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Ancient Greek Tragedy
Transcript of Ancient Greek Tragedy
-Aristotle • Very short period of history. Started around 480 BC, and ended around the end of the 5th century.
• A genre from the beginnings of Athens. It was intended to be presented in front of an audience.
• The development of tragic dialogue was likely influenced by travelling bards who performed recitations of poems very dramatically.
• Aristotle, a well known Greek philosopher and a student of Plato, stated that Ancient tragedies developed from the DITHYRAMB. The dithyramb was allegedly a dance that was connected to the worship of Dionysus, the god of the grape harvest.
• Tragedy translates to “goat singing”. This was likely due to the fact that there was a sacrifice on the occasion of a performance.
• A majority of Ancient tragedies were based on dramatized versions of Greek myths.
• Performances of tragedies were at festivals
• Plays had no religious function, and the content had no connection with any kind of god (unlike work of the Elizabethan era)
• TRAGEDIANS: A name for those who wrote and produced Greek tragedies
INFORMATION WHO WERE THE GREAT WRITERS OF GREEK TRAGEDY? Aeschylus Sophocles Euripides Wrote Oedipus Rex Tragedies contained two types of poetry…
1) Spoken dialogue ... actors
2) Song telling stories ... chorus
• Plays were mass entertainment and were performed in front of thousands of all social classes. Whether or not women attended is uncertain.
• There were 3 actors per play, and all were male. They wore masks and each played many roles.
• To display emotion, actors couldn’t use facial expressions because of the masks. Instead, they focused on words, vocal expression and body gestures.
• Music onstage was provided by the only unmasked figure…a man playing a double pipe with reeds.
• Never showed violence directly, but the themes tended to centralize around it. ELEMENTS OF
GREEK TRAGEDIES THE ARISTOTELIAN UNITIES There are three rules for drama that works together for an overall
clarity so the dramatic impact of the play will be greater: 1) UNITY OF PLACE: A play should only have one physical setting.
2) UNITY OF TIME: A play should have no break in the time of action.
3) UNITY OF ACTION: A play should follow one main action, and a play should be tightly constructed.
Sophocles STRUCTURE OF
GREEK TRAGEDIES Tragedies consisted of 5 acts and were separated by songs.
1) PROLOGUE: Opening scene, 1 or 2 actors
2) PARADOS: Entrance of chorus, expresses mood
3) EPISODE: Development of plot using actors
4) STASIMON: Choral ode expressing reaction to action
5) EXODOS: Final action, conclusion.
AND THEATRE • The word theatre is derived from the Greek work theatron, which has the stem of the word theasthai, which means “to view as spectators”.
• Athenian theatre was not a business. Greek tragedies were funded by the state as part of a festival.
• 3 tragic poets were chosen to present their plays. Each presented a tetralogy: a group of 4 plays that included 3 tragedies and a satyr play. The 3 tragedies often linked together and formed a continuous storyline.
• The most notable theatre of the time was the theatre of Dionysus. The theatre of Dionysus was an open air auditorium. There was no artificial lighting at the time, so performances took place during the day. The theatre had a capacity of 15,000 spectators. The audience would sit on a sloping hill and watch the tragedies being performed.
• Action usually took place in front of palaces, temples, etc (one set)
Above: The Theatre of Dionysus ACTORS In 15th century, three actors were hired for performances- Protagonist (first actor), Deuteragonist (second actor), Triagonist (third actor)
Protagonist was the most important character, while the other two played lesser roles
Women were not allowed to take part in productions leaving male actors to have to play the role of the female aswell
Masks were worn to hide the identity of the actor and eliminate any strangeness of men impersonating women.
Main duty of actors was to speak dialogue assigned to his character but also sing with or without the chorus which was seen as a rare talent. Chorus Chorus was non professionals who had talent for dance and singing.
They were prepped by poet before the performance of the play and wore costumes and masks just like the actors.
The function of the tragic chorus was to chant the entrance song and establish themselves into the orchestra
The most important function was to sing and dance choral songs called stasima.
The chorus was used as a form of entertainment for audience as actors finished scenes in order for the actors to change costumes and masks without interruptions in the play. Theatrical performance of Oedipus Rex. The End! Bibliography “The Miracle That was Greece” H.D.F. Kitto, The Greeks, Chicago: Aldine Publishing Co. 1964, pp 98-108