Notes on Classical Greek Drama Directions: Review the following. The third era of ancient Greek history was called the Hellenistic Age when the Greek language and culture spread throughout the Mediterranean world. Typically, historians start the Hellenistic Age with the death of Alexander, whose empire spread from India to Africa, in 323 B.C.E. It follows the Classical Age (The Golden Age of Pericles) and precedes the incorporation of the Greek empire within the Roman empire in 146 B.C. Greek Drama Background and Information 1. Parts of a Greek Theater (physical) a. Theatron - the viewing place; the semi-circular seating area b. Orchestra - the circular space used by the chorus c. Parada/Parados - the corridors/aisles through which the chorus entered the orchestra d. Skene - the building that served as the backdrop for the dramas performed; it also served as a place to change and store costumes e. Proskenion (proscenium) - Two pillars on either side of the stage that would rotate to change scenery. At times wooden sets that were attached to the skene providing different backgrounds for the actions of the plays. f. Paraskena - projecting side-wings attached to the skene g. Altar (thymelê) - a raised structure located in the orchestra where offerings and prayers were made to Dionysus. The platform in the orchestra, next to the altar of Dionysus, both platform and altar referred to as the thymelê; it is suggested that the leader of the chorus used the thymelê: as a platform during dialogues between the chorus leader (koryphaios) and the chorus. h. Scenery? - not really just proskenion i. Eccyclema - a revolving platform or low rolling platform used to show an event which occurred off stage j. Deus Ex Machina - literally “god from the machine”. This is the term for a play’s conflict being solved by a supernatural power. This is considered a poor way to resolve a play. It has come to also be used synonymously with the aeorema a mechanical device that permitted an actor playing a god to float out over the skene; in Latin, it means “god out of a machine” k. Aeorema – a crane that lifted the “gods” from the scene onto the theologion. “Gods” would often appear at the end of a play to resolve the conflict. l. Amphitheater - an oval or circular building with rising tiers of seats ranged about an open space; an auditorium; The Greek amphitheater was an outdoor theater, usually with audience seating on a hillside and the staging area at the base. 2. The Birth of Western Theater (Theatre - British), The Origin of Tragedy a. Religious festivals in honor of Dionysus - drama developed from fertility rites performed for the god Dionysus. In early festivals, his worshippers would dance and sing themselves into a frenzy in order to lose their own identities and merge with the nature of the god, Dionysius’ companion was Pan. He was the god of forest and woodlands. Pan played a type of flute he called the syrinx or panpipes. The music he produced was said to produce either extreme ecstasy or extreme fear/panic. Because trembling often accompanied either condition, seizures were also attributed to Pan. Greek drama was financed in part by the city, in part by patrons. i. Archon - a high-ranking official of the city, decided which plays would be performed in competition and which citizens would act as chorēgoi and have the honor of funding their production while the state paid the poet and lead actors. Each selected poet would submit three tragedies and one satyr play, a type of short parody performance on a theme from mythology with a chorus of satyrs, the wild followers of Dionysos. The plays were judged on the day by a panel, and the prize for the winner of such competitions, besides honor and prestige, was often a bronze tripod cauldron. From 449 BCE there were also prizes for the leading actors (prōtagōnistēs). ii. Concessions - were important, even in Greek theater. The audience brought food to eat while the play was in progress. Vendors roamed the crowds selling refreshments. iii. Admission - to the theater was, at first, free. Later, a ticket was required. Price of admission was two obels, about 25 cents. b. City of Dionysia (Spring - M arch) - Greek religious festival held in honor of the god Dionysus. c. Dithyrambs -a Greek choral song or chant of vehement or wild character and of usually irregular form, originally in honor of Dionysus or Bacchus. any poem or other composition having similar characteristics, as an impassioned or exalted theme or irregular form. any wildly enthusiastic speech or writing. d. Chorus began as 50 or more men from the town - the dancers and singers who comment on the action in a Greek drama. Chorus of 12 -15 men - Sophocles fixed the number of men in the chorus at 15. e. Choragus - the chorus