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GREEK DRAMA. How Greek Drama Grew Out of Religious Ritual. Greek drama grew out of a religious ritual that honored Dionysus the god of wine and fertility Dionysian celebrations became an annual festival with hymn singing and wild flute playing

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Greek drama

GREEK DRAMA

How Greek Drama Grew Out of Religious Ritual


Religious ritual

Greek drama grew out of a religious ritual that honored Dionysus the god of wine and fertility

Dionysian celebrations became an annual festival with hymn singing and wild flute playing

Performances took place in Athens (present day Athens, Greece) in a large amphitheater

Thespis transformed these hymns into songs that honored Dionysus

Ancient Greek theater of Epidaurus

Religious Ritual


Greek drama

4 Dionysus the god of wine and fertilityth – 5th c. BCE

  • Innovations of Thepis

    A chorus member would step forward and play the part of a hero or god

    The actor wore a mask and entered into dialogue with the chorus

    This actor wore a mask with an exaggerated mouthpiece that amplified the actor’s voice

    These masks portrayed characters which were easily recognizable to the audience

    All actors were men and the choruses were well-trained boys.

4th – 5th c. BCE


A tragic myth the house of thebes
A Tragic Myth: Dionysus the god of wine and fertilityThe House of Thebes

  • A mythis an old story rooted in a particular society. A myth often explains human suffering in terms of the workings of the gods, of fates that cannot be avoided, or curses that haunt generations.

  • Antigone is a part of an old myth; it is The Myth of Oedipus.


The myth of oedipus
The Myth of Oedipus Dionysus the god of wine and fertility

  • King Laios and Queen Jocasta of Thebes learned from the oracle that their newborn son would kill his father and marry his mother.

  • The King and Queen gave the baby to a shepherd with orders to leave the baby, ankles pinned together, abandoned at the side of the road. The shepherd took pity on the baby and instead gave him to a Corinthian shepherd who in turn gave him to a childless king and queen of Corinth who named it Oedipus (“swollen foot” or “club foot”).

  • Later in life, Oedipus was able to save Thebes from a Sphinx that had been destroying the city. The Sphinx would continue to destroy the city until someone could answer this riddle: What creature goes on four legs in the morning, two legs in the afternoon, and three legs in the evening?

  • Oedipus successfully solved the riddle……….MAN who crawls on all fours as an infant, walks on two legs as an adult, and leans on a cane in old age.


Greek drama

  • Oedipus was welcomed as a hero in Thebes Dionysus the god of wine and fertility

  • Laios their king had recently been killed

  • Thebans offered Oedipus the throne and the widowed Jocasta, as his bride

  • It was unknown to them that Oedipus was actually her son

  • Oedipus and Jocasta had four children: Polyneices, Eteocles, and daughters Antigone and Ismene.

  • Oedipus finally discovered that he had killed his father and married his mother, so the prophecy of the oracle and come true

  • When Jocasta discovered the horrible truth, she killed herself and Oedipus gouged out his own eyes

  • When Creon took over as ruler of Thebes, he exiled Oedipus

  • Oedipus wandered the countryside as a beggar with his daughter Antigone

  • Antigone returned to Thebes where her brothers eventually killed each other. Creon gave his ally Eteocles a hero’s burial and Polyneices was denied burial rites condemning him to eternal unrest


Conscience vs authority
Conscience vs. Authority Dionysus the god of wine and fertility

  • When we feel that those in power are morally wrong, do we break their laws, or do we collaborate with them by obeying? Examples:

  • Holocaust

  • Japanese Internment Camps in the U.S.

  • Segregation

  • What other examples are there?


I depict men as they ought to be sophocles
“I depict men as they ought to be….” Dionysus the god of wine and fertilitySophocles

  • 496 ? – 406 B.C.E. Athens

  • He saw Greek culture at its height and at its decline

  • Won numerous prizes for his plays

  • He was extremely famous and well respected

  • He moved away from using exaggerated actions and instead relied on psychological depth

  • He broke the tradition of using only two actors

  • He reduced the role of the chorus and placed more emphasis on the actors

  • He used the chorus to establish tone

  • He wrote the most influential drama ever written Oedipus the King


Traditional greek theater
Traditional Greek Theater Dionysus the god of wine and fertility


Greek drama

Orchestra or “dancing place”, chorus, and skene (for storing costumes

but later used as scenery).


The typical greek tragedy
The Typical Greek Tragedy storing costumes

  • Prologue – exposition or opening speech

  • Parados – the chorus makes its first entrance and gives its perspective on what the audience has learned in the prologue

  • Episodia (several episodes) – heated debates that dramatizes the play’s conflicts

  • Stasimon (choral ode) – chorus responds to and interprets the preceding dialogue

  • Exodus (last scene and resolution) – follows the final episode