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Introduction to Greek Theatre

Jan 06, 2016

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Introduction to Greek Theatre. Why start with the Greeks?. Greek theatre is considered to be the birthplace of modern drama. - PowerPoint PPT Presentation

  • Greek theatre is considered to be the birthplace of modern drama.Western understanding of drama originated in fifth century (500-400) BC classical Athens, where the theater played a central role in politics, religion, and society. The Athenian stage invented forms of tragedy and comedy that persist to the present day. (W.B. Worthen in The Harcourt Brace Anthology of Drama, 2nd edition, p. 13)

  • Definitions of tragedy and comedyDescription of tragic heroIdea of universal truththe notion that a belief, emotion, experience can be applied to a wide variety of cultures, social classes, and time periodsDramatic formplot, character, language, theme, music, spectacle

  • Without the innovations of the ancient Greeks, we would not have plays, movies, or TV today.

  • The earliest forms of drama grew out of religious rituals.Humans were primitivedid not understand forces of nature (rain, snow, sun, earthquakes, floods, plants growing, the changing of the seasons, etc.). We need concepts of basic science to understand things such as days and seasons. We have a need to explain our lives.Developed concept of magical or supernatural forces and rituals intended to win the favor of those powers.Created stories/myths to explain the nature of the magical forces, the rituals, and mans relationship to the forces (the gods).

  • Eventually began to act out these stories (not as part of religious ceremonies)this was the beginning of drama.Performances were done by a chorus which sang and danced the stories. (No individual characterization)

    Anthropologists have theories about early societiesbefore the Greeksand their development of the religious ceremonies which lead to the innovations of the Greeks.

  • The first actorwas the first to assume a characterInvented dialog (character had a conversation with the chorus)This is why actors are called thespians2nd actor introduced by Aeschylus (5th century BC)3rd actor introduced by Sophocles (468 BC)could not have 3 person scenes

  • Were the main part of the religious festivals to honor the god Dionysus.Dionysus was the god of fertility, wine, and revelry (partying)Early worship of him involved intoxication, sexual orgies, and the rending and devouring of sacrificial victims (frequently human).Gradually the worship became less extremestill involved lots of partying.Series of contests (not just plays) between citizens and the Athenian tribes that formed the citys basic political and military units (Worthen 13).Festivals included parades through the city, religious observances and sacrifices in the theater.

  • Each competing playwright produced a trilogy of tragedies dealing with a single theme or series of events. (Although sometimes they did 3 unrelated dramas.)All 3 plays were performed on one day.The playwrights we are familiar with came from the 5th century BC: Aeschylus, Sophocles, Euripedes, and Aristophanes (who was the author of almost all the Greek comedies we have)

  • Each playwright also produced a rugged farce (Worthen 14) which was performed after the trilogy.Satyr plays parodied a gods activitiesCharacters were half-beast/half-human companions of Dionysus.Included vigorous dancing and indecent language and gestures.

  • Scene from a satyr play

  • Comedy was introduced in 487 BCIt is believed that all the comedies were performed on the last day of the festival.

  • Both comedy and tragedy were judged by a panel of judges (like a beauty contest)Winner of tragedy got a bullWinner of comedy got a goat

  • Topics were more or less the same as modern plays, TV, and films:contemporary society (what was going on in the society at that time)politicsliteraturewarmythology (acting out the stories)historymans relationship to the gods (religious issues)

  • Violence happened off stage (characters/chorus reported on it).Showed the effects of the violence on stage (brought out the dead/mutilated bodies).Scenes had only 2-3 actors (all were men).Actors wore masks.Chorus commented on the action occurring in the scenes through odes in between the episodes (scenes).Sometimes had to bring in a god to resolve the problems (Deus ex machina).Actors could perform different characters (go off stage and put on a different mask) so play could have more than 3 characters.

  • Amphitheater DesignGreekbuilt on the hillsideRomanfree-standing (like the Coliseum)We still use the terminologyorchestra (orchestra pitwhere the band sits)skene (scenery)proscenium (the picture frame around the front of the stage from the audiences point of view)

  • The Dionysos Theater in Athens built into the Akropolis,3rd century BCSource:Wikipedia

  • Ekkyclemarolling platform. Interior scenes could be played on these or they were used to display bodies of dead characters.

  • Machinabasket on a pole, suspended from a crane. Characters that were supposed to be flying could be hoisted over the skene by the machina.

  • Stage bloodsheep or goats blood

  • A drama in which a character (usually a good and noble person of high rank) is brought to a disastrous end in his or her confrontation with a superior force (fortune, the gods, social forces, universal values), but also comes to understand the meaning of his or her deeds and to accept an appropriate punishment. (The Norton Introduction to Literature, 7th ed)

  • The tragic hero is a man of noble stature. He is not an ordinary man, but a man with outstanding quality and greatness about him. His own destruction is for a greater cause or principle. ()high position usually means a king, duke, prince, company owner, etc.

  • According to Aristotle:Usually of noble birth Hubris- the tragic flaw-excessive pride or self-confidence

    Hamartia a.k.a. the tragic flaw that eventually leads to his downfall. Peripeteia a reversal of fortune brought about by the heros tragic flaw His actions result in an increase of self- awareness and self-knowledge The audience must feel pity and fear for this character.

  • The flaw in the character is a defect which keeps him/her from being aware of the situation around him/her. The character does not understand (for much of the story) his/her part of creating the situation.

  • The tragic hero has a moment of enlightenment near the end of the story.He/she finally understands what he/she has done wronghow he/she contributed to the tragic situation.The story often ends with the death of the tragic hero.

  • Sophocles (495 BC - 406 BC) Said to have written 123 or more plays during the course of his life. Dominant competitor for 50 years in the dramatic competitions of ancient Athens that took place during the religious festivals of the Lenaea and the Dionysia.

  • Only seven of his tragedies have survived into modern times The most famous: Oedipus and Antigone: these are often known as the Theban plays or The Oedipus Cycle, were not originally written or performed as a single trilogyHe developed his characters to a greater extent than earlier playwrights such as Aeschylus, and used female characters in his plays.

  • Sophocles died at the venerable age of ninety in 406 or 405 BC. He was so respected by the Athenians that two plays performed at the Lenea soon after his death paid homage to him, his unfinished play Oedipus at Colonus was completed and performed years later. Both Lophon, one of his sons, and a grandson, also called Sophocles, followed in his footsteps to become playwrights themselves.

  • Parts of a Greek theaterhttp://academic.reed.edu/humanities/110tech/Theater.html#TheatersPhoto of Theater of Dionysushttp://www.superstock.com/stock-photography/DionysusPhoto of Theater at Delphihttp://www.cnr.edu/home/bmcmanus/tragedy_theater.htmlScene from a satyr playwww.nd.edu/~agutting/aristotle.html Greek masks (title page)humanitieslab.stanford.edu/.../397 Stage bloodhttp://www.pathguy.com/oedipus_photo.jpgMaskswww.stratfordfestival.ca/.../SF_1955_oedipus.jpg Ekkyclemawww.didaskalia.net/images/gstage11.gif Mechanewww.mlahanas.de/Greeks/InventionsC.htm Demidec Resources co. 2004 Sophocles

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