leader f. Dialogue - a conversation between two or more characters vs. Monologue - a long speech by one person or character g. Playwrights (and their contributions) - a person who writes plays (literally, one who constructs plays) i. Thespis (6th Century B.C.E.) - the first playwright; he is credited with introducing the first actor; Thespis began to write down these songs from the Bacchanalian Festivals (Fête bacchanals) and revised them so that they would tell a story. “Father of Drama” ii. iii. (thespian) - pertaining to drama or acting Aeschylus (c. 525 - c. 456 BCE) - 2nd actor introduced - was one of the great writers of Greek Tragedy in 5th century BCE Classical Athens. Known as the “Father of Tragedy”, the playwright wrote up to 90 plays, winning with half of them at the great Athenian festivals of Greek drama. Perhaps his most famous work is Prometheus Bound which tells the myth of the Titan punished by Zeus for giving humanity the gift of fire. All of his surviving plays are still performed today in theatres across the world. An innovator of the genre, Aeschylus is said to have described his work as 'morsels from the feast of Homer'. An innovative playwright, Aeschylus was, according to Aristotle, responsible for adding a second actor for minor parts and, by including more dialogue into his plays, he squeezed more drama from the age-old stories so familiar to his audience. Aeschylus is also credited as the first to use the ekkyklema, a wheeled platform used to change stage scenery, and the mechane, a crane device used to lift actors. He was also noted for his extravagant costume designs and the use of striking imagery. (Tetralogy = trilogy of tragedies + one satyr play (comedy). Sophocles (c. 496 - c. 406 BCE) - 3rd actor introduced + painted scenery - was one of the most famous and celebrated writers of tragedy plays in ancient Greece and his surviving works, written throughout the 5th century BCE, including such classics as Oedipus the King, Antigone, and Women of Trachis. As with other Greek plays, Sophocles’ work is not only a record of Greek theatre but also provides an invaluable insight into many of the political and social aspects of ancient Greece, from family relations to details of Greek religion. In addition, Sophocles’ innovations in theatre presentation would provide the foundations for all future western dramatic performances, and his plays continue to be performed today in theatres around the world. Sophocles won at least 20 festival competitions, including 18 at the City Dionysia. He also came second many times and never had the ignominy of being voted third and last in competitions. Sophocles was, therefore, at least in terms of victories, the most successful of the three great tragedians. Outside of theatre life, Sophocles was also an active member of the Athenian polis. He was a state treasurer ( hellenotamiai) between 443 and 442 BCE and a general (alongside Pericles) involved with putting down the revolt on Samos in c. 441 BCE. Tremendously popular in his own time, Sophocles was also an innovative playwright, as he added a third actor to the tragedy play format and was the first to employ painted scenery (to suggest a rural scene, for example), sometimes even changing scenery during the play. The use of three actors (playing multiple roles and wearing masks) was a major breakthrough as now much more iv. v. sophisticated plots became possible. Sophocles, therefore, stands between the earlier Aeschylus and the later Euripides. Sophocles was more interested in realistic action than his predecessors but kept the chorus segment (a group of up to 15 actors who sang rather than spoke their lines) as a more participatory cast member than his successors. For Sophocles the chorus became both a protagonist and a commentator on the events of the play, creating a closer relationship with the audience. Euripides (c. 484-407 BCE) - was one of the greatest authors of Greek tragedy. In the 5th century, BCE Athens his classic works such as Medea cemented his reputation for clever dialogues, fine choral lyrics, and a dash of gritty realism in both his text and stage presentations. EURIPIDES WAS CREDITED WITH BEING ON AN INTELLECTUAL PAR WITH PHILOSOPHERS AND HIS CHARACTERS ARE GIVEN GREAT RHETORICAL SKILLS. The writer of some 90 plays, Euripides was also famous for posing awkward questions, unsettling his audience with a thought-provoking treatment of common themes, and spicing up the story with thoroughly immoral characters. This is probably why Euripides won only a few festival competitions compared to his great tragedian rivals Aeschylus and Sophocles, although he was tremendously popular with the public. The popularity of Euripides' work has never diminished and his plays continue to be