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Introduction to Greek Theatre

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on 10 September 2018

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Transcript of Introduction to Greek Theatre

Introduction to Greek Theatre
The Persians, (472) The Agamemnon, Libation Bearers, Eumenides(458);
-We love him because he authored the oldest surviving Greek plays; he probably wrote around 80 but 7 survive
-He also is author of the only surviving Greek trilogy:
The Orestia
which is composed of
Credited with introducing the 2nd actor
The Agamemnon
The Libation Bearers
, T
he Eumenides
The story surrounds the legend of the House of Atreus, which Greek audiences would have been familiar with
-The 3 plays combined tell the story of the of the evolution of the concept of justice from personal revenge to a more democratic society
His characters embody cosmic conflict
Aeschylus (c. 525-456 BCE)
Aeschylus was credited with adding a second actor (woo hoo! Dialogue)
He was also credited with diminishing the chorus from 50-12
Who made up the chorus? What was their function?
Performance Space
According to Aristotle in his
(335-323 BCE)

tragedies emerged out of improvisation by leaders of
Dithyrambs (
So what the heck is a dithyramb?
A hymn sung and danced in honor of the Greek god of Dionysis; scholars speculate that it was a a somewhat improvised story sung by a choral leader with a refrain sung by a chorus
Thespis steps up
He adds a prologue and lines spoken by an actor impersonating a character to what had previously been a wholly narrative work
534 BCE Athens institutes a contest for the best tragedy presented at City Dionysia--A major religious festival
Greek Theatre is therefore, closely associated with Greek religion which was polytheistic
Greek Theatre was competitive. Plays were produced by the city state in cooperation with wealthy citizens (patrons)
At the GREAT DIONYSIA (sometimes called or CITY DIONYSIA) 3 tragic playwrights competed for the prize
Greek theatre was subsidized by wealthy sponsors who each patronized one of the 3 playwrights in the competition
Performers were most likely amateurs and originally the major playwrights
Echos in Contemporary Film
Dr. Jen-Scott Mobley
Theatre at Epidauras (Hellenistic Era)
Early Tragic Dramaturgy
Possibly a prologue
Series of 3-6 episodes
Tantalus, son of Zeus gets cocky & tests the Gods
Feeds his son Pelops to them
Pisses off gods
They punish Tantalus & restore Pelops to life.

Atreus & Thyestes
It's never easy sharing a kingdom: Thyestes seduces Atreus's wife, contests his right to the throne; Atreus banishes his brother. Then he has him over for a reconciliation dinner and serves him a rude meal
Naturally, Thyestes curses the House of Atreus
Atreus has two sons:
Paris swipes Menelaus's wife Helen a starts the Trojan War!!
The Curse of the House of Atreus
Pelops is a bit of a trickster like Pop. He wins his bride by killing his father-in-law in a chariot race. Marries Hippodamia and they have two bouncing baby boys

Before we talk further about what this play might have looked like in Athens in 458 BCE, let's look at the famous opening passage.
496-406 BCE
496-406 BCE
Wrote more than 120 plays but 7 have survived
Credited with Introducing the 3rd actor
Fixed the chorus at 15 members
Advanced scene painting
Emphasized individual characters and reduced role of chorus
his characters are complex and, psychologically motivated
Oedipus The King
Euripides (480-406 BCE)
wrote about 90 plays, 18 of which survive
not always the most popular dramatist in his own time
was known for using "inappropriate" subjects
he also tended to draw from the minor myths as well as the major ones
Arguably his characters are more "real"--less grand/more human
The Bacchae
The Chorus
No clear evidence of the size--started at 50 and dwindled to 15 then 12 (?)
most choral passages were sung and danced in unison
it is a character in the play
it advises, expresses opinions and questions
sometimes takes part in the action
establishes the social/ethical framework of the play
adds movement with spectacle and song
members were amateurs
Performances Practices

mechane (deus ex machina)

Masks (all performers wore masks)
Theatron means "seeing place"
Excerpt from The National Theatre
Full transcript