Greek Drama Greek drama is a theatrical tradition that flourished in ancient Greece between c. 550 and c. 220 BCE.
How Did It Start? • Drama was built on religion • The cult of Dionysus (the god of fertility and wine). • During celebrations, groups of men chanted rhythmically with songs praising Dionysus. • These songs were called dithyrambs
Tragedy = “goat song” • These songs were usually laments and paeans (serious songs sung to the gods) • The best singers won a goat for a prize • This leads to our word “tragedy” for any sad or wretched story.
The development of Drama • Thespis created drama byhaving one chorus member step away from the others to play the part of a hero or god. • Around 530 BCE • The form of drama developed by Thespis consisted of only one actor and the 12 man chorus.
The Development of Drama • Aeschylus added a second individual actor to the performance, thus creating the possibility of conflict.
The Development of Drama • Sophocles added a third actor (and increased the chorus from 12 to 15 men); now we have full-blown drama. • By the middle of the fifth century three actors were required for the performance of a tragedy.
1. Originally, a Chorus simply sang to the god Dionysus Ancient Greek Drama
2. First actor created by Thespis; first dialogue made possible Ancient Greek Drama
3. Second actor created by Aeschylus; some relationship now possible Ancient Greek Drama
4. Third actor created by Sophocles; multiplying the possibilities for action, nuance, drama Ancient Greek Drama
The role of the actors: • Protagonist—the “first actor,” or the actor who plays the most important role. • Deuteragonist— “second actor” • Tritagonist—”third actor”
The Role of the actors • The protagonist took the role of the most important character. • Actors played multiple roles • Male actors had to play female roles.
The playing of multiple roles, both male and female, was made possible by the use ofmasks.
The Use of Masks • Identification – actors played more than one role and gender • Characterization – the mask showed the outstanding features of each character. • Visibility – audiences up to 20,000 people • Acoustic Assistance– the mouths of the masks were shaped to increase the volume of the actor’s voice.
Modern-day replicas Hero-King Comedy (Servant or Herald ) Tragedy (Weeping Chorus)
The Chorus • Tragedy was not just straight drama. It also had • Songs sung by the actors • Songs sung by the chorus • Dancing by the chorus (usually to songs…).
The Chorus • The Chorus members also wore masks • Represented the values of the community
The function of the chorus • Chanted an entrance song called a parados as they marched into the orchestra. • Named after the paradoi, or entrance ramps. • Engaged in dialogue with characters through its leader • The Leader alone spoke the lines of dialogue assigned to the chorus
The function of the chorus (cont.) • The most important function: • to sing and dance choral songs called stasima (singular = stasimon) at the end of each scene. • provided commentary • gave clues about what was to come (like foreshadowing…)
The Theater All ancient Greek theaters were open-air auditoriums
The Theater • Due to the lack of adequate artificial lighting, performances took place during the day • Scenes set at night had to be identified as such by the actors or the chorus. • Interior scenes, are all but non-existent in Greek tragedy
The Theater Theatron Seating for audience Proscenion Skene
Orchestra “Dancing Place” where chorus sang to the audience The Theater Proscenion Skene
The Theater Thymele altar to Dionysus in center of orchestra where sacrifices were made Proscenion Skene
The Theater Skene wooden scene building used as a dressing room. Proscenion Skene
The Theater Parados entrance to the theater used by the Chorus Proscenion Skene
The Theater Proscenion where most of the action took place; also served as a backdrop Proscenion Skene
Mechanical Devices • The Ekkyklema • A platform on wheels on which a tableau was displayed representing the result of an action indoors (e.g., a murder). • The Mechane • This device allowed an actor portraying a god or goddess to arrive on scene in the most realistic way possible, from the sky.
deus ex machina— • “the god from the machine” • used to refer to the appearance of gods using the mechane
Elements of Greek Tragedy As defined by Aristotle
A Tragedy is: It must be acted out, not merely narrated. "the imitation of an action that is serious and also as having magnitude, complete in itself." The hero must be important to society—his struggles are great because he is important. Not about every day events! Tragedies are about spiritual/moral conflicts. The tragedy is a complete story.
The Unities: • The perfect tragedy has Unity of • Time: • Place: • Action: 24 hour time period Only one setting Only one plot—it is not a mixture of tragedy and comedy.
A tragedy must arouse pity and fear in the audience. Pity, because the hero is better than we are. We place ourselves in his/her position. We feel empathy. Fear, because we do not know our own fate.
Catharsis • This arousing of fear and pity—and then the purging of it— is called catharsis. • Note: a tragedy does not create these emotions, it raises them (in other words, they already exist in us).
The Hero of a tragedy is: • A noble man or woman (high social status) • A famous person • Is neither all good nor all bad – the audience has to be able to identify with him/her. • Should be “superior” in some way, to make the end more tragic.
Peripeteia—reversal of fortune • The tragic hero experiences a reversal of fortune. He or she falls from high to low. • The hero suffers this reversal of fortune because of a mistaken action.
Hamartia – “Tragic Flaw” • The hero’s mistaken action is the result of some tragic flaw or tragic error in judgment. • Aristotle called this hamartia.
Hubris • Often the hero’s tragic flaw is hubris. • Hubris = excessive pride which causes the hero to: • Ignore a divine warning • Break a moral law
Anagnorisis—Recognition • Before the hero suffers from the reversal of fortune, however, he/she must experience anagnorisis. • In other words, the hero must recognize his or her mistake. • Thus, especially in Oedipus, it is the recognition of the mistake, rather than the making of the mistake, which ultimately leads to the hero’s downfall.
Though the tragic hero does not always die, the hero’s suffering is often greater than his/her offense.This causes the audience to feel more pity.
Why read tragedy? • Catharsis—purging of emotions • Tragedy reaffirms that life is worth living—despite suffering and pain. • Tragedy asks the fundamental question: what does it mean to be? • The tragic hero neither escapes nor accepts fate, but rather fights against it, and meets it on his/her own terms.