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Greece: The Land. Located in Europe in the Aegean Sea. Ritualistic Nature. Began as dances and songs or choral hymns in honor of the gods Eventually evolved into distinct art form of theatre

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greece the land
Greece: The Land

Located in Europe in the Aegean Sea

ritualistic nature
Ritualistic Nature
  • Began as dances and songs or choral hymns in honor of the gods
  • Eventually evolved into distinct art form of theatre
  • Umbilical ties of Greek drama to religious ritual are evident in several ways within text of Greek tragedies.
    • Olympian gods sometimes appear as characters and frequently mentioned
    • Legendary heroes and kings, celebrated in ritual within communities, often become the protagonists.
dionysus
Dionysus
  • god of fertility and wine, later considered a patron of the arts.
    • invented wine and spread the art of tending grapes
    • has a dual nature
      • brings joy and divine ecstasy
      • brings brutal, unthinking, rage.
      • Reflects both sides of wine’s nature
  • the son of Zeus and Semele. He is the only god to have a mortal parent
  • Roman’s god, Bacchus
the theatre of dionysus
The Theatre of Dionysus
  • 1st theatre
  • open-air theatre
  • used for festivals to honor Dionysus
  • could seat 17,000 (can still hold 14,000)
  • On south slope of Acropolis
    • Structure dates back to 4th Century BC
festivals
Festivals
  • 3 week-long festivals held each year
    • 1st and most important: Great City Dionysia
      • Late March
      • attracted audiences from other Greek city-states beside Athens and from foreign lands
    • 2nd: the Lanaea
      • Late January/early February
      • attracted more local audience
    • 3rd: the Rural Dionysia
      • times varied
      • outside city walls—countryside
  • Festivals sponsored competitions for both tragedy and comedy
  • Inspired continued improvement to the art form
  • Performances began at dawn and lasted entire day
  • Light of sun illuminated performers and audiences
slide7

Government of ancient Greece viewed these ritualistic celebrations as significant enough to suspend business and daily activities for weeklong festivals throughout the year.

  • Greeks believed the plays should be instructional as well as entertaining
    • Audience was expected to glean valuable personal lessons by watching the action unfold.
slide8

Classical Greek drama is in actuality Athenian drama.

  • 6th century BCE
  • 534 BC, competitions to find the best tragedy were instituted at the City Dionysia in Athens, and Thespis won the first documented competition.
the theatre
The Theatre
  • Historians believe drama 1st performed on the stone threshing floors in the country-side
  • Eventually, the circular dancing place, or orchestra, was moved to the foot of the temple
  • Temple then served as background for early theatrical performances.
  • By 5th century BCE, design of Greek theatre was complete.
architecture of greek theatre
Architecture of Greek Theatre
  • Builders positioned the orchestra, where chorus danced, at the foot of a semicircular hillside
  • Stone benches were built into hillside for audience—theatron
  • Extending from orchestra to each side of theatron were two broad aisles—parados
    • Also identified the entrance song of chorus in tragedy
  • Behind orchestra was the skene, a rectangular building with three doors in front, providing a generic backdrop for play’s action
    • Also where actors exited and entered, changed costumes, masks, roles
    • End of century, small platform added in front of skene to give actors more visibility and separate from chorus—proskenion
the stage
The Stage

Three Main Portions of Greek Theatre:

Skene – Portion of stage where actors performed (included 1-3 doors in and out)

Orchestra – “Dancing Place” where chorus sang to the audience

Theatron – Seating for audience

physical structure of theatre
Physical Structure of Theatre
  • Imposed restrictions on the content of the text of the play
  • Needed to house the citizenry collectively
    • Accommodated at least 15,000
  • Acoustical perfection of the design counterbalanced the problems the actors faced
    • Barely visible to the audience in top rows
  • Required playwrights to delineate within the characters’ lines the setting, the passing of time, the characters’ names, stage movements
  • Given acoustics & actors’ ability at oratory, playwright could be assured the audience would be able to follow the play as long as significant information could be heard.
history
History
  • Began as a large group of men performing poetry in a religious ritual
  • Legend: in 534 BCE, Thespis, the first actor, stepped from among the ranks of 50-member chorus to speak lines as a god, rather than merely lines about a god.
  • Concept of dialogue began
    • Playwrights generating interactive lines between actor and chorus
  • Aeschylus, Sophocles, Euripides
    • Aeschylus, earliest of three great Greek tragedians, introduced 2nd actor
      • Another direction for dialogue
    • Sophocles introduced 3rd actor—most ever to appear on the stage together in Greek drama
    • Aeschylus and Euripides also employed 3rd actor
  • As roles of actors increased, role of chorus decreased (number of members down to 12-15)
thespis the first actor
Thespis—the first actor
  • thespians—used to refer to actors
  • was a singer of dithyrambs (songs about stories from mythology with choric refrains).
  • credited with introducing a new style in which one singer or actor performed the words of individual characters in the stories, distinguishing between the characters with the aid of different masks.
  • new style was called tragedy, and Thespis was the most popular exponent of it.
  • also invented theatrical touring;would tour various cities while carrying his costumes, masks and other props in a horse-drawn wagon.
actors
Actors
  • Considered an honor and civic duty
  • Experienced performers, especially trained in oratory, played main roles
  • Might also be government official or influential businessman
  • Was highly regarded in Greek society
    • Often exempted from military duty
slide18

