Greek Tragedy and Comedy by Filjor Broka
Outline • Greek Life • Origins of Greek Theatre • Performance in Greek Theatre • Greek Tragedy • Greek Comedy
Greek Life - Politics • Democratic form of government • Strongly supported public debate and public speaking • Political life was a daily occurrence • Civic duty was a natural component of their personality
Greek Life – Social Aspects • Loved life • Loved to compete • Strove for excellence and beauty in all things • Took pride in their freedom
Greek Life - Religion • Polytheistic faith • Fate was the controlling factor • Worshipped their gods in diverse ways • Gods often appeared as mortals, may have human attributes
Origins – Sources • Extant plays and fragments • Records of dramas (scattered) • Commentaries (such as Aristotle) • Archeological remains of buildings • Visual art - primarily from vase painting • Therefore, the conclusions we make are highly conjectural, but we can discuss the standard accepted views of Greek theatre.
Dionysus Dionysus was the God of: • fertility (main duty) • wine • agriculture • sexuality
The Dionysian ceremonies, simple at the beginning, little by little became noisy and orgiastic. The enthusiasts were strolling holding the phallus in front of them, accompanied by flute, drums and forminx, eating the raw fleshes of the animals sacrificed to Dionysus. Dyonisian Festivals
Rural Dionysia in month Neptune (December - January) Lenea in the month Gameleon (January - February) Small Dionysia in month Anthesterion (February - March) Great Dionysia (City Dionysia) in month Elaphevolion (March - April) Dyonisian Festivals
Dithyramb • Dithyramb is an hymn to god Dionysus, a choric song accompanied by flute • As part of the choric poetry Dithyramb had a chorus. • The members of the chorus were disguised in animals (goats) and they were called Satyrs. The Satyrs were daemons of the woods and at first they had no relation to Dionysus. • According to Plutarch (Moralia, 257), dithyramb consisted of songs, with lyrics drown from Dionysus life and his adventures. • Some of them were sad, symbolizing the suffering of God (sung during Lenea, in January, when the nature mourns) and others funny, symbolizing the joy of God (sung during the Great Dionysia, in March, with the revival of the nature).
Dithyramb • His followers, formed a parade : a satyr holding a urn full of wine and some branches of wine tree was leading, followed by a satyr carrying a goat, then by a satyr carrying figs and at last by a satyr holding a phallus. (All the above mentioned were symbols of Dionysus.) • Behind them followed the people singing the dithyramb. The parade ended in a circular threshing floor (precedent of the orchestra), where the goat was sacrificed (Even in the later centuries, in the middle of the orchestra one could find an altar - "thymeli").
Birth of Tragedy • According to Greek tradition, the actor and playwright Thespis invented the drama when he augmented the chorus of the dithyramb with a single actor who wore masks to portray several different characters. • With the possibility of dialogue between the actor and the chorus, more complex themes and modes of storytelling could be developed. • In 534 BC, at Athens' first dramatic festival, one of Thespis' tragedies won the prize. (Derived from the Greek tragos, meaning “goat,” the term tragedy may have referred to a goat as the prize or as an animal sacrifice made at the festival.) • Thereafter, tragedies were performed annually as part of the festival of Dionysus.
Actors in Greek Theatre • At first in dithyramb, there were no actors. • Thespis was the poet who introduced the first hypocrite , Aeschylus the second and Sophocles the third one. The hypocrits were always men • At the beginning the actors have been chosen by the poets (they -sometimes- played the roles themselves). • Later, when theatre competition became tough, the need of professional actors emerged. Some actors tended to attach themselves to a poet. • Still in the 5th century, when the success of a production depended on the actors as well, they were being chosen by the State. • Playwrights originally acted, but by 449 B.C. with the contests for tragic actors, they didn't.
