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The Origins of Drama and Theatre
Transcript of The Origins of Drama and Theatre
Why are the lines set out in this way?
What is intended by the line breaks?
How can the intentions of the written format be played in performance?
What is the effect? The idea of ‘consistency’ of character would become one of the principles of Stanislavski’s system of acting. In modern times character is more usually discussed in terms of the psychology and morality of a character and the social relations between characters. What clues are there that the characters will behave consistently for the rest of the play? Both Antigone and Ismene are aristocrats. Many plays until the nineteenth century were about princes, kings and queens and other aristocratic heroes. What are Ismene and Antigone’s moral purposes in this scene? What does each consider to be the right/wrong thing to do? In what ways are Ismene and Antigone ‘typical’? What kind of person does each represent? The Prologue offers the exposition of the play’s plot. This is essential information about characters’ past lives and relationships and a foreshadowing of events to come.
What events are retold?
What events are there?
What crises and climax do you think there will be later in the play? The Greeks used very little in terms of scenery and other visual clues of the play’s setting. The main scenery was provided by the skene. This was a wooden building at the back of the orchestra or stage. The skene looked like a real house and was the territory of the female characters as it was in Athenian culture.
Which other elements of setting or props might you introduce into modern production that would be in keeping with the play’s setting and themes? Opsis was not an important category for Aristotle but the visual elements of a play are now seen as being essential to the ‘theatre’ of a performance and both music and spectacle are of great importance in genres such as pantomime, opera, musicals and physical theatre. SPECTACLE
(opsis from which we get ‘optics’ and ‘optical’) Is there a ‘melody’ in the language? As you read through were you conscious of the rhythm, or sound, of the words? What music or other sound effects might you add to this scene in a modern production? Aristotle didn’t dwell on melos but a consideration of the ‘acoustic’ elements of a performance – what we hear in terms of music and other sounds – has become increasingly important in modern theatre. MUSIC
(melos from which we get ‘melody’) This describes the literary aspects of the drama – how it is written, the language and poetry, the imagery and metaphors of speech. DICTION
(lexis from which we get ‘lexicon’ meaning a dictionary or vocabulary) A character should be ‘good’ which often meant being of noble birth;
Being ‘good’ also meant that characters should have moral purpose for their actions;
Characters should be ‘typical’ of the people they represent rather than odd or different;
They should be ‘real’ not fantastical or magical and they should be ‘consistent’ – they should behave ‘in character’, as we would say – their actions should be probable, credible and plausible. CHARACTER
(ethos from which we get ‘ethics’): there were FOUR aspects of character This was ‘the soul of tragedy’ for Aristotle and referred to the incidents and sequence of events of the play which would include crises, conflicts, reversals of fortune, climaxes, tensions and suspense, exposition and denouement. Aristotle also suggested that the plot should have a beginning, middle and end. PLOT
(mythos – from which we get the word myth)
We still use these in discussion of today’s theatre. ARISTOTLE broke down the structure of tragedy into six parts (five of which we will discuss).