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Greek Theatre

Humanities I Mrs. Cave-Mattie

The Roots of Drama


Ancient Rituals

(Google Images)

Drama is a Greek word meaning to do or to act. Drama is rooted in sacred ritual. It has been built on traditions that are up to 2500 years old. The earliest forms of civilization acted out activities that were important to them before engaging in them. They believed that this form of drama would grant them success in meeting their real needs. They felt that by imitating the intended act, they would increase their chances of success in the act. Many plays were performed by these people to teach the young boys about the rituals they would soon partake in (hunting, fishing, war, etc.).

Since most people were not able to read, religious plays were performed to teach important religious beliefs that the particular culture held in highest esteem.

Can you think of how individuals in todays society might do the same thing? Are religious plays performed in our society?

(History of Theatre)

Ancient Festival

(Theater Animations)

Many cultures made use of choral hymns and dances in their worship. This practice parallels what we commonly see in musicals that are performed in todays society. Classical forms of tragedy and comedy are said to have sprung from these folk celebrations. Todays drama is the direct descendant of primitive ritual, teaching ceremony and ancient festival. Isnt it interesting how although so much has changed, so much has also remained the same?

Do you think this will be true 100 years from now?

(History of Theatre)

Greek Theatre

The Classic, or Golden Age of Greece (500-400 BC) brought about the greatest tragedies of all time. The legacy of Greek Theatre has never been surpassedeven to this day. Greek drama has its roots in Greek religion. Celebrations were held in honor of the god of wine and fertility, Dionysus. During these celebrations, dancers would chant around the altar. This chanting evolved into Greek Tragedy, and the dancers became known as the chorus. Tragedy competitions were held in Athens each spring between many playwrights. By the 5th century, BC, a man named Thespis of Attica invented acting by designating one member of the chorus to stand out from the chorus and respond to them. This is why actors are often called Thespians.
(History of Theatre)

Statues of Greek actors


(Google Images)

Greek Theatre

Special practices of drama are called conventions and are based upon the traditions and customs of that particular time period. Greek Conventions: Chorus Plays were performed outdoors Acting area was called the orchestra The Greek Chorus Theatres sat up to 17,000 people Actors wore thick shoes to appear taller (Google Images) Only three actors played all major roles Long speeches were the rule, rather than quick exchanges of dialogue Speeches were delivered more to the audience than other characters, taking away even more of the realism we expect today Rule: ALL VIOLENCE MUST TAKE PLACE OFFSTAGE. Acts of violence must be out of sight by the audience. Usually a messenger or other character would enter and tell about the murder, suicide, or whatever had happened. Masks were constructed so that the mouthpiece amplified the actors voice Plays were based on myths and legends that the audience already knew about. The audience usually knew in advance how each play would end. This allowed the audience to concentrate on appreciating the poetry of the speeches, the skill of the actors presentations, and the spectacle of masks, costumes, and movements of the chorus.
(History of Theatre)

Greek Playwrights

Aeschylus (525-456 BC)


Often called the Father of Tragedy Plays dealt with the interaction between gods and men, with emphasis on the inevitability of suffering. Known for his Orestia trilogy Sophocles (496-406 BC) Responsible for the addition of the third actor on stage He wrote over one hundred plays He won the City Dionysia prize 18 times Only seven of this plays have survived Sophocles Known for Oedipus Rex (Google Images) Euripedes (480-406 BC) Youngest, most modern, and least popular of the three great writers of tragedy. Emphasized psychological motivation and social consciousness Appealed to the emotions by including in his plays a look at the small details of the daily lives of his characters
Aeschylus wrote about gods, Sophocles wrote about heroes, and Euripedes wrote about men.
(History of Theatre)

Greek Playwrights

Aristophanes (448380 BC)

The eleven surviving plays are the only examples we have of what is called Old Comedy. Wrote very funny and popular social satire He poked fun at public figures such as Socrates and Euripedes. He was not above having the gods come out second best in plays. Menander (342-291 BC) He is known for New Comedy. The only surviving work of this style was written by Menander He wrote comedies dealing with daily life and domestic situations His plays featured characters such as clever servants, protective fathers, and young loverstypes who have been standards in the comic theatre ever since.
(History of Theatre)

Aristophanes
(Google Images)