Ancient Greek Theatre

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Transcript Ancient Greek Theatre

The Golden Age of
Ancient Greek
the origins of drama
The Origins Of Drama
 The Dances Celebrating
Dionysus soon evolved into
dramas (or, plays).
 The story goes: Thespis, a
popular writer of Songs, is said
to have invented drama when he
asked one “performer” to stand
outside the chorus to engage in
some “call and response.”
Word Origin
 The modern
meaning actor,
comes from the
name Thespis.
The Chorus
 Because of the Musical
origins of Greek drama,
the plays featured
 The chorus danced and
either sung or chanted
their lines.
Functions of the chorus
 an agent: gives advice, asks, takes part
 establishes ethical framework, sets up
standard by which action will be judged
 ideal spectator - reacts as playwright
hopes audience would
 sets mood and heightens dramatic
 adds movement, spectacle, song, and
 rhythmical function - pauses / paces the
action so that the audience can reflect.
Word Origin
 The modern word
“drama” comes from the
Greek word dran
meaning "to do”
 The Greeks understood
the role of action in
 The first plays were performed in the
Theatre of Dionysus, built in the shadow
of the Acropolis in Athens at the
beginning of the 5th century,
 These theatres proved to be so popular
they soon spread all over Greece.
 Plays were performed outdoors.
 The side of the mountain was
scooped out into a bowl shape,
something like our amphitheatres
today, and tiers of stone seats in
semi-circles were built on the hill.
 These theatres often seated as many
as 20,000 spectators, with a special
first row being reserved for
 The theatron (literally, "viewingplace") is where the spectators sat.
The theatron was usually part of
hillside overlooking the orchestra,
and often wrapped around a large
portion of the orchestra.
Word Origin
 The modern word
“theater” comes from
the Greek word
theatron meaning
"seeing place"
 The orchestra (literally, "dancing
space") was
circular. It was
a level space
where the chorus
would dance, sing,
and interact with
the actors who were on the stage (called
the Proskenion) in front of the skene. In
the center of the orchestra there was
often an altar.
 The skene (literally,
"tent") was the
building directly in
back of the stage,
and was usually
decorated as a
palace, temple, or
other building,
depending on the
needs of the play. It
had at least one set
of doors, and
actors could make
entrances and exits
through them.
 The parodoi (literally, "passageways")
are the paths by which the chorus and
some actors (such as those
representing messengers or people
returning from abroad) made their
entrances and exits.
The Actors
 All of the actors were
men. Women were not
allowed to participate.
 The actors played multiple
roles, so a wooden, cork,
or linen mask was used to
show the change in
character or mood.
 All killing had to occur off stage
and be reported to the audience by
the chorus or a messenger.
 The deus-ex-machina was a crane-like
device occasionally used for
lowering in a god to assist the
protagonist in neatly solving his
The City Dionysia Festival
 In the sixth century BC, the Athenian
ruler, Pisistratus, established the
'City Dionysia', a festival of
entertainment held in honor of the
god Dionysus.
 This festival featured competitions
in music, singing, dance and poetry.
 Playwrights presented a series of
three tragedies, or a trilogy.
 Interspersed between the three
plays in the trilogy were satyr plays
Communal Involvement
 The entire city would be in
 All other businesses not directly
involved with the 6-day festival
would shut down, so that everyone
could attend.
 The government even offered
financial assistance to those who
could not afford to attend.
Types of Greek Drama
 Comedy
 Tragedy
 Satyr
 Comedy and tragedy were the most
popular types of plays in ancient
Greece. Hence, the modern popularity of
the comedy and tragedy masks to
symbolize theatre.
Word Origin
 The word
comes from
the Greek
word “komos”
which means
“band of
 The word
tragedy came
to be derived
from the Greek
tragos (goat)
and ode (poem).
literally means
goat song or
goat poem.
Traits of Tragedy
 Late point of attack
 Violence and death occurred
 Frequently used messengers to
relate information
 Stories based on myth or history,
but varied interpretations of events
 Focus was on psychological and
ethical attributes of characters,
rather than physical and
structure of a tragedy
 Prologue, which describes the situation
and sets the scene
 Parados, an ode sung by the chorus as it
made its entrance
 Five dramatic scenes, or episodes--the
last of which is called the Epilogue
 Each episode is followed by a stasimon, a
choral ode, an exchange of laments by
the chorus and the protagonist. (This
ode is sometimes called a komos.)
 Exodus, the climax and conclusion
(496-406 bc)
 His plays are more characterdriven rather plays that heavily
use the chorus
 He is credited with adding a
third character
 His works include: Oedipus Rex
& Antigone
The Final Curtain
 By the time of Sophocles' death in
406 BC the golden era of Greek
drama was ending.
 Athens was overrun in 404 BC by the
Spartans, and was later torn apart
by constant warring with other city
states, eventually falling under the
dominion of Alexander the Great and
his Macedonian armies.
 Theatre went on but did not return
to the same creative heights until
Elizabethan England two millennia