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Greek Theatre

Ancient Greek theatre is one of the first roots to what


present times consider theatre. It is a very special
mixture of politics, competition, emotions, passion,
mythology and talent created in order to diffuse a
message to an audience. Originating from chorus groups,
Greek drama was a way to worship Dionysus, the god of
wine, within a festival named Dionysia, where three tragic
plays competed against each other for glory. Anyone
could be part of a supporting team for one of the
performances and if they outnumbered the other two, the
team members names were written on the walls of the
theatre. This fact alone is the proof of what the ancient
society thought about theatre, this is how they
transformed it into art, the glory of seeing a recreation of
everyday life, a miniature universe captured in motion in
order to replay unique situations, a celebration of life
itself.
The shows were performed in open-air theatres which
were carved into hills in order to place the audience in a
vortex like space, concentric semi-circle rows of seats
which extended in diameter as the distance between
them and the scene grew. The attention was drawn to the
performing area as the actors could be seen from every
angle as well as heard perfectly because of the stone that
helps the sound propagate in every direction without
absorbing any of it. The stage consisted of two

components, the Orchestra, where the chorus sang and


danced, and the stage itself, where the actors performed.
Greek drama evolved from chorus performances. They
began to borrow their bodies to the souls described in
ballads so they could trap them for insignificantly little
moments in the physical reality to share their point of
view with the audience, becoming actors. They kept the
chorus as a group of twelve men who danced and sang in
order to express the communitys opinion on the situation
showed on stage. This is how politics found another way
in theatre, apart from the motives the play was based on,
as the chorus opinion could influence the actual
audiences point of view on some actual real-life matters.
The actors wore masks when performing not only due to
religious reasons, but also for the practical one: they
could easily change characters without the audience
noticing, providing a greater number of characters that
could be played within one show. Depending on the type
of play that was put on stage, the masks had different
styles. The comedy ones were rather ugly, representing
lower class characters, unlike the tragedy ones that were
very meticulously crafted as they played a very important
role within emphasizing a certain feature of the character.
The masks used in satyr performances were really
distinguishable from the rest, as they represented a
mythical beast, half man and half goat whose actions
were supposed to be considered rude, but diverting.
There were four main Playwrights, three tragidians,
Aeschylus, Sophocles, Euripides and one comedian,

Aristotle. Together, the four classics establish a new


universe in which each of them brings his own
ingredients: concepts, emotions and style, in order to
recreate society in a time-compliant dimension. What
they did lead humans to having the possibility of
reanimating little events, bits of experience, without
altering ones destiny. For example, one doesnt have to
kill his friend in order to live that experience, one can
simply borrow his physical body to a fictional entity, while
keeping part of his consciousness aware enough to
harvest that episode and store it as a memory.
Aeschylus (525/524-456/455 BC) is considered to be the
father of tragedy and the first one to bring the concept of
a trilogy to life, for example Oresteia. One of his most
famous plays is The Persians, as he was influenced by
the Persians second invasion. He commemorated his
participation at the Greek victory introducing the concept
of war, justice, social evolution and philosaphilos, murder committed not against an external
enemy but against a part of the self as the writer
explains it. As far as the theatrical techniques are
concerned, he was the first to introduce interaction with
the chorus.
Sophocles (495-406 BC) has written 123 plays from which
only 7 survived. He took part in 30 competitions from
which he won 24 and has never been ranked lower than a
second place. Oedipus the King is one of his most
famous tragedies built around the myth of Oedipus, his
fate was to kill his father and marry his mother. This play

brings the concepts of unavoidable faith, as Oedipus


fulfils the premonition without knowing it, murder, prewritten destiny, forbidden love, incest and free will to the
universe of theatre. Antigone is another important
tragedy that remained a classic for centuries, contributing
with the notions of fidelity, family love, portrayal of the
gods and civil disobedience as the story follows the
destiny of Antigone and Ismene, two sisters that are
separated by different opinions about their brothers
death. He was punished by not being buried after he was
killed in battle, a very harsh decision the new king, Creon,
took, which was not agreed by the gods. Therefore, they
choose to punish him for being too proud by putting him
through a hard to bear fate, everyone will eventually die
because of his irresponsible actions.
Euripides (480-406 BC) has written 92 plays from which
only 18 survived. He became a very important figure in
ancient literature education within the Hellenistic Age. His
work influenced drama up to modern times as he is still
considered the most tragic poet. The writer brought a
courage boost to the theatrical micro-universe as he
often shocked the more conservative audience with
concepts related to the victims of society. Medea, based
on the myth of Jason and Medea that puts the notions of
passion, love and vengeance into the spotlight, is one of
the many written proofs that Euripides was daring: he
gave freedom to a barbarian woman in a way no one did
before, to emphasize the disadvantages of being a
woman in a patriarchal society. The Trojan Women is a

tragedy influenced by the Peloponesian War as it


describes the perspectives of four women during the
ruthless times of war, their destinies being changed
completely, from high-class citizens to slaves. Concepts
such as desperation, murder, unavoidable faith, war,
royality and the impredictibility of life are wisely
combined to induce the terrible atmosphere into the
audiences mind.
Aristotle (384-322 BC) had a background in philosophy
and science, which had a major influence upon his work.
He believed the peoples concepts and knowledge are
based on subjective perception. That is why two persons
can not live the exact same experience. He was the
greatest theatre critic of his times. He considered
Oedipus the King the best tragedy of his era because it
managed to blend all the elements a play needs:
elegance of language, the perfect balance between the
chorus and the actors, the irony of the situations and the
mythological background.