- Slides: 17
The Greek Theatre
Timeline o Ancient Greek theatre flourished in the 5 th and 4 th centuries B. C. o During this time, Greece was defeating the Persians in numerous wars. o Athens became the centre of Greek power and culture. o This period is known as ‘Classical Greece’ o Much of the West’s thinking, politics, and philosophy comes from this society
Origins of the Theatre o Initially, Greek drama was performed in village festivals. It soon moved to Athens and became a major annual event and competition. o Dramatists were asked to submit four plays – three tragedies and one comedy. o The plays would be performed over three days, and a prize would be given on the third day for the winner. This was one of the greatest honours an Athenian could receive.
Staging o Greek theatres were always outdoors. o The stage consisted of an orchestra for the chorus and a stage for the actors. A ‘skene’ (scene) was introduced – a backdrop or wall that stood behind the stage. o This later became a stone construct and is where today’s proscenium originates. o The theatres were carefully constructed to maximise acoustics.
Actors o Originally, plays were just a Chorus – a group of 50 speakers who recited a story in verse o Traditional drama really began when an actor named Thespis had the idea for one person to break away from the chorus and reply to what they said. o The chorus quickly shrank to 15 speakers, with three actors performing on stage.
Actors o The Chorus would narrate the drama and comment on what was happening. They would be asking the questions the audience would want to ask. o Meanwhile, three actors would be on stage performing numerous roles
Masks and Costume o The actors would change roles by using masks. o They would be made of natural materials such as wood, linen, leather, or cork. Human or animal hair would be used for a wig. o The mouth would be wide to magnify the actor’s voice. o They were designed to show age, gender, and emotion.
Masks and Costume o Costumes also helped the actors change role. They would wear robes in striking colours o The audience would associate certain attributes with costumes, e. g. purple for royalty, trailing robes for grief, a hat signified a character was taking a journey
The Chorus o The Chorus is one of the most famous relics of the Greek theatre o Its purpose was to speak in unison, effectively as one loud voice o The Chorus would comment on what was happening, express an opinion, or narrate the story. Occasionally, an individual would come forward from the Chorus to speak o The Chorus would represent a group of people within the context of the play – e. g. Elders
The Chorus o The chorus would wear plain masks and plain robes to distinguish them from the main actors o Their function was aural, not visual. o They would stay in the Orchestra while the actors remained on stage.
Summary o Greek theatre flourished in the 5 th and 4 th Centuries B. C. o Stages were outdoors and the audience were sat in a semicircle around the stage o A maximum of three actors were used in the drama, with 15 speakers in the Chorus o The chorus narrates and comments on the drama. They speak in unison o Masks and costumes were used to distinguish between the actors’ various roles
Sophocles o Sophocles was one of the most famous Greek playwrights o He regularly won the competitions at theatre festivals o He wrote a very famous tragedy called ‘King Oedipus’ or ‘Oedipus Rex’
Aeschylus o Aeschylus was the first of classical Athens’ great dramatists. o He grew up in the turbulent period when the Athenian democracy had to prove itself against both self-seeking politicians at home and invaders from abroad. o Aeschylus himself took part in his city’s first struggles against the invading Persians. o His most famous plays are the Oresteia and The Persians.
Euripides o last of classical Athens’ three great tragic dramatists, following Aeschylus and Sophocles. o He was the least successful of the three in competitions. However more of his plays have survived. o Aristophanes regularly poked fun at him in his comedies, showing his disdain but perhaps also proving Euripides’ importance.