Ancient Greek Drama

ANCIENT GREEK DRAMA The Cult of Dionysus Ancient Greek Theater evolved from religious rites dating back to at least 1200 BC In 500 BC, in Northern Greece (Thrace) a cult arose that worshipped Dionysus (god of fertility and procreation) An essential part of the rites of Dionysus was the dithyramb Dithyramb means choric hymn

This chant or hymn was accompanied by mimic gestures and music The dithyramb was performed by a chorus of about 50 men Dithyramb The performers wore costumes, danced, and played drums, lyres and flutes, They described the adventures of Dionysus. The dithyramb was given a regular form and raised to the rank of artistic poetry about 600 BC. It became one of the competitive subjects at the various Athens festivals. It attracted the most famous poets of the

From Dithyramb to Drama As time went on, the dithyramb started to cease to concern itself exclusively with the adventures of Dionysus and began to choose its subjects from all periods of Greek mythology. In this way, over time the dithyramb would evolve into stories in play form: DRAMA. ATHENS The most prominent city-state in Greece by 600 BC was Athens where at least 150,000 people lived. In Athens the rites of Dionysus evolved into what we know today as theater Thespis In about 600 BC Arion

of Corinth wrote down formal lyrics for the dithyramb. Some time in the next 75 years, Thespis of Attica added an actor who interacted with the chorus. This one actor was called the protagonist. Thespis walked around Athens pulling a handcart, setting up a kind of one man plays, where he showed the bad behavior of man. The word for actor, thespian,

comes from his name. Thespis The "inventor of tragedy" was born in Attica, and was the first prize winner at the Great Dionysia in 534 BC. Thespis was an important innovator for the theater, since he introduced such things as the independent actor (as opposed to the chorus) as well as masks, make up and costumes. . Athenian Drama Competitions

In 534 BC, the ruler of Athens, Pisistratus, changed the Dionysian Festivals and instituted drama competitions. In the next 50 years, the competitions became popular annual events. During this time, major theatres were constructed , notably the theater at Delphi, the Attic theater and the Theater of Dionysus in Athens. Greek Amphitheatres The Theater of Dionysus, built at the foot of the Acropolis in Athens, could seat 17,000 people.

During their heyday, the competitions drew as many as 30,000 spectators. The words theater and amphitheater derive from the Greek word theatron, which referred to the wooden spectator stands erected on the hillsides. Amphitheatres

Artistic replica of the Theater at Dionysus Current day Theater at Dionysus Delphi Theater reconstruction and current day ruins Layout of Greek theatres How plays were performed Plays were performed in the daytime. Since women were not allowed to take part, male actors had to play female roles.

The playing of multiple roles, both male and female, was made possible The masks prevented the audience from identifying the face of any actor with one character in the play. The masks had exaggerated facial expressions, different lengths and color hair,and helped the audience identify FAMOUS GREEK MASK MOZAIC FOUND IN

THE RUINS OF POMPEII The Skene? The theater of Dionysus in the earliest days of tragedy must have consisted of only the most basic elements. All that was required was a circular dancing area for the chorus at the base of a gently sloping hill, on which spectators could sit and watch the performance. On the other side of the orchestra facing the spectators there probably stood a tent in which the

actors could change their costumes (one actor would play more than one part). This is suggested by the word skene which means 'tent', and was used to refer to a wooden wall having doors. The Skene and Seating The of the wooden skenea(cf. our theatrical The construction wall was painted to represent palace, temple terms "scene"setting

and "scenery") and of a formal or whatever was required. The wall,seating which area consisting of wooden benches stage on the building, slope, which eventually became a full-fledged had been hollowed took place some timethe probably

acquiredout, thisprobably name because it replaced toward middle of the fifth century. originalthe tent. Mechanical Stage Devices The One other devicedevice is theisekkyklema called a mechane a wheeled-out theatrical thing, a machine,ona wheels platform crane torolled

which out a through cable with one a harness of the doors for an of the skene, actor was attached. on which This a tableau devicewas allowed displayed an actor representing portraying a god the result

or goddess of an to action arrive indoors on scene (e.g., in athe murder) most realistic and therefore way possible, was unseen from thebysky. the audience. The Greek Chorus The Chorus began in numbers as

large as 50, then smaller sizes as actors become more predominate. They provided time for scene changes, introduced background and summary information. Their dance and chanting provided the visionary experience that separated audience from the actor and the essence of tragedy. Ideal spectator: reacts as the audience should. Asks questions, takes part in the play Establishes framework, sets the standard by which action will be judged Heightens dramatic effect through movement, song and dance

Rhythmical Function-pauses/paces the action so audience can reflect and actors can rest/prepare Actors The actors in tragedy were hired and paid by the state and assigned to the tragic poets probably by lot. By the middle of the 5th century 3 actors were required for the performance of a tragedy. In descending order of importance of the roles they assumed they were called the protagonist first actor, (a term also applied in modern literary criticism to the central character of a play), deuteragonist second actor and tritagonist third actor. Actors The

that the chorus remained themost orchestra throughout The fact protagonist took the role of in the important the play and and while danced choral between the the character insang the play

the othersongs 2 actors played episodes allowed themost actorsplays to exit aftermore an episode lesser roles. Since have than 2inororder 3 to change mask and costume and assume role in the

next characters (although never more thana3new speaking actors episode without any illusion-destroying interruption the play. in the same scene), all 3 actors played multiple inroles. Playwrights Aeschylus earliest Greek tragedy writer brought idea of second actor. Writer of The Persians

Sophocles brought third actor no more than three actors on stage ever in a Greek tragedy. Euripedes also used three actors after Sophocles. Aeschylus, Sophocles, and Euripedes each wrote a version of the Oedipus tragedy, but Sophocles version is the most famous. Aristophanes who wrote comediers , rather Satires, one of the most famous was Lysistrata Modern cultural historians, think that plays are an excellent source of eviudence, sometimes even better than documents, for revealing what people thought. Read the story of Lysistrata and list statements about what it reveals Attire The Chiton Chotharnus- elevating shoes Chalmys- short cloak Himation- long cloak Masks The large size of the theatre (in its final form it seated

20,000 people) and the distance of even the nearest spectators from the performers (more than 10 meters) dictated a non-naturalistic approach to acting. All gestures had to be large and definite so as to 'read' from the back rows. Facial expression would have been invisible to all but the closest members of the audience. The masks worn by the actors looked more 'natural' than bare faces in the Theatre of Dionysus. The masks of tragedy were of an ordinary, face-fitting size, with wigs attached, and open mouths to allow clear speech. Contrary to some later theories, there were no 'megaphones' in the masks, and their decoration and expression was quite subtle, as vase paintings from the 5th and 4th centuries attest. USING THE TEMPLATE COLOUR YOUR MASK TO EMPHASISE THE DRAMATIC FEATURES.

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