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  1. ANCIENT GRSSK THEATER By Michael Springthorpe

  2. History • Greek theater began in the 6th century BC as performances of choral hymns as part of the worship of Dionysus • Thespis, a man from Attica, added the character known as the “protagonist” as an actor to interact with the chorus • In 534 BC , the leaer of Athens, Pisistratus, established the theater competitions in correspondence with the festivals of Dionysus

  3. Off to the theatre • The Greek plays were performed during festivals in honor of Dionysus • Plays were only performed once, unless they were revived at a later date • The plays were funded by the Choregos, the wealthy Athenians who did this for tax evasion • Plays were always in competitions with other plays, and would be awarded prizes of First, Second, or Third place, as decided by the viewers

  4. The Great Dionysus • In Ancient Greek religion, Dionysus was the god of wine and revelry • Because of this, all of the plays in Ancient Greece were held in his honor • Originally, the tragedies were stories of Dionysus, but they evolved to encompass stories from all of mythology

  5. Characteristics of Greek theater • Almost all Greek plays were performed by three actors and a Chorus • The three actors would use masks and play all of the characters in the play, no matter how many there were • The Chorus was a group of performers that would sing and dance at various times during the play • In addition to costumes, the actors would were masks for each character they played

  6. The Masks • Due to the immense size of the theaters, Ancient Greek actors had to wear masks of their characters • Based on the worship of Dionysus, the Greeks believed the masks were the characters, and that putting on the masks made them become the characters • The masks were simple and expressive so even the back rows of the theater could see them • Masks were designed so that viewers could tell the character’s age, gender, profession, and emotion simply by looking at them • As the masks prevented the actors from any facial movement, this caused the Ancient Greek acting to be very expressive with body motions

  7. Structure of the Theater 2 3 1 4 1

  8. Structure of the Theater (cont’d) The theatron, meaning ‘viewing place”, was the seating area for Ancient Greek Theater. The theaters were often built into the side of hill – something Greece has plenty of – and the seats were simply carved into the earth in a stair-like fashion. The theatron wrapped around the orchestra so as to provide viewing from all sides. Originally, viewers would sit on cushions or wooden boards, but eventually many theaters had marble seats. 1 Aparodos, or path, bordered the sides of the theatron and led up to the orchestra. Many theaters had two parodoi, one on either side of the orchestra. These passageways were used for any actors entering from another area, like couriers bringing a message. The parodoi were also the entrances and exits for the viewers to the theater. 2 A large building located right behind the orchestra, the skene served the purpose of everything from set piece to dressing room. The skene would be decorated according to the script to be whatever was needed , be it temple, building, or otherwise. The roof of the skene was also used by any actors appearing as gods to appear above the rest of the play. The skene also had doors on either side so the actors could enter to change costumes and masks. 3 4 The main stage of an Ancient Greek theater, the orchestra was a large circle surround by the parodoi, theatron, and skene. Orchestras began as just hard-packed ground, but they evolved over the years to be made of materais like wood or marble. In the center of the orchestra was a thymele, or altar.

  9. Tragedy • Ancient Greek theater was divided into two genres: tragedy and comedy (konos) • Tragedies were not necessarily sad or ended bad, but almost all of them were • Tragedies told the stories of mythological characters, ranging from Orestes to Oedipus • The three great tragedians of the time were Aeschylus, Sophocles, and Euripedes

  10. Components of a Greek tragedy • Prologue – introduction for the play, providing any background information; usually sung or spoken by one or two characters • Parodos – entrance by the Chorus onto the orchestra, singing and dancing • First Episode – equivalent to a scene or act in a modern play; characters engage in actions with each other and Chorus • First Stasimon – reflects on what has just happened in the episode; done by the Chrous through singing and dancing while the characters leave the stage • Episodes and Stasimons repeat throughout the rest of the play • Exodos – finale of the play; characters exit and Chorus sings a final song, usually containing the “moral of the story” of the play

  11. The Writers, Part 1: Aeschylus • Aeschylus lived from 525-456 BC and was the first of the Great Tragedians • Often called the “Father of Tragedy” • First person to have characters interact with each other, as opposed to just with the Chorus • Works include: Oresteia, Agamemnon, The Eumenides, and Prometheus Bound

  12. The Writers, Part 2: Sophocles • Lived from 497-406 BC • Won the most competitions than any other playwright of the time, winning 24 and never getting lower than second place • Works include: Oedipus Rex, Elektra, andPhiloctetes

  13. The Writers, Part 3: Euripedes • Lived from 480-406 BC • More of his pieces have survived than those of Sophocles and Aeschylus, so he is more recognizable nowadays than his contemporaries • In his prime, he reached the same level of praise as Homer • Known as a theatrical innovator • Works include Medea, Electra, Helen, Orestes and The Bacchae

  14. Comedy (finally) • In addition to producing the more famous tragedies, Ancient Greek theater is known for its comedies • Unlike the tragedies, which told mythological stories, the comedies were satires of society • Comedy was divided into two periods: Old and New Comedy • Comedy followed many of the same formats as the tragedies did, though the Chorus would voice the opinion of the author • The greatest comedic authors were Aristophanes (old comedy) and Menander (new comedy)

  15. The Writers, Part 4: Aristophanes • Lived from 446-386 BC • Most famous of the Greek comedians; his works made Old Comedy what it was • Known for his direct ridicule of the government, the gods, and famous figures of the time • Accused of slander by Plato, who believed his play The Clouds contributed to the execution of Socrates • Works include The Wasps, The Clouds, The Birds, and Lysistrata

  16. The Writers, Part 5: Menander • Lived from 342-291 BC • Most famous of the comedians from the New Comedy era • Much of his work was lost during the Medieval age, and only survives in bits and pieces • Works include Aspis, Dyskolos, and Samia

  17. Sources • Tripod Members. "THE ANCIENT GREEK THEATRE PAGE." THE ANCIENT GREEK DRAMA & THEATRE HISTORY PAGE. Tripod, 20 May 2004. Web. 26 Feb. 2012. • Englert, Walter. "Greek Theater." Reed College. Humanities 110 - Reed College, 2004. Web. 26 Feb. 2012. • Oates, Whitney J., Eugene O'Neill, Euripides, Aristophanes, Menander, Sophocles, and Aeschylus. The Complete Greek Drama: All the Extant Tragedies of Aeschylus, Sophocles and Euripides, and the Comedies of Aristophanes and Menander, in a Variety of Translations. New York: Random House, 1938. Print.