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History of Theatre

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Jessica Chipman

on 14 April 2014

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Transcript of History of Theatre

550-220 B.C.
Theatre was . . .
Sacrifice to the gods
song and dance
Thespis: root of "thespian"
actors started talking to one another
Oedipus Rex
added a human element to theatre
Trojan Women
Aristophanes: comedies
Typically tragedies
Large swings in emotion
Large, tragic events
Interactions between gods and humans
“Deus ex machina” saves the main character through no action of their own
Characters are fated
Chorus members wear masks and further the plot
Played in large amphitheaters
(The Romans borrowed greatly from the Greeks)
Fabula Palliata: translations or works based on Greek plays
Fabula Togata: original comedies that were farcical or physical
Terence (comic)
Plautus: The Brothers Menaechmi
Rome required esteem from the
Christian Church,
which hindered performing arts
for centuries
The word
comes from the Roman word "ludus," which means recreation or plays
Included spectacle of Gladiators and Chariots
Medieval Theatre
Common world view was that the world was going to end and it was important to deliver the Christian message of salvation to as many people as possible.
Priests started acting parts of the Bible out.
These plays became known as "Passion plays" and are still in use today, as "Passion plays."
Passion Plays
Passion plays became as popular
as a new blockbuster movie
Also known as mystery plays and miracle plays
This was the church's way of fighting pagan ritual
Morality plays were allegories of the
life of man and took place outside
def.: an allegory is a work in which the characters and events are to be understood as representing other things and symbolically expressing a deeper, often spiritual, moral, or political meaning
EVERYMAN is a still-popular
morality play from the 15th century
Characteristics of a morality play:

1. Hero represents mankind/everyone
2. Personification of virtues, vices, death
3. Themes:
Seven deadly sins
Mercy and peace pleading before God
for man's soul against Truth and
Dance of Death: Death is God's
messenger, who summons all
men and women
Late 1500s -- Early 1600s
o Men-only performers
o Made up of “troupes” of actors that worked together
o Actors wore their plainclothes
o Theatre was done in the daytime
o No “sets” were constructed: the theater space had various entrances, exits, doorways, and balconies to create interest and light
o Theatre was a huge draw in Renaissance England
• Royals needed to be pleased in order to maintain in good stead
• Groundlings: paid a pence to get into the theater
•Christopher Marlowe
•Ben Jonson
•William Shakespeare
Born in Stratford-upon Avon in 1523
Actor, playwright, and shareholder in his company, King’s Players
Part owner at the Globe Theater
His plays have been divided into histories, tragedies, and comedies
Italian Commedia Dell'arte
(Began in 1100s) Peaked in 1500s and 1600s
• Masked “stereotyped” characters
• Actors improvised performances based on sketches or scenarios
• Emphasis on “artistans” or players
• Emphasis on stylized, exaggerated movements and physicality (slapstick comedy)
• Performances took place outside
• Women performed
Types of characters:
• Lovers (spoke poetically)
• Foolish old man
• Devious servants (called zanni)
• Military officer full of false bravado
• Servants, masters, lovers
Examples of plotlines:
• Adultery
• Jealousy
• Old age
• Love
French Neoclassical
Emphasis on:
1. Verismilitude (truth): every good play must teach a lesson
2. Decorum (style and manners): “a term which meant that all dramatic characters should behave in ways based on their age, profession, sex, rank, and the like. Each character should follow this set behavior.”
By law, each play must have the three unities:
1. Time: one day
2. Place: one location
3. Action: one plot
• Neoclassical tragedy involved high-class characters whose lives ended tragically.
• Neoclassical comedy involved low-class characters whose lives ended happily.
•Jean Racine (tragedian)
•Jean-Baptiste Moliere (comic): Tartuffe, Le Misanthrope
• Explosion of comedy after eighteen-year banning of public performances by Puritans
• Sexual explicitness
• First professional actresses
• First celebrity actors
• Timely subject matter
• First woman playwright, Aphra Behn (The Rover)
• William Wycherley (The Country Wife)
• Action
• Music
• Dance
• Moveable scenery
• Baroque painting
• Gorgeous costumes
• Special effects
• Flying actors
• Fireworks
Early 19th Century
A. Melodrama
a. Similar to soap operas
b. Contained moral parables
c. Characters had absolute, moral standards
B. Romanticism
a. Main idea: “art gives eternal truths
a concrete form”
b. The language is flowery
c. Truth is emphasized
d. Playwright: Edmund Rostand,
who wrote Cyrano de Bergerac
Late 19th Century
A. Realism
a.Main idea: bring fidelity to acting, plays
b.David Garrick: notable actor from England
known for starting “realistic” acting
c.Constantin Stanislavsky: Russian director and writer
who has had a huge impact on acting and realism.
He turned acting into a serious artistic endeavor through
his emphasis on self-reflection and finding “truth” in acting.
d.Notable playwrights: Anton Chekov, Henrik Ibsen,
George Bernard Shaw, Oscar Wilde
20th Century Theatre
A. Epic Theatre
a. the audience is always aware it is
watching a play
b. Playwright: Bertolt Brecht (The
Threepenny Opera, Mother Courage
and Her Children)
B. Theatre of Cruelty
a. Truth must be found, even if it takes
cruel discipline and physical exhaustion
to get there
b. Playwright: Antonin Artaud
C. Theatre of the Absurd
a. Humans are trapped in
an incomprehensible world
b. Playwright: Samuel Beckett
(Waiting for Godot)
D. Expressionist
a. Dramatizes spiritual awakening
and struggle against bourgeois values
and established authority
b. Playwright: Eugene O’Neill
(Long Day’s Journey Into Night)
Full transcript