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Ancient Greek Theatre

Oedipus Rex, Poetics, Society, Lysistrata, and more!

Katherine Burke

on 19 September 2012

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Transcript of Ancient Greek Theatre

Polytheistic religion Aristotle's Poetics What is Poetry? "Poet" means "Maker"
Types of Poetry
Epic Poetry
Dithyrambic Poetry
Music Aristotle Audience "...Epic poetry is addressed to a cultivated audience, who do not need gesture; Tragedy, to an inferior public. Being then unrefined, it is evidently the lower of the two." Greek philosopher
Student of Plato
Teacher of Alexander the Great
Wrote about physics, poetry, theatre, music, rhetoric, politics, ethics, etc.
"Poetics" written 50 years after Sophocles' death
"Oedipus Rex" Aristotle's favorite play - the "perfect tragedy" Catharsis "...arousing pity and fear, wherewith to accomplish its katharsis of such emotions. . . ."
Purging, cleansing
Audience feels pity, fear
Audiences get pleasure from art and catharsis
Getting rid of our pity/fear brings us back into balance 384 BC – 322 BC Politics Theatre is funded by wealthy citizens
What types of characters will funders want in their plays?
What messages are the plays going to send to the masses?
Political message of Antigone? Performers Protagonist
4 plays in 1 day! Male citizens
Probably some women - most likely heterai (concubines) and slaves
Respectable women probably did not attend Protos = first
Agoniste = competitor
First actor = Thespis?
Struggles to achieve something Sophocles introduced 3rd actor
Oedipus Rex = 3 actors + Chorus Ancient Greek Theatre Imitation All performance is mimesis
People imitate people
Humans: natural ability to imitate
Humans love to learn
When we watch theatre, we learn "...to learn gives the liveliest pleasure, not only to philosophers but to men in general; whose capacity, however, of learning is more limited." O for a Muse of fire, that would ascend
The brightest heaven of invention,
A kingdom for a stage, princes to act
And monarchs to behold the swelling scene! Where did Poetry come from? imitation of action
serious, complete, and of a certain magnitude
language embellished with... artistic ornament
action, not narrative
arousing pity and fear, to accomplish catharsis of such emotions. . . .
Every Tragedy, therefore, must have six parts...
Plot, Characters, Diction, Thought, Spectacle, Melody What is Tragedy? Choral interludes should be integral to the plot Words and word combinations we would never use in real life
Language is heightened
The unfamiliarity of the language gives "distinction to the style." "Even your breath stinks of mediocrity." “the expression of the meaning in words” “But the greatest thing by far is to have a command of metaphor; . . . it is the mark of genius...” "The best form of anagnorisis is coincident with peripeteia" reveals moral purpose Morally good
"The character will be good if the purpose is good." "Even a woman may be good, and also a slave; though the woman may be said to be an inferior being, and the slave quite worthless." Propriety
The character must behave as is expected for his gender and status True to Life
Realistic Upper class, reknowned, prosperous
So his journey can be from good to bad Downfall...by some big mistake. ...and yet more beautiful
Idealized Revealed through character http://www.ted.com/talks/view/id/477 Playwrights write what they know
"Oedipus Rex" performed 427 BCE
Athens recovering from plague
Athens at war with Sparta - strong leadership needed 448-380 BCE The only "Old Comedy" writer whose plays survive
Anti-war themes
Wrote 40 plays, 11 survive
Peloponnesian War has been going for years
Plague in Attica
Pericles, beloved general/statesman dies of plague
Corrupt politicians Old Comedy - Political satire
New Comedy - Wacky romantic comedies
stock characters like senex irate (grumpy old man) "Lysistrata" written in the 21st year of war
Just after thousands of Athenians died at Syracuse
After "Lysistrata," Aris. doesn't write about politics again for 19 years
Personal/artistic freedom decreases in Athens after Sparta wins war
Socrates put to death for refusing to honor state-sanctioned gods, corrupting youth Wrote 123 plays, 7 survive
30 competitions - won 24 497 - 406 BCE Aristophanes Lysistrata 1. What do you think Aristophanes wants us to learn through this play?

2. "Lysistrata" is considered to be "Old Comedy," which focuses on politics and society. How does this play do that?

3. George Orwell wrote: "Whatever is funny is subversive... a dirty joke is a sort of mental rebellion." What is subversive about "Lysistrata?"

