Theatre in the Golden Age of Athens By Melinda Neale Greek theatre at Epidaurus
Beginnings • Greek theatre history began with festivals honoring the Gods, specifically Dionysus. • God of wine and fertility. • Men would perform dialogues of song and dance to welcome Dionysus.
Stage Setup • Theatrical performances were held in large open air structures with a distinct setup. • They were originally made to hold religious ceremonies but as theatre became more important, the religious aspects dwindled. • Consists of Orchestra, Skene and Audience
Orchestra • Circular performance space • Located in front of Proscenium • Elevated platform where backdrops were hung and actors performed • “Dancing Place” • Entry ways called parados
Skene • “Tent” or “hut” located behind proscenium • Retangular in shape • Backstage area where actors changed • Also served to represent play’s location • Usually set in house or palace
Audience • Rising from orchestra • Also called koilon • Semi-circle shape • People sat on tiers of benches • Built up side of hill • Aided in acoustics • Divided in 2 diazoma • Upper and lower • Front seats called proedria • Reserved for officials and priests
Actors • Always males • Approximately 1-3 actors per play • Wore different masks to represent different characters • Usually made of linen, wood or leather • Human and animal hair also used • Most important part of costume • Protagonist were played by members of society with great levels of respect • Well paid
Chorus • Sang narration of the play • Also wore masks • Different from actors • 12-15 members • Considered “mouthpiece of society and morality” • Suffered along with heroes • Very active part of play
Structure of Plays • Prologue: Spoken by 1 or 2 characters prior to appearance of chorus. Usually provides background story for performance. • Parodos: First song sung by chorus upon entering orchestra. Accompanied by dance. • Episodes: Acts of play • Stasimon: Ode and dance performed by chorus at end of each episode. Reflects on what audience has just seen • Exodos: End of play. Processional song which often provided words of wisdom to audience.
Theatrical Forms • Tragedy • Comedy • Satyr
Tragedy • Based on conflict • Tensions at work: • Murder and Revenge • Crime and Retribution • Pride and Humility • Courage and Cowardess • Explores physical and moral depths to which human life can descend • Subject was typical death, and lessons living can learn from the dead • Focused on friction between individual and community • Will of the Gods • Conflicts manifests itself in flaw (weakness) of protagonist • Brings character in conflict • Tragedy is most well known form of Greek Theatre
Playwrights of Greek Tragedy • Sophocles • Oedipus Rex • Electra • Eurpides • Medea • Bacchae • Aeschylus • Prometheus Bound
Comedy • Amusing/light-hearted play • Designed to make audience laugh • Freely ridiculed public figures and Gods • Foreigners and women particular subjects • Most knowledge comes from vase paintings and plays written by Aristophanes • Only 11 out of 44 fully remain
Satyr • Deliberate absurdity • Based on Greek mythology • Mock drunkenness • Bad sexuality • Pranks and gags • Generally had aspects of tragedy • Solemnity of tragedy noticeably absent • Amusing effects • Didn’t depend on action (like comedy) • Depended on how chorus played off action