Historical Background • 700 BCE- Greek culture begins writing • 534 BCE- The First Tragedy Play Competition
Festival Of Dionysus • The festival was held in the city of Dionysia. • It lasted for FIVE DAYS and nights. • Everyone attended. All businesses closed.
Dionysus • The festival paid tribute to Dionysus, the god of wine and fertility. • He was the son of Zeus (ruler of the gods) and Semele (a mortal woman). To protect his son from the wrath of Hera (Zeus’ wife) he took him to Mount Nysa where the mountain nymphs raised him.
THE FIRST TRAGEDY PLAY COMPETITION • The competition took place over three days, beginning on the second day of the Festival of Dionysus. At the time there were only three major playwrights, so each of them had an entire day to present their plays. • They each put on THREE TRAGEDIES and ONE SATYR PLAY. • The prize for winning the festival was a wreath of ivy.
THE FIRST TRAGEDY PLAY COMPETITION continued • Only men were allowed at the play competition. • Courts were closed. Prisoners were temporarily released. • The Greeks considered the plays and essential part of Greek education.
Satyr Plays • Satyr Plays were crude, satirical versions (satires) of Greek Tragedies. • They often made fun of heroes or myths.
Thespis • Thespis was the winner of the first tragedy play contest. • He won when he stepped out from the chorus and spoke lines by himself. He added to the Greek tragedy the ideas of a prologue spoken by one performer and lines being spoken by a character. • He is considered the first actor. That is why actors are also known as Thespians.
Evolution of Greek Theatre • A second character wasn’t added to Greek tragedies until around 500 BCE- 34 YEARS LATER!!!
The Greek Chorus • Before Thespis, all plays were performed by a Chorus, or group of men speaking the same dialogue together at the same time. • The chorus functioned much like a narrator. Often the chorus would split in half and would say lines back and forth in a dialogue (conversation) between two or more characters. • The chorus started as 50 men, but over time it was reduced to between 12-15.
Greek Chorus continued • The chorus interacted with the characters in the play, giving commentary or criticizing. • The choragus, or chorus leader, would often speak as a representative for the entire chorus in these moments.
The Greek Amphitheatre • The Greek Amphitheatre was built into the side of a hill.
The Greek Amphitheatre • They held between 15,000 and 20,000 spectators. • Here’s a little perspective: our gym holds less than 2,000 people. • The way they were built made it easier for a performer to be heard in the back rows. Because of their brilliance in design, we still use many of their ideas in building theatres and performance spaces today.
Greek Amphitheatre continued • The typical Greek amphitheatre contained a circular Orchestra and a Skene House.
Greek Amphitheatre continued • SKENE HOUSE was a permanent structure built behind the Orchestra. It had several doors/doorway which served as entrances/exits. It was the scenery for the plays. The rooms inside were used for dressing rooms, offices and storage.
Greek Play Characteristics • Greek plays usually begin with a prologue- a scene that introduces the conflict of the play. This was often spoken by a character directly to the audience. • The prologue is followed by the parados- the entrance of the chorus. • The play ended with the exodus- the final scene.
Greek Play Characteristics continued • Because the action in the play moves so quickly, offstage action is very important in Greek tragedies. • THE GREEKS MADE NO ATTEMPT TO PORTRAY VIOLENCE ONSTAGE, even though it was almost always essential to the story. • A messenger would be used to share important news of what has happened elsewhere.
Greek Masks • Greek performers also wore elaborate masks with exaggerated expressions. • They helped them show emotions and with projecting their voices to the back of the amphitheatre. • Without masks, audience members in the back would have a more difficult time understanding the play.
Protagonist & Antagonist • The main character in a literary work is called the “protagonist.” This character, who is at the center of the action, is the one with whom the audience most sympathizes. • In contrast, the character who is in conflict with the protagonist is the “antagonist.”