performed in theatres today. (Modern temperament - less reverent to the gods) Euripides managed to appeal through the presentation of universal themes of relevance to his audience, themes such as justice versus revenge, the rule of law against the will of the gods, and the struggle between reason and passion. The characters in Greek tragedy were usually society's elite and the story often dealt with matters of state, however, Euripides gave prominent roles to intelligent female characters and included significant parts for more ordinary citizens in his works. This is reflected in a comment attributed to him by Aristophanes in his comedy play Frogs: "I made tragedy more democratic". Euripides also removed the previously prominent roles of Greek gods and generally restricted their appearance to only the beginning or end of his plays. Aristophanes - was the most famous writer of Old Comedy plays in ancient Greece and his surviving works are the only examples of that style. His innovative and sometimes rough comedy could also hide more sophisticated digs at the political elite and deal with social issues such as cultural change and the role of women in society. Indeed, the plays of Aristophanes are not only a record of Greek theatre but also provide an invaluable insight into many of the political and social aspects of ancient Greece, from the practicalities of jury service to details of religious rituals in major festivals. Plato presents a fictional gathering of historical characters in his Symposium, but Aristophanes was still well known at the time of its creation (380s BCE) and, therefore, we may assume that the portrayal of Aristophanes reflected this fact and was recognizably accurate. The poet is presented as a rather amiable chap, sociable, and someone who ‘divides his time between Aphrodite and Dionysus’, i.e. likes women, boys, and wine. That Plato was disposed to Aristophanes is evidenced in the positive tones of the epitaph he later wrote for the great poet. Plato did, however, in his Apology, blame the poet for fuelling a public distrust of Socrates. ( The Birds, The Frogs, and The Clouds) 3. Actors and Acting a. Hypocrites - what the Greeks called the actors b. Actors and Playwrights were often the same people c. Only three actors i. Protagonist - the first actor/character, the main character, the hero ii. Deuteragonist - the second actor - you could now have a conflict iii. Tritagonist - the third actor d. Costumes and masks - Extremely stylized. A mask enabled an actor to hide his own identity and take on that of another, namely the character he was playing, by giving him a new face. But putting on a mask or donning a face was not really a negative act of concealment but more really a positive act of becoming. Masks are worn by the chorus also gave the members of the chorus a group identity, especially if their masks were similar or all the same. In the large Ancient Greek theatres, most of the audience could not see the expressions on the real faces of the actors or chorus. Masks enlarged the images of a facial expression allowing the audience to see grief, joy, and/or any other feeling or emotion the poet or playwright was trying to express. Masks identified and distinguished the good characters from the bad, the tragic characters from the comic ones. Ancient Greek theatre used a standard set of masks with conventional expressions on them, such that the moment the audience saw a character on stage wearing one those masks, they knew exactly what standard character that actor was trying to portray. Long flowing robes - colors symbolic. High platform boots were used. A mask was at the center or heart of imitation, the very core of Ancient Greek theatre. [Ugliness, in the Greek mind, was equivalent to badness.] Some have argued that the shape of the mask amplified the actor's voice, like a megaphone, making it easier for the audience to hear the words and lines he was speaking. Others, after testing this theory, have argued that this did not hold up but rather that it was the tone of the voice of the actor which the mask changed rather than its loudness. A mask forced the actor to become clearer in his diction. 