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Greek Theatre. Greek History. 2500 - 500 BC. Egypt. Near East. 2500 BC. Whose got the power?. Where’s the Greece?. ?. Minoan civilization. Most prevalent in the Aegean Area Lived on the Isle of Crete 1400 BC - MAJOR EARTHQUAKE destroys Crete cities

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Greek Theatre

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Greek theatre

Greek Theatre

Greek history

Greek History

2500 - 500 BC

2500 bc


Near East

2500 BC

Whose got the power?

Where s the greece

Where’s the Greece?


Minoan civilization

Minoan civilization

  • Most prevalent in the Aegean Area

  • Lived on the Isle of Crete

  • 1400 BC - MAJOR EARTHQUAKE destroys Crete cities

  • Focus moves North to Mainland of Greece

  • Culture greatly influences cities of Mycenae and Troy

1100 bc

1100 BC

Greek theatre 1357427


1100 - 800 BC

Greek theatre 1357427

The Dawn of Greek Civilization

800 bc 500 bc

800 BC - 500 BC

Greek Civilization Begins to Take Shape



“City State”

Important greek cities

ImportantGreek Cities

  • Attica (Athens)

  • Corinth

  • Sparta

  • Thebes

City state facts

City state facts

  • Originally ruled by Kings

  • After 800 BC Nobles began to acquire considerable power and control

  • These “tyrants” did much to improve social conditions and promote the arts

  • Peisistratus dominated Athens from 560-510 BC

    • Established numerous festivals including the Festival of Dionysia

  • By the late 6th Century BC Greeks grew weary of tyrants and prevent them from gaining power

508 bc

508 BC

Greece creates the world’s first…

508 bc1

508 BC


Greek theatre1

Greek Theatre

The origins of Comedy & Tragedy

700 bc

700 BC


Written records increase but those relating to the theatre were rare until 534 bc

WRITTEN records increase but those relating to the Theatre were rare until 534 BC

534 bc

534 BC

Athens institutes a contest for the best tragedy at the City of Dionysis (a Major Religious Festival)

Thespis is credited with the first win

Thespisis credited with the first win

Therefore most scholars consider him the inventor of drama

Therefore,Most scholars consider him the inventor of drama



Taken from the Greek …

Goat Song

Aristotle said

Aristotle said

Tragedy evolved out of the improvisations by the leader of the dithyrambs

What s a dithyramb

What’s a dithyramb?

It was the hymn sung and danced in honor of Dionysis, the greek god of wine and fertility

Greek theatre2

Greek Theatre


Origins of comedy

Origins of comedy

  • From the Greek word KOMOS

  • Based on religious ceremonies connected with fertility rites

  • Actors wore grotesque costumes and performed using wild gestures

  • Around 570 BC these actions become organized

  • Susaron believed to have written the first comedy

Styles of comedy

Styles of Comedy

Old Comedy

Middle Comedy

New Comedy

Structure of comedy

Structure of Comedy

Old comedy 570 404



Old Comedy (570 - 404)

The happy idea

The Happy Idea

  • Usually wild and impractical

  • The chorus enters and debates the Happy Idea which includes a direct address to the audience of the views of the playwright

  • A series of farcical scenes attempting to implement the happy idea which usually concludes with some merrymaking

Middle comedy

Middle Comedy

(404 - 321)

  • Development connected to the downfall of Athens during the Peloponnesian War

  • Chorus has a lesser role

  • Political commentary removed

  • Stories and characters become somewhat uniform

  • No scipts of this time period remain

New comedy

New Comedy

  • Appears during the last quarter of the 4th Century

  • Comic form most copied by the Romans

  • Structure closely resembles the structure of modern plays (5 Act Structure)

  • Characters drawn from contemporary Athens

  • Last form of theatre to emerge from Athens shows the cynicism prevalent after the city’s decline

Satyr play

Satyr play

  • Entered into the Dionysian Festival around 500 BC

  • Accompanied the trilogy

  • Written as pure entertainment usually mocking the theme of the previous plays

  • The chorus was portrayed as Satyrs

  • Very little is known about this form of Greek Theatre

Greek theatre3

Greek Theatre

The Playwrights

Tragedy in the 5th century

Tragedy in the 5th Century

  • What we know about Greek Tragedy is based solely on three playwrights

  • They are representative of other playwrights

  • However from over a 1,000 plays written during that time period, only 31 still exist

The tragic playwrights

The Tragic Playwrights




Aeschylus 523 456

Aeschylus (523 - 456)

  • Oldest of surviving Greek Playwrights

  • Thought to have written 80 plays, only 7 survive including the Oresteia trilogy (Agamemnon, Libation Bearers, and Eumenides)

  • Introduced the Second actor

  • The most “theatrical” of the tragedians

Sophocles 496 406

Sophocles (496 - 406)

  • Wrote over 120 plays, 7 survived including Antigone, Electra, and Oedipus Rex

  • Won 24 Dionysian festivals, never lower than 2nd

  • Introduced the 3rd actor, after Aeschylus used 3

  • No elaborate visual effects, placed increased emphasis on the individual character

  • Considered the most skillful of all the Greek tragedians

Euripides 480 406

Euripides (480 - 406)

  • Wrote about 90 plays, 18 survived including Medea, The Trojan Women, and Orestes

  • Popular in later cultures but not during his lifetime because his plays were thought unsuitable for the stage & too undignified for tragedy

  • Badly written, compared to Sophocles & Aeschylus

  • Use of melodrama and sentimentality were signs of what was to come in the 4th Century

The comic playwrights

The Comic Playwrights




Aristophanes 448 380

Aristophanes (448 - 380)

  • What we know of Old Comedy comes from his writings

  • Wrote 40 plays 11 survive including Frogs, Lysistrata, & Birds

  • Characters come from all classes of Athenians commenting on contemporary society, politics, literature, & war

  • With Athen’s defeat by Sparta, his style of writing becomes less popular

Menander 342 292

Menander (342 - 292)

  • Playwright of the New Comedy Period

  • Wrote about 100 plays 11 exist

  • Grew up in Macedonian controlled Athens

  • Chorus no longer important - group of performers who appear between scenes (5 Act Structure)

  • Stock characters taken from everyday life in contemporary dress - not mythic

  • Not considered great playwright but works influenced Roman playwrights Plautus & Terence

  • Modern Theatre can trace its roots to Menander

The end


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