The Golden Age of Ancient Greek Theater the origins of drama The Origins Of Drama Short poems called dithyrambs celebrating Dionysus eventually evolved into dramas. The story goes: Thespis, a popular writer of dithyrambs,
is said to have invented drama when he asked one performer to stand outside the chorus to engage in some call and response. The Chorus Because of the dithyrambic (poems that were song-like) origins of Greek
drama, the plays featured Choruses. The chorus danced and either sung or chanted their lines. Functions of the chorus an agent: gives advice, asks, takes part establishes ethical framework, sets up standard by which action will be judged ideal spectator - reacts as playwright
hopes audience would sets mood and heightens dramatic effects adds movement, spectacle, song, and dance rhythmical function - pauses / paces the action so that the audience can reflect on the previous scene. Word Origin The modern word drama comes from the Greek word dran
meaning "to do The Greeks understood the role of action in plays. The Theatre of Dionysus The first plays were performed in the
Theatre of Dionysus, built in the shadow of the Acropolis in Athens at the beginning of the 5th century, These theatres proved to be so popular, they soon spread all over Greece. Amphitheatres Plays were performed out-of-doors. The side of the mountain was scooped out into a bowl shape, something like our amphitheatres today, and
tiers of stone seats in concentric semi-circles were built on the hill. These theaters often seated as many as 20,000 spectators, with a special first row being reserved for politicians and important figures. Word Origin The modern word theater comes from the Greek word
theatron meaning "seeing place" The Actors All of the actors were men. Women were not allowed to participate. The actors played multiple roles, so a wooden, cork, or linen mask was used to show the change in character or
mood. If playing a female role, the male actor in want of a female appearance wore the prosternida before the chest and the progastrida before the belly Working in the Space Because of the distance between actors and the
audience, the actors, who were all men, used broad gestures and exaggerated speech. The actor made himself taller by wearing thick-soled shoes called cothurnis and a high head piece called an onkus. The masks assisted in projecting the actors voice through a type of inside megaphone.
Staging Staging was accomplished simply with the use of scenery painted on boards and placed against the skene. Also, triangular walls could be revolved for scenery changes. Props were also used. Drums were sounded for thunder.
Staging, Contd. A small wagon-type platform was wheeled in to show a corpse to the audience. All killing had to occur off stage and be reported to the audience by the chorus or a messenger. The deus-ex-machina was a crane-like device occasionally used for lowering in a god to assist the protagonist in neatly solving his
problems. Deus-ex-machina is the use of a godor other figure to wrap up a difficult conflict/plot. Community Involvement The entire city would be in attendance. All other businesses not directly involved with a drama festival would shut down, so that everyone
could attend. The government even offered financial assistance to those who could not afford to attend. Types of Greek Drama Comedy Tragedy Satire Comedy and tragedy were the most
popular types of plays in ancient Greece. Hence, the modern popularity of the comedy and tragedy masks to symbolize theatre. Tragedy The word tragedy came to be derived from the Greek tragos (goat)
and ode (poem). Tragedy literally means goat song or goat poem. Traits of Tragedy Violence and death occurred offstage Frequently used messengers to relate information
Stories based on myth or history, but varied interpretations of events Focus was on psychological and ethical attributes of characters, rather than physical. Structure of a tragedy Prologue, which describes the situation and sets the scene. Parados, an ode sung by the chorus as
it makes its entrance. Five dramatic scenes, or episodes--the last of which is called the Epilogue. Each episode is followed by a choral ode, which is an exchange of laments by the chorus and the protagonist. Exodus, the climax and conclusion. Sophocles (496-406 bc) His plays are more characterdriven rather than choric
He is credited with adding a third character His works include: Antigone, Oedipus Rex, Electra The Final Curtain By the time of Sophocless death in 406 BC the golden era of Greek drama was ending. Athens was overrun in 404 BC by the Spartans, and was later torn apart
by constant warring with other city-states. Theater went on, but did not return to the same creative heights until Elizabethan England, 2,000 years later (the time of Shakespeare).
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