Ancient Greek Drama
Uploaded by sh0rt1 on Aug 25, 1999
ORIGINS OF ANCIENT GREEK DRAMA
Theater was born in Attica, an Ionic region of Greece. It originated from the ceremonial orgies of Dionysos but soon enough its fields of interest spread to various myths along with historic facts. As ancient drama was an institution of Democracy, the great tragic poets Aeschylus, Sophocles, Euripides as well as the comedian Aristophanes elevated public debate and political criticism to a level of aesthetic achievement. Euripides and the ethologist Menandros, in the thriving years of Alexandria and later on during the Roman domination, reached a beau ideal level and through the Romans managed to form Western Theater, from Renascence and thereafter.
The plays were presented at festivals in honor of Dionysus, including the Great Dionysia at Athens, held in the spring the Rural Dionysia, held in the winter and the Lenaea, also held in the winter following the Rural Dionysia. The works of only three poets, selected in competition, were performed. In addition to three tragic plays (a trilogy) each poet had to present a satyr play - a farcical, often bawdy parody of the gods and their myths. Later, comedy, which developed in the mid-5th century BC, was also presented. The oldest extant comedies are by Aristophanes. They have a highly formal structure thought to be derived from ancient fertility rites. The humor consists of a mixture of satirical attacks on contemporary public figures, bawdy, scatological jokes, and seemingly sacrilegious parodies of the gods. By the 4th century BC comedy had supplanted tragedy as the dominant form.
The form of the Greek physical theater evolved over two centuries interestingly, the permanent stone theaters that survive today as ruins were not built until the 4th century BC - that is, after the classical period of playwriting. The open-air theaters may have consisted of an orchestra - a flat circular area used for choral dances-a raised stage behind it for actors, and a roughly semicircular seating area built into a hillside around the orchestra, although modern scholars debate the layout of particular theaters. These theaters held 15,000 to 20,000 spectators. As the importance of actors grew and that of the chorus diminished, the stage became higher and encroached on the orchestra space.
The actors - all men - wore theatricalized versions of everyday dress, but, most important, they wore larger-than-life masks, which aided visibility and indicated the nature of the character to the audience. In the vast...