Purpose and origin Drawn from religious rituals which were part of Greek religious cults Plays were only performed during annual religious festivals. Audience did not simply watch the drama as modern audiences do - they were participants in the drama.
Purpose and origin
Drawn from religious rituals which were part of Greek religious cults
Plays were only performed during annual religious festivals
Audience did not simply watch the drama as modern audiences do - they were participants in the drama.
They would feel the emotions of the play which would lead to a “catharsis” or purifying of their emotions.
Theater of Dionysus at Athens
hollowed out hillside for acoustics
Parados – right and left entrances to the orchestra
Chorus and actors would enter through these entrances.
Orchestra - literally “dancing place”
center area about 90 feet in diameter
Skene - literally “tent”
low rectangular building with with uncovered passages at each end
The skene was later given a simple painting on its front, hence skenery, or as we say it today, “scenery.”
It is in the skene where the actors changed their masks/costumes.
Theatron – “listening, viewing place”
The theatron formed a huge arc of stone tiers for seats crossed by passages to the seats.
The Athens theater could accomodate 17,000 people!
(The Staples Center in Los Angeles seats 20,000 max at Laker games.)
Thymele – altar to Dionysus (removable)
icky goat blood
Here is another ancient Greek theater that has been rebuilt.
Computer-generated reconstruction of the Theater of Dionysus in Athens
Acropolis and Parthenon
At the first official presentation of drama at Athens
in 534 BC, the prize was won by Thespis.
That is why actors have been called “thespians.”
The parts of the play:
Parodos - entrance of the chorus and actors
Prologue - informs audience of circumstances of the play
Odes - sung by the chorus with dancing and marching between episodes - these contained parts that switched back and forth called strophe, antistrophe, and epode
Episodes - equivalent to acts
Exodos - conclusion - chorus marches out singing
Only 3 men acted in a play – no women – they changed costumes for different parts.
They wore large masks, so they did not show facial expressions, nor could they make any quick or violent movements.
-- Hence, there were NO scenes of violence -it was simply reported.
-- They were only able to use their voices as instruments of expression.
No realism in scenery - much of it was simply understood and imagined
The Athenians who attended the plays during the religious festivals would already know the stories and backgrounds of the plays.
The characters did not need to be explained because the plots of Greek tragedies were drawn in a religious fashion from well-known myths.
It was not the outcome of the plot that was important – everyone knew the ending – it was how the poet interpreted the plot.
Therefore, we as readers should know the plot before reading the play!
Sophocles (496 – 406 BC)
- Rich, handsome and popular
- Held high offices of state
- Won many dramatic prizes during religious festivals
- View of life was somber:
“Better for a man not to have been born.”
In his plays, Sophocles give attention to the hero rather than to the outside forces
affecting the hero.
He was the first Greek playwright to introduce the third actor. Prior to Sophocles, playwrights only used two actors for all of the parts. This was a great innovation in Ancient Greek theater.
Two actors conversation
Three actors conflict
OR “Two is company, three is a crowd.”
Watch “Oedipus Rex Greek Tragedy” video clip (at the bottom of the English 12AP webpage)