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Greek Theatre Elements- Oedipus Intro

An explanation of the parts of Greek Theatre, the background of Oedipus, and the parts of a classic tragic hero

Matthew Laamanen

on 3 November 2014

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Transcript of Greek Theatre Elements- Oedipus Intro

Greek Theatre:
An Introduction to Oedipus the King
Greek Theatre
Theatre of Dionysus in Athens
Modern day Athens
Key Facts:
First dug out of slope beneath the south side of the Acropolis in late 6th century B.C.
When Romans conquered Greece, they brought Greek Lit (mythology, stories) back to Italy and began to make it their own
Ended up taking over existing theatres (the most famous = Theatre of Dionysus in Athens) and renovating and rebuilding them to fit their love of spectacle and art
Approx. 15, 000 people fit
No sets, only minor props, acoustics come from the design of the theatron
Athens = love of learning, thinking, beauty
Civic duty to be involved in productions, art

Sparta = love of fighting
Civic duty to be in army
Why Dionysus?
- theatre is a ritualistic art form which celebrates the Olympian Gods who often appeared as characters
- Dionysus, god of wine and procreation (partying) was honored at dramatic festivals
- businesses and activities were suspended during week long festivals held three times per year
Parts of the Greek Theater
ORCHESTRA (literally "dancing space"): circular area where chorus would dance, sing, interact with actors
THEATRON ("viewing place"): held benches on which the audience sat, built into hillside for good views
SKENE ("tent"): rectangular building with three doors which provided generic backdrop for entrance and exit of characters
PARADOS ("passageways"): paths by which the chorus and some actors made entrances and exits
Note: Parados is also the term for the entrance song of the chorus
Structure of a Greek Tragedy
Six Parts
Prologue: spoken by one or two characters before the chorus appears, gives necessary background for understanding play
Parados: song sung by chorus as it first enters the orchestra and dances

Episode: characters and chorus talk
Stasimon: choral ode sung and danced by chorus, reflects upon things said and done in episodes

at end of play, chorus sings processional song which usually offers words of wisdom
Chorus = 12-15 dancers who are young, strong men
- Athenians taught to sing and
dance at early age
- act of dancing and singing through
three tragedies and a satyr play
was like competing in Olympic Games
(not Greeks, but I really liked these dancing men...)
The Greek Actor:
had to be larger than life
size = symbolic of social status
would wear long, flowing robes (chiton) with shoulder pads for width and would wear platform shoes for added height
gestures had to be large, too, so that all of theatron could view and understand
Masks made of wood, leather with wigs attached were worn to identify characters, show emotion
Women not allowed to be actors
Oedipus Rex
(Oedipus the King)

Tragic Greek Hero
POSITION: hero is noble or royal (usually king) with great power and respect; he is a man of good intentions with much to lose

TRAGIC FLAW (hamartia): hero makes a tragic error that stems from a character flaw, usually pride

REVERSAL (catastrophe): events are seemingly headed in one direction and then are suddenly turned against hero

RECOGNITION: when the hero learns something of value that completely changes their perception of themselves and others; realizes reversal is their fault

SUFFERING: generally a painful or destructive act such as a death scene
- Results in CATHARSIS, the purging of emotions
Types of Plays:
1) Comedy: mocked men in power for their vanity, foolishness
2) Tragedy: plays about love, loss, pride, abuse of power
3) Satyr (half man/half goat): short plays performed between tragedies,
made fun of predicaments of characters
Aeschylus, Euripedes, Sophocles
Sophocles - 496-406 B.C. (90 yrs old!)
Wrote 123 dramas, won 20 drama prizes (a record), but only 7 have survived
Aeschylus and Euripedes also wrote versions of Oedipus, but Sophocles' is the most famous
Bust of Sophocles
Speaking of dancing...
- During Parados and Stasimons(Odes):
STROPHE = turn one way to sway, sing, and dance
ANTISTROPHE = turn the other way, sway, sing, and dance
Really into all of this?
Check out Aristotle's book Poetics, the Theory of Tragedy
Aristotle wrote Poetics about 50 years after the death of Sophocles
In it, he outlined all of the parts of a "perfect tragedy"
Aristotle believed Oedipus Rex to be a perfect tragedy
Essential Questions:
Your fate is decided by a higher power and is already determined.

If knowing the truth leads to pain, it’s better not to know it.

All types of pride are evil.

You cannot be blamed for something you did in ignorance.

It is wrong to question society’s beliefs.

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