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Greek and Roman Influences 800 BC-400 AD. Classical Greek. Presents the universal ideal of beauty through logic, order, reason and moderation. Instructs and perfects humans. Used ritual worship to affirm the importance of the gods. Theatre: “a place for seeing”.

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Classical greek
Classical Greek

  • Presents the universal ideal of beauty through logic, order, reason and moderation.

  • Instructs and perfects humans.

  • Used ritual worship to affirm the importance of the gods.

Theatre a place for seeing
Theatre: “a place for seeing”

  • The word theatre comes from the Greek word “theatron”

  • Literally “a place for seeing”

  • Theatre is an interpretive discipline

    • Between the playwright and the audience stand the director, the designers, and the actors.

The greek theatre
The Greek Theatre

  • Began as a circular stage placed in a valley surrounded by hills

  • Known as the theatron when stone seating was added.

  • A skene was built for costume changes

  • 15,000 to 20,000 people would attend the plays

  • Each scene had no more than three actors on the stage at one time.

  • The performances began at first light and would end around noon. The actors faced east.


  • The actors were always men.

  • Actors wore bright robes of different colors to convey specific information to audience.

  • Robes were padded.

  • Thick soled boots were worn to increase height in addition to large wigs worn above elaborate masks.

  • The large masks allowed the audience to identify the character’s emotion and identity.


Who did the Greeks honor by performing dramatic works?

Why ?

Dionysus god of wine celebration and fertility
Dionysus: God of Wine, Celebration, and Fertility

  • Son of Zeus and a mortal mother

  • Hera killed his mother with a thunderbolt

  • Zeus took him to Mount Olympus and sewed him into his thigh until maturity

    Picture: The Birth of Dionysus

Dionysus patron of drama

Worshipped through the singing of hymns or dithrambs during festivals

Four Festivals were held throughout the year

City Dionysia was the most famous

City Dionysia

Five days in length

His statue was moved to the worship site on the first day

10 city-states would present a hymn—each had a judge

The fifth day a winner would be announced.

Dionysus: Patron of Drama

The competiton

Steps were taken to ensure city-states had an edge in competition

***Thespis: the first actor

The director would questions the chorus.

Acting took place.

They hired writers

Competition became very tough

***An Archon was hired

He selected only three plays as a result of time.

He would announce the winner.

Archon decided that each playwright had to write four plays.

The Competiton

The plays and the prizes

Each poet would produce a trilogy and a satyr play. competition

The trilogy was a set of three plays performed for religious worship and they were tragedies.

The satyr was a short play performed for a lite, comic relief.

The winner would receive either a goat or grapes.

Greek word for goat is Tragos + ODE = tragedy

Greek word for grapes is

Comos + ODE = comedy

The Plays and The Prizes

Aristotle greek philosopher
Aristotle: Greek Philosopher competition

  • Born in 384 B.C.

  • Studied under Plato and tutored Alexander the Great.

  • Wrote the essay The Poetics.

    • Greek word for playwright is POET.

  • Became the first critic/person to analyze theatre

    • Ideas for the Tragic Hero

    • Six Fundamentals of Theatre

The tragic hero
The Tragic Hero competition

  • “High” status position

  • Embody nobility/virtue

  • Character flaw

  • Punishment exceeds crime

  • An increase in awareness

  • Catharsis-purging of emotion

    **Greek drama was not considered “entertainment”: a communal function to contribute to the good health of the community.

    Picture: Oedipus with Guards

Aristotle s six elements of theatre

Plot competition: What happens in a play; the order of events; what happens rather than what it means.

Theme: What the play means opposed to what happens; the main idea.

Character: The personality of the part an actor represents in a play; a role played by an actor in a play.

Diction/Language: The word choices made by the playwright and the enunciation of the actors delivering the lines.

Music/Rhythm: Aristotle meant the sound, rhythm and melody of the speeches.

Spectacle: The visual elements of the production of a play; the scenery, costumes, and special effects in a production.

Aristotle’s Six Elements of Theatre

The playwrights
The Playwrights competition

  • Aeschylus: 525-456 B.C.

  • Sophocles: Died 406 B.C.

  • Euripides: Died 406 B.C.

    • Younger that Sophocles

    • Competed against each other

    • They are the only three Ancient Greek playwrights whose works have survived.

Aeschylus competition

  • Wrote magnificent tragedies on lofty moral themes. Wrote the tragedy Agamemnon.

  • Plays appeal strongly to the intellect.

  • Referred to as the creator of tragedy.

  • According to Aristotle, Aeschylus was responsible for adding the second actor.

    ***Thespis was the first actor.

Sophocles competition

  • Sophocles: themes are more human, and his characters more subtle, although he explores the themes of human responsibility, dignity, and fate with the same intensity and seriousness we see in Aeschylus. (Oedipus the King and Antigone)

  • Added the third actor.

Euripides competition

  • Euripides’ plays relied heavily on realism. He focused on individual emotions rather than great events.

  • Relied less heavily on the chorus.

  • Questioned the religion of the day in his plays. More like a tragicomedy than pure tragedy.

  • His plays are the most popular of the Greek tragedies today.

  • Known for The Bacchae and Medea

Aristophanes and the comedy
Aristophanes and the Comedy competition

  • 450-380 B.C.

  • Plays were satirical, sophisticated, and obscene.

  • Focused on personal and political targets of his criticism

  • The Acharnians of the post-classical period.

From classical to the hellenistic period
From Classical to the Hellenistic Period competition

  • Comedy was the staple of the theatre.

  • The skene was frequently two stories tall.

  • Political themes were gone and religion no longer played a central role in the theatre.

  • Chorus disappeared entirely.

  • Pastoral and the idyll forms were introduced.

Roman theatre
Roman Theatre competition

  • Roman theatre lacked intellectual appeal.

  • Served as an important social function in keeping the minds of the masses off of their problems.

  • Used theatrical satire to punish the bureaucracy for wrongs committed against the general public.

Three types of roman theatre
Three Types of Roman Theatre competition

  • Farce: themes parodied mythology and, later, burlesqued tragedy.

  • Roman Comedy: borrowed from Hellenistic comedy and classic Greek structure

    • Playwrights: Plutus, Menander, and Terence

  • Mime: dealt with low life,and appealed to all classes of Romans. Ridiculed Christianity.

End of presentation
End of Presentation competition