No women actors—not allowed

  • Women often excluded from audience
    • If allowed, relegated to upper rows of seats
slide19
The three main Greek playwrights that we have the majority of the remaining plays from are Aeschylus, Sophocles and Euripides.
  • These playwrights were the most influential of their time and had the most lasting effect on theatre.
aeschylus the father of tragedy
Aeschylus – The Father of Tragedy
  • 525 – 456 BC
  • Reduced the size of the chorus to 12.
  • Introduced the 2nd actor.
  • Invented the trilogy.
  • Involved the chorus in the action more.
  • Example of his work is Promethus Bound.
sophocles
Sophocles
  • 496 – 405 BC
  • Introduced the 3rd and 4th actor
  • Created the plot as we know it
  • Gave us enduring classics such as Oedipus Rex and Antigone.
euripides
Euripides
  • 480 – 406 BC
  • We have 18 remaining full plays of the 90 we know he wrote.
  • Not a fan of the Greek religion and his tragedies focused on the psychology and internal struggles of man.
  • He gave us the “dues ex machina”
  • Some examples of his work are Medea and The Trojan Women.
characteristics of performance
Characteristics of Performance
  • Number of characters speaking within a scene never exceeded three
  • Were more than three characters in a play
  • Actors played more than one role, and one role played by more than one actor
slide24

Actor portraying god, king, or hero needed to appear larger than life.

  • Reflected a grander status than mere mortals, like chorus
  • Needed to be seen by audience—Costumes added size and distinction
costumes
Costumes
  • Costumes and masks
    • allowed for quick role changes
    • signified to audience the role portrayed
    • Playwright signaled speaker and emotions within lines
  • Long, flowing robe, dyed in symbolic colors
    • chiton
  • great deal of padding underneath to give a broader than natural appearance
  • To add height, wore high, platformed shoes
    • Cothurni
  • Gain in size=loss of mobility
slide26

Loss of mobility led to a declamatory style of acting

    • Required actor to move little, face audience for speeches
  • Because of distance from audience and limited mobility, actors developed gestures
    • Broad, sweeping gestures and general movements
    • Signified particular emotions
      • Lowering head=grief
      • Beating the breast and rending clothing=mourining
props
Props
  • Also helped to indicate roles
    • Herald –wreath
    • Traveler—broad-brimmed hat
    • King—carried scepter
    • Warrior—carried spear
    • Elderly—canes
masks
Masks
  • Masks both limited and broadened audience’s understanding of role portrayed.
    • Identified specific character
    • Generalized features enough to indicate a virtual Everyman
    • Helped audience glean personal messages that the Greeks intended to impart in their drama.
  • Large mouths—served as megaphones
  • Tragedy—more ornate
  • Comedy
slide30
Now the masks have come to represent theatre world wide.
  • At first there were no actors as we think of actors.
  • The actors were a chorus of as few as 15 and as many as 150 people.
  • They would chant or sing the story.
  • The first actor to step away from the chorus and play one role was a slave named Thespis and that is why we call actors “Thespians”.
aristotle and poetics
Aristotle and Poetics
  • Aristotle's Poetics is the earliest surviving work of dramatic theory and the first extant philosophical treatise to focus on literary theory.
  • In it, Aristotle offers an account of what he calls "poetry" (a term which in Greek literally means "making" and in this context includes drama—comedy, tragedy, and the satyr play—as well as lyric poetry, epic poetry, and the dithyramb).
    • He examines its "first principles" and identifies its genres and basic elements. His analysis of tragedy constitutes the core of the discussion.
slide32
Parts of the Greek Tragedy
    • Prologue – exposition
    • Parados – processional entrances
    • Episodes – individual scenes with actors
    • Statimon – lyrical sections involving music and dancing – chorus gives comment on action or issues
    • Exodus – summary of play, usually with a message and choral exit