realistic than the other two
   Alcestis, Medea, Hippolytus, Bacchae,
          The Staging of Tragedy
   “Classical theater resembled today’s rock concerts: the
    audience knew every number by heart, performers wore
    high heels, loud costumes and heavy make-up, and they
    relied on background singers, known as the Chorus.”

                                  -Howard Tomb
         The Staging of Tragedy
   “The audience knew every number by
        Most   tragedies dealt with mythological themes
   “Performers wore high heels, loud
    costumes and heavy make-up…”
        They   wore elaborate clothes, tall boots, and masks
   “They relied on background singers,
    known as the Chorus.”
        Especially   after the introduction of the third actor
    The Staging of Tragedy - Actors
   Maximum of three actors
     Aeschylus second
     Sophocles third

 All roles played by men
 Same group of actors for each set of plays
  for each author
    The Staging of Tragedy - Actors
 Playwrights did not act in their own plays
  after Sophocles
 Chorus publicly funded
    A   choregos would pay for and train the chorus
     Viewed as a civic duty
     Could be prosecuted for failing to do it
      wealthy enough
     Choregos got a monument if his chorus won
    The Staging of Tragedy - Costumes
   Actor wore:
      Mask
      Robes
      Platform boots
      Chorus could be in
       costume (comedy)
    The Staging of Tragedy - Masks
   The most salient feature
       All parts by men, so mask
        depicted gender
       Acted as a megaphone
       Voice inflection paramount
   Multiple Masks = Multiple
       Only three actors
       More than three speaking
        roles, need for costume
        and mask change
       Oedipus and his eyes
                    The Audience
   Any male could attend
       Women   most likely able to attend
       Aeschylus’ Furies

   State funded attendance
       Costwas the average daily wage of a laborer
       Theoric Fund
            Never suspended, even when Athens in dire straights
            Supplied public tickets
       “Must-see    TV”
                The Audience
   Catharsis
        “learning through suffering”
        Moderation is to be sought in all things,
         even good things
        The mighty fall so far that we admire them
         for being so high
        A spiritual cleansing of the audience
        Performances emotional

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