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The Origin of Greek Tragedy and the Structure of Ancient Greek Plays & Theater

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Mindy May

on 1 May 2015

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Transcript of The Origin of Greek Tragedy and the Structure of Ancient Greek Plays & Theater

The Origin of Greek Tragedy
Greek tragedy was a popular and influential form of drama performed in theatres from the late 6th century BCE. The origin of Greek tragedy was said to originate in the city of Athens to the earlier art form and the lyrical performance of epic poetry. Some historians say that it was linked strongly with the rituals performed in the worship of Dionysus.
Similarities and Differences of Ancient Greek, Elizabethan, and Modern Plays
Ancient Greek plays: Held at Theatrons or amphitheatres, structures that were large, open-air structures constructed on slopes of hills and surrounded by three quarters of audience and one- forth stage.
Elizabethan plays: Held at play houses (The Globe Theatre) or on a round stage (called an Apron stage), or amphitheatres, which also was three quarters of the stage surrounded by the audience in close vicinity with the actors.
The Origin of Greek Tragedy
and the Structure of Ancient Greek Plays & Theaters
The Origin of Greek Tragedy and the Structure of Ancient Greek Plays & Theaters
Who is Dionysus?
The God of The Theater
Dionysus was known as the god of theater, wine, and fertility. Dionysus's cult was founded in northern Greece in an area called Thrace. His worshipers sacrificed goats in the song ritual of Trag-Odia while wearing masks. Due to the drinking rites, his worshipers lost control of their emotions in the effect of becoming another person, much like actors strive to do when performing in modern day theatre. This mental state was known as ecstasis. An essential part of the rites was the Dithyramb, a choral song of vehement or wild character, in the honor of Dionysus.
Feder, L., Crowell's Handbook of Classical Literature (Crowell 1964), s.vv. comedy; tragedy.
Hornblower, S., & Spawforth, A. (eds.), Oxford Classical Dict. (3rd ed., Oxford 1996), s.vv.
Howatson, M. C. (ed.), Oxford Companion to Classical Literature (2nd ed., Oxford 1989), s.vv. comedy; metre; strophê; tragedy; triad.
Preminger, A., & Brogan, T. V. F. (eds.), New Princeton Encyclopedia of Poetry and Poetics (Princeton 1993), s.vv. antistrophe; epode; parabasis; stasimon; strophe.
Taplin, O., Greek Tragedy in Action (California 1978), pp. 12-13, 19-20, 184n11.
"Structure of Greek Play." Structure of Greek Play. N.p., n.d. Web. 04 Sept. 2014.
The Editors of Encyclopædia Britannica. "Thespis (Greek Poet)." Encyclopedia Britannica Online. Encyclopedia Britannica, n.d. Web. 04 Sept. 2014.
A. R. Burn. The Penguin History of Greece. Penguin Books, 1966.
Aeschylus. Prometheus Bound, The Suppliants, Seven Against Thebes, The Persians (Trans. Vellacott P.). Penguin, Harmondsworth, 1970.
Anonymous. The Oxford Handbook of Hellenic Studies. Oxford University Press, USA, 2009.
Sophocles. The Theban Plays (Trans. Watling E.F.). Penguin, Harmondsworth, 1951.



Thespis: The Father of Drama
Thespis, a Greek poet, was said to be born in the deme (district) of Icaria in the 6th century B.C.E. in Athens. Thespis was claimed to be the first actor in Greek drama, according to the ancient tradition.
He is often called the inventor of tragedy.
His name was recorded as the first to stage a tragedy at the Great Dionysia.
In the 4th century C.E., Aristotle said that Greek tragedy was entirely choral until Thespis introduced the prologue and internal speeches.
Thespis was also credited with adding an additional character who interacted with the chorus, known as the "protagonist."
Take additional notes that you deem necessary
Development of Classical Greek Tragedy
Structure of a Greek Play
The typical set-up of a tragedy
Prologue- A monologue or dialogue preceding the entry of the chorus which presents the tragedy's topic.
Parode (entrance ode)- The entry chant of the chorus. The Parode often include several parts repeated in order several times:
Strophe(turn)
Antistrophe(counter-turn)
Epode(After-Song)
Episode- There are several episodes (typically 3-5) in which one or two actors interact with the chorus. They are at least sung or chanted. Each episode is terminated by a stasimon.
Structure of a Greek Play (cont.)
Stasimon (Stationary Song)- A choral ode in which the chorus may comment on or react to the preceding episode.
Exode (Exit Ode)- The exit song of the chorus after the last episode.
Essential Questions:

What is the historical background of Greek tragedy?

What are the characteristics of Greek tragedy?

How did Greek theater influence Elizabethan theater (performed during Shakespeare's time) and also modern-day theater?

Make predictions on your handout.
"Drama Types of Stages." Drama Types of Stages. N.p., n.d. Web. 09 Sept. 2014.
Dictionary.com. Dictionary.com, n.d. Web. 10 Sept. 2014.
"Renaissance Theatre: England." Renaissance Theatre: England. N.p., n.d. Web. 10 Sept. 2014.
"Design Envy: Fox Theatre Atlanta." A Design State of Mind. N.p., n.d. Web. 10 Sept. 2014.
"An Introduction to Greek Tragedy." YouTube. YouTube, 11 Jan. 2013. Web. 30 Apr. 2015.
Types of Stages
Modern day plays: Held on stages called proscenium or picture-frame stages, because it is shaped in a way that the audience watches the play as if looking at a picture. (The Fox Theatre in Atlanta)
Costumes and Masks
Ancient Greek plays
: Actors, being so far away from the audience (due to the size of Theatrons and amphitheatres), were aided in being seen in the play or performance clearly with their exaggerated costumes and masks (used to amplify actors' voices and express facial expressions or emotions).
Elizabethan plays:
Actors wore lavish costumes and sometimes wore masks that were similar to the upper class dress of the Elizabethan time period. Also swords, sword sheaths, hats and other costume accessories.
Modern plays:
Actors wear costumes and masks based on different time periods in stage plays.
Actors and Their Acting
Ancient Greek plays: Performed only by men, and they told stories about Greeks gods and based off of their religious practices (theocracy).
Elizabethan plays: Performed by men and rarely women. Often made veiled statements about society.
Modern day plays: Men and women both play important roles in plays about unlimited comedic, tragic, and satirical topics.
As you can see, Ancient Greek Theater literally "set the stage" for Elizabethan theater, and, in turn, has influenced our modern-day theater, too.
Play Structures
Ancient Greek plays: Chorus, Choragos, and scenes
Elizabethan plays: Chorus, Acts, and scenes
Modern day plays: Acts and scenes
Watch "An Introduction to Greek Tragedy"
Answer the questions on your handout.
Why the evolution over time?
Sources Consulted
Sources Consulted
Character Types
Tragic Hero: at the center of a tragedy
person of high rank/nobility
accepts his or her downfall with dignity
possesses a tragic flaw (weakness in character)
Typical Greek Theater
Have you ever been to a performance
in a venue similarly shaped?
What would have been the benefits
of this arrangement?
Full transcript