Chorus • Dominant in early tragedies (so main actors could change roles) • By Euripides, chorus only loosely related to the action • Size : from 50 to 12 to 15. • Generally believed to be 15 by the time of Sophocles and Euripides. • Entered with stately march, sometimes singing or in small groups. • Choral passages sung and danced in unison, sometimes divided into two groups. • Sometimes exchanged dialog with the main characters, rarely individual speaking • The leader of the chorus ("Coryphaios") was in the middle of the first row. Coryphaios was a professional dancer and singer. The rest of the chorus consisted of amatures chosen by the poet and payed by the sponsor (choregos) • The chorus, was considered to be the mouthpiece of society (in its humble form) and morality, and they were suffering along with the heroes. Its role (very important at first) was fading during the time.
Chorus- Functions • 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
The costumes in the ancient Greek theatre also have a symbolic significance in the way the production is understood. Since the hypocrits were all male, it was necessary to make them look female for female roles. "In order to have a female appearance, they were playing wearing the ‘prosterniad’ before the chest and the ‘progastrida’ before the belly. In order to look taller and more impressive they were wearing ‘cothornous’ (wooden shoes with tall heels)" The costumes allowed the audience to know who the actor was trying to portray. The most essential part of their disguise was the mask Costumes
prevented the audience from identifying the face of any actor with one specific character allowed men to impersonate women without confusion helped the audience identify the sex, age, and social rank of the characters were often changed by the actors when they would exit after an episode to assume a new role Masks
Stage The theatre was constructed of three major parts: • skene -The skene was the place where the actors performed. It was originally a hut, tent, or booth. It was the background for the play. • orchestra -The orchestra was the main part of the stage where the chorus was located at. It was the place where the chorus danced and sang. • theatron : The theatron (literally, "viewing-place") is where the spectators sat. The theatron was usually part of hillside overlooking the orchestra, and often wrapped around a large portion of the orchestra (see the diagram above
Theater of Epidauros (built 330 B.C., near modern day Nauplion, Greece)
Theatre production • Playwrights applied to the archon(religious leader) for a chorus. • Expense borne by a choregai, wealthy citizen chosen by the archon as part of civic / religious duty • Choregus paid for training, costuming, etc. (tho' term choregus also refers to leader of the chorus. • The State responsible for theatre buildings, prizes, payments to actors (and perhaps to playwrights). Prizes were awarded jointly to playwrights and choregus. • Dramatists themselves probably "directed" the tragic plays, but probably not the comedies. • Aeschylus and others in his time acted, trained chorus, wrote music, choreographed, etc.
Structure of the play Prologos Parodos Episode I Stasimon I … Exodus
Structure of the play • Prologos-The first speech of an actor (hypokrites) or actors, usually to set up the plot and explain what has happened prior to the play’s beginning. • Parodos -The first speech of the chorus, usually to explain their purpose in being there, or to explain the overall purpose and meaning of the play. • Episodes -Actions between actors or between an actor and the chorus. Their purpose is to present the action or dialogue within the play.
Structure of the play • Stasima- Songs of the chorus addressing an abstract theme of the play, or focusing upon the central theme of the play. The stasima are not necessarily focused on the action of the episodes, but may contain similar themes. • Exodus - The final resolution of the play, and an explanation of the final actions in the play by one or more of the hypokriteis.
Greek Tragedy • Tragedies: • Aeschylus - 525-456 B.C. - 80 plays, 7 extant • Euripides - 480-406 B.C. - 90 plays, 18 or 19 extant • Sophocles - 495-406 B.C.-100 plus plays, 7 extant
Greek Tragedy-Characteristics • Late point of attack • Violence and death offstage (Sophocles's Ajax is an exception) • Frequent use of messengers to relate information • Usually continuous time of action (except Aeschylus's Eumenides) • Usually single place (except Ajax) • Stories based on myth or history, but varied interpretations of events • Focus is on psychological and ethical attributes of characters, rather than physical and sociological.