4. Through reading "Lysistrata," we can understand the world of ancient Greece more. What can we learn about people, gender, society, politics, etc. in ancient Greece from this play? subversive: revolutionist, insurgent, attempting to overthrow the establishment Lysistrata Vulgarity Lysistrata = Dissolver of armies
Lampito = Stereotypical Spartan name
Myrrinhe = Female genitalia (think "Pussy Galore")
Kinesias = Lewd name for intercourse Not a moral issue
"Aesthetic" issue
Sex, diet, exercise important in taste and self-control
Zeus frequently disguises himself to rape mortal women
Balance is a big issue. Sin, not so much. Sex Foucault, History of Sexuality II Joke: Why should husbands care about a sex strike by their wives?
Options: slaves, concubines, sex workers
Heteirai (like Geishas)
Same-sex relationships between men All male actors
Comic convention - phallus or codpiece
Various sizes
Kinesias leaves the stage, appears a few moments later with a larger phallus
Lysistrata: "Grab the Athenian by whatever is handy" Phalli Morality Anti-war message Women as a force for peace Joke? Women in politics?
Are the female characters taken seriously in 411 BCE? "A husband and father... rules over wife and children...the male is by nature fitter for command than the female."
-Aristotle, Politics More than 1000 readings
50 states, 59 countries
200,000 people
Raised over $100,000 for peace charities The Lysistrata Project 2003 anti-war protest Columbus, Ohio Nikko, Japan London, England Could this really work? Today 850 BCE: alphabetic writing comes to Greece 5th Century BCE: citizens read, bookstands Poets/performers go from solo to group work. How is writing different from talking? Writing is open to debate
Debate: central to Athenian society Greece early democracy Independent city-states Athens Region: Attica
139 smaller townships (demes)
Citizens: 30,000 males
Civic obligations: military, athletes, debaters, judges, religious festivals
Rich citizens: pay for military supplies/ships, religious festivals, etc.
10 tribes Competition (agon) public debate
athletic events
choral dancing competitions Religious & Civic Festivals Festivals Dead enjoy things they enjoyed in life
Spirits of dead can be summoned by reenacting past
athletics, food, horsemanship, choral laments (group singing & dancing)
Festivals held at tombs of local heroes
Eventually, gods honored as well 5th century BCE Zeus
every 4 years
athletic competitions Panathenaia pan-Olympic games Athena
New garment for statue of goddess
Pyrrhic - military dance, wearing armor, military movements
Music contests
Poetry contests (Homer) Dionysus God of wine, fertility
4 annual festivals!!!!
Dancing, wine, chanting, wine, phalli, wine, orgies, wine... The Great Dionysia (City Dionysia)
Procession/parade - Dionysus coming to Athens!
Rituals, ceremonies, competitions
Dithyrambs Choral song/dance
Honors Dionysus Day 1: Military parade
Day 2: Dithyramb contests
Day 3: Comedy competition
Days 4 - 6: Tragedy competition Each of 10 tribes competed
50 men + 50 boys 5 playwrights compete
Satires, political commentary 3 playwrights, 4 plays each
3 tragedies, 1 satyr play (comedy) Pronomos Vase Antigone Athenian politics women & family state vs. family: loyalty loyalty to city-states
loyalty in literature
loyalty to gods Pericles 495-429 BCE
politician - "Golden Age" of Athens (460 BCE)
NOT a dictator
eloquent orator
wants all citizens participate in gov't
"new deal" - construction & infrastructure jobs to poor
paid all gov't officers, jury members (good for poor) Aristotle's Politics
A husband and father... rules over wife and children, both free [i.e. neither is a slave], but the rule differs, the rule over his children being a royal, over his wife a constitutional rule. For although there may be exceptions to the order of nature [i.e. occasionally a wife may be wiser than her husband], the male is by nature fitter for command than the female... the inequality is permanent. Antigone & Ismene Creon and Haemon Creon's values What does he say?
What does he do? Plot
Why didn’t Creon take the advice of the prophet?
Why did Creon care what happened to the boy after it was thrown away? Shouldn’t that act in itself be enough?
What made Creon realize that his punishment was too harsh?
What exactly did Antigone do?
Would the city really have been at peace had Antigone not stood up like the chorus said?
Why should someone not have a proper funeral because they fought for something he believed in?
If the people wouldn’t have tried to change their fate would there be the same Character
Why was Antigone pushing so hard to be killed/why did she want to be put to death?
Since marriage was arranged, does Haemon really love Antigone?
Was the marriage arranged?
Why did Sophcles choose to focus on a female as the main character?
Who do the characters represent?
Was Sophocles trying to use the Antigone character to express how he felt about women’s roles in Greek society? Idea
Moral lesson involved?
What/who inspired Sophocles to write this “trilogy?”
Who is Sophocles aiming this at?
Does fate exist?
Can one person truly make an impact in society?
What is Antigone teaching? What is the moral of the lesson?
What were the circumstances to which this was written?
Does it represent any issues that were occurring at this time?
Did the cave symbolize anything? Music
I found the chorus part confusing!
Is the chorus supposed to be Creon’s conscience, or the story narrators? Language
How many different adaptations are there and do different translations change the story? 1. Plot (Mythos) "...the soul of a tragedy" simple vs. complex "the change of fortune takes place without reversal... [or] recognition" "...the change is accompanied by... reversal...recognition, or by both." Anagnorisis: recognition
Peripeteia: reversal 2. Character (Ethos) 3. Thought (Dianoia) The idea or theme 4. Diction (Lexis) 5. Music (Melos) 6. Spectacle (Opsis) Least important to Aristotle Alphabet Oedipus Rex Sophocles The Theatre 14,000 people
Citizens (male)
Actors: male
Judges: citizens
Cost: 2 obols (1 day's pay) In democratic Athens, there was a marked tension between on the one hand collective endeavour, the ideology of citizen equality, and the pre-eminence of the state over the individual, and, on the other, the desire for individual honour, conspicuous personal display and familial pride. The spatial dynamics of the audience — with blocks of citizens, and certain authoritative or representative groups or individuals distinguished by honorific seats — dramatises the central dynamic of Athenian social life. (“The Audience of Athenian Tragedy.” The Cambridge Companion to Greek Tragedy. Ed. P. E. Easterling. Cambridge University Press, 1997. 60) Not a new story
467 BCE (earlier) Aeschylus had his own Oedipus trilogy & won the contest Take 5 Describe Oedipus at the beginning
What do the people think of him?
What does he think of himself?
Describe him at the end
Does someone make a mistake that leads to this downfall?
What does this say about the Greek view of fate?
What is the point of this play?
Full transcript