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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 history

Greek History

2500 - 500 BC

2500 bc


Near East

2500 BC

Whose got the power?

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 - 800 BC

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


534 bc
534 BC

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


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

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

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