Catharsis • The purification or purgation of the emotions (especially pity and fear) primarily through art. • In criticism, catharsis is a metaphor used by Aristotle in the Poetics to describe the effects of true tragedy on the spectator • The use is derived from the medical term katharsis (Greek: “purgation” or “purification”). • Aristotle states that the purpose of tragedy is to arouse “terror and pity” and thereby effect the catharsis of these emotions.
He was born in Elefsina in 525 BC. His family was noble and wealthy. He participated in the battle of Marathon (490 BC)and in the battleship of Salamina (480 BC)against the Persians, where he showed great braveness and got seriously injured. Aeschylus died in Gela of Sicely in 455 BC. The tradition reports as a cause of his death the fall of a turtle on his head. He is still considered by many (as Aristophanes writes about in TheFrogs) to be the greatest Greek playwright. He was awarded with 13 first prizes. Only 7 of his 74 works are preserved today. Aeschylus
Plays • Persians (472) • Seven Against Thebes (468) • Suppliant Women (463) • Oresteia Trilogy: (458) • Agamemnon • Libation Bearers • Eumenides • Prometheus Bound (450-425)
Characteristics of Aeschylus's plays: • characters have limited number of traits, but clear and direct • emphasizes forces beyond human control • evolution of justice, impersonal • power of state eventually replacing personal revenge • chain of private guilt and punishment - all reconciled at end
Sophocles was born in 497 BC in Colonos, Athens. Although according to some sources he was the son of an aristocratic family, according to others, he was the son of a knife-maker. He kept studying the plays of Aeschylus and many times he defeated him in the contests. During his militairy service he attained the rank of General. He was teaching three separate tragedies instead of one trilogy. He increased the number of hypocrits(actors) from two to three. He also increased the members of the chorus from 12 to 15. His language was so harmonic and beautiful that Aristoteles said that "honey was dropping of his mouth" He died in Athens in 405 BC, after having written 123 dramas, of which only 7 are saved. Sophocles
Plays • Ajax (450-430) • Antigone (c. 442) • Trachiniai (450-430) • OedipusTyrannos (429-425) • Electra (420-410) • Philoctetes (409) • OedipusatColonus (401)
Characteristics of Sophocles' plays: • emphasis on individual characters • reduced role of chorus • complex characters, psychologically well-motivated • characters subjected to crisis leading to suffering and self-recognition - including a higher law above man • exposition carefully motivated • scenes suspensefully climactic • action clear and logical • poetry clear and beautiful • few elaborate visual effects • theme emphasized: the choices of people
He was born in 480 BC in Halandri, Athens on the day of the battleship of Salamina. His parents were very poor but he had a fine education, being a student of Anaxagoras and a close friend to Socrates. Very popular in later Greek times, little appreciated during his life sometimes known as "the father of melodrama" He wrote 72 works, 19 of which are saved ( 18 tragedies and 1 satiric drama: "The Cyclops") He died violently in 406 in Pella, killed by wild dogs. Euripides
Euripides • Euripides appears to cast tragedy's religious foundations into question. Some later playwrights, such as Aristophanes, portray him as arid in his dialogue, and determined to make tragedy less elevated by introducing common people. Others call him a misogynist, an underminer of received morality, and unorthodox in his religious views. • Yet, no other playwright from antiquity challenged the status quo in such a controversial manner. He brought about issues for the people and for the philosophers, and not just for the literary figures.
Alcestis (438) Medea (431) ChildrenofHeracles (ca. 430) Hippolytus (428) Andromache (ca. 425) Hecuba (ca. 424), SuppliantWomen (ca. 423) Electra (ca. 420) Heracles (ca. 416) TrojanWomen (415) IphigeniaamongtheTaurians (ca. 414) Ion (ca. 413) Helen (412) PhoenicianWomen (ca. 410) Orestes (408) Bacchae (after 406) IphigeniainAulis (after 406) Cyclops (possibly ca. 410) Plays
Characteristics of Euripides' plays: • dealt with subjects usually considered unsuited to the stage which questioned traditional values (Medea loving her stepson, Medea murdering her children) • dramatic method often unclear -not always clearly causally related episodes, with many reversals, deus ex machina endings • many practices were to become popular: using minor myths or severely altered major ones • less poetic language, realistic characterizations and dialog • tragedy was abandoned in favor of melodramatic treatment. • theme emphasized: sometimes chance rules world, people are more concerned with morals than gods are.
