The Actors-Only a few actors were used and all played more than one part-No women, female parts were played by young actors who wore wooden breastplates-Masks were worn for many characters; so actors had to change masks off stage when they switched characters-Few props were used, usually only one or two for each play. They would be something important like a hero’s sword or a ceremonial wine challis.-Initially a lot of mime and exaggerated movements were used. The theatres were so large that subtlety was not perceptible to the audience.
-Later actors relied on their voices (which they trained extensively) and delivered lines in a highly stylized manner.-Most plays were performed in competitions, where prizes were given for the top playwrights, actors and chorus performances.-Elaborate staging was used for the dancers and singers especially.
Common Divisions in the Play-Unlike modern Drama, the Greeks did not have Acts to divide their plays. Plays were intended to be shown straight through, with no intermission.-Prologue: A scene which introduces the play and establishes setting and major characters. At least one main character usually appeared.-Parados: (CF “parade”) The first entrance of the Chorus who would enter singing the ode.-Episode: The meat of the play, sandwiched between the choral Stasimon where all of the action happens. Similar to an Act, but shorter, usually about 150-250 lines.-Stasimon: The choral odes in between the Episodes. The Chorus re-enters and gives commentary on the previous Episode. Usually highly poetic and symbolic language. Playwrights often used the Chorus to create Dramatic Irony by revealing information to the audience that the characters are not aware of.-Exodos: The final section of the play, where the Chorus is usually led off stage. In a tragedy, this is usually the part where the catharsis occurs.
Background to Antigone-Written by Sophocles around 441 BC. Part of the “Three Theban Plays” The others are Oedipus the King, and Oedipus at ColonusAntigone is chronologically the last of the plays, but was written first. -Established Sophocles as the dominant playwright in Greece over Aeschylus. He was even made an honorary general of the Athenian army based on the popularity of the play.
-In order to understand the events in Antigone, it is necessary to understand some the plot of the two plays which come before it. -Oedipus Rex-Oedipus (literally “swollen foot”) is a mythical character. When he was born, the oracle told his father King Laius of Thebes that his son would kill him and marry his mother. -To avoid this peculiar fate, Laius did the only logical thing and took his baby son out to a windswept mountain and nailed his feet to the ground and left him for dead.-Oedipus is found by a shepherd and raised in the court of King Polybus of Corinth. However he hears of the prophecy through a seer, and leaves Corinth to avoid this fate (he believes the King and Queen are his true parents).-On the road he accidentally meets King Laius and, not recognizing him, kills him.-He then solves the riddle of the Sphinx and is rewarded by Creon (brother of Laius and uncle to Oedipus) with the kingdom of Thebes and the hand of Jocasta (his mother!!)
-They have some kids (eww): two sons (Eteocles and Polyneices) and two daughters (Antigone and Ismene)-Figure 1 : A vase depicting Oedipus answering the riddle of the Sphinx-A plague descends on Thebes, a curse from the gods for all this incest. The famous seer Tiresias tells Oedipus he is the cause, but Oedipus doesn’t understand and instead accuses Creon of plotting with Jocasta to overthrow him. -Eventually the truth is revealed, Jocasta hangs herself, Oedipus puts out his own eyes with needles and is led offstage in the Exodos by Antigone “his beard bedewed with eyballs”!
-Oedipus at ColonusAntigone leads Oedipus to Colonus. The villagers tell them they must leave since this place is sacred to the Furies. -Oedipus recognizes this from the prophecy which said that he would die in a place sacred to them.-Oedipus entreats the King of Colonus Theseus to allow him to stay, pleading that morally he has committed no crime. The chorus decides to reserve judgement.