Greek Comedy • Comedy (from Greek komos, meaning “revel”) was presented competitively in Athens from 486 BC at the Lenaea winter festival. • It fused much earlier traditions of popular entertainment, mime, phallic rites, and revelry in honour of Dionysus. • Old Comedy, of which Aristophanes was the chief exponent, was highly satirical. • It was characterized by wildly imaginative material (in which the chorus might represent birds, frogs, wasps, or clouds) that was blended with a grotesque, vulgar, and witty tone, which could still accommodate poetry of great lyrical beauty. • Commentary on contemporary society, politics, literature, and Peloponnesian War. • Based on a "happy idea" - a private peace with a warring power or a sex strike to stop war • The bawdiness of the plays was emphasized by the actors' costumes, which featured jerkins with padded stomachs and large phalli. • As in tragedy, masks were worn, though exaggerated for comic effect.
Greek Comedy • With the decline of tragedy after Euripides' death in 406 BC and the defeat of Athens in 404 BC, comedy increased in popularity. • It began to evolve through the transitional Middle Comedy to the style known as New Comedy, established about 320 BC during the time of Alexander the Great. • Only fragments by one writer, Menander, survive from this period, but they indicate a swing away from mythological subjects toward a comedy of manners, concentrating as they do on the erotic adventures of young Athenians and centring on urban family life. • The new, gentler style was reflected in the use of more realistic costumes and masks and in the increasing use of scenery.
He was born in Athens in 452 BC. He had been writing since he was an adolescent but he was not allowed to participate in the contests because of his age. Therefore he participated with the alias "Detalis" and he won the first prize with "The Acharnians". He died in Aegina in 385 BC. Aristophanes
Plays • Acharnians (425 B.C.) • Knights (424 B.C.) • Clouds (423 B.C.) • Wasps (422 B.C.) • Peace (421 B.C.) • Birds (414 B.C.) • Lysistrata (411 B.C.) • WomenattheThesmophoria (411 B.C.) • Frogs (405 B.C.) • Ecclesiazusae (c. 391 B.C.) • Plutus (388 B.C.)
Menander 342-291 B.C Very little has survived from this playwright from Greece’s Late Comedy era, other than what later comedy writers such as Plautus and Terence adapted from Menander. He is said to have written more than 100 plays, but only one survives, Dyscolus, which wasn’t printed as a modern text until 1958. Produced his first play: 321 B.C. Menander’s first win (Dyscolus): 316 B.C. Number of victories by Menander: 6
Bibliography • “Ancient Greek Theatre”, Elias Karayannakos. Accessed at http://www.greektheatre.gr/ on January 27, 2007 • Arnott, Peter D. “An introduction to the Greek theatre”. London: Macmillan, 1959 • Baldock, Marion. “Greek Tragedy : An introduction”. Bristol : Bristol Classical Press, 1989. • “Greek Theatre”, Walter Englert, Reed College. Accessed at http://academic.reed.edu/humanities/110tech/Theater.html on January28, 2007 • “Greek Theatre Index”, Theater History Accessed at http://www.theatrehistory.com/ancient/greek.html on January 27, 2007 • “Introduction to Theatre : Ancient Greek Theatre”, Northern Virginia Community College. Accessed at http://novaonline.nvcc.edu/eli/spd130et/ancientgreek.htm on January 27, 2007 • “Theatre, Western." Encyclopædia Britannica. 2007. Encyclopædia Britannica Online. Accessed at http://search.eb.com/eb/article-59881 on January 27, 2007. • Whiting, Frank. “An introduction to theatre” New York :Harper & Row, Publishers 1978
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