4. Chorus (choragus) a. Music & Dance i. Ode - Patterned after the movements of the chorus in Greek drama, the ode was set up in three acts: the strophe, the antistrophe, and the epode. The strophe told one side of a story, while the antistrophe conveyed its counterpart. These elements were originally poetic pieces performed with musical accompaniment. ii. Paean - a song of praise or exaltation to a god or gods; it often includes a request for help as well b. Functions - First, the chorus sang and danced during the interludes between the actor’s dialogue. Next, the chorus carried out the dramatic functions listed below. The ritualistic dancing and sing of the chorus was the center of early Dionysian festivals until about 534 B.C.E. The Greek chorus continued to play an important role in classical Greek drama, especially in tragedy; however, as the role of the actors in tragedy increased, the role of the chorus diminished in importance. Ranging in number from 50 in the time of Thespis to 15 in later classical Greek drama, the chorus consisted of Athenian citizens and were not professional actors. They function, scholars have suggested variously: ● to offer a sense of rich spectacle to the drama; ● to provide time for scene & costume changes and give the principal actors a break and announced the entrance and exit of characters; ● to offer important background and summary information that facilitates an audience's ability to follow the live performance by recounting and interpreting history or past events; ● to offer commentary about and underline main themes animating the action, and ● to model an ideal audience. “Ideal spectator,” response to the unfolding drama. The chorus embodied the moral ideals of society and often admonished the characters against breaking these moral laws. c. Evolution - early on there were many singers and dancers (with women), 50, 12-15 5. Greek Tragedy Concept and Terms: a. Hamartia "Creon is not your downfall, no, you are your own." -- Tiresias, Oedipus Rex i. The most common definition of tragic hamartia is "tragic flaw", but we need to be careful with this term and understand what the Greeks meant by "flaw" and how it relates to a broadly defined sense of "fate": Through hamartia, the tragic hero visits his own fate upon him or herself. In this way, "fate" is transformed from some metaphysical concept -- "the will of the gods," "the divine order of the cosmos" etc. -- to one in which we see our fates as tied to inherent elements of ourselves, of our psyches, our own personal characteristics, that ordain our destinies. ii. To put it in a simplistic way, hamartia means "no matter where you go, there you are"; you cannot escape your own personality; there are elements of ourselves from which we simply cannot escape, and, for the Greeks, these elements are "inherited" and will sometimes determine the course of our lives. iii. This suggests we might see hamartia as "layered", like an onion: on the surface, fate seems beyond one's control and "the will of the gods", but dig deeper and we find we will our own fates through our own personalities and character traits, but dig deeper still and we find our character traits were in turn formed largely by luck or inherited via the choices others made: you did not choose your parents; you did not choose your DNA; you did not choose what continent you were born on or in what century you found yourself.... You did not choose your skin color or how others perceive that color; you did not choose to be born, say, to a parent who would be killed in war or to be born to one who inherited tens of millions of dollars and sent you to the best private schools... In short, fate determines your character, and your character then determines your fate. b. Hubris - Excessive, arrogant PRIDE, especially in attempting to go outside or beyond human knowledge, action, or capacity. Often, hubris is a direct violation of the will of the gods. At this point, you've probably guessed the close link between hamartia and hubris, for what makes us great often leads to our own downfall when it is excessive. Y outhful passion is a good thing until it's excessive, and then it can destroy Romeo and Juliet. So too Oedipus' intelligence and obsession with justice and finding the truth -- these are good qualities and they make him a good king, but too much of a good thing is going to lead to some mighty bad stuff. Remember that these plays are likely, loosely based around actual, historical figures, so in many ways, they are an artistic representation of reality. In our culture, these same "tragedies" play out nearly identically in the media's treatment of, say, Whitney Houston, Amy Winehouse, Heath Ledger, Kurt Cobain, Marilyn Monroe, etc. c. Peripeteia - The Ironic Reversal - Tragic irony is also expressed in the nature of the hero's fall, as well, and how his fate is ironically reversed. Often, the hero discovers he is exactly the opposite of what he has tried so hard to be, or moral choices (or conflict between competing moral values or impulses) have led him toward immoral behavior; note how these relate to hubris: how our downfall is related to an excess of a quality that is normally beneficial. d. Anagnorisis - i s a moment in a plot or story, specifically a tragedy, wherein the main character either recognizes or identifies his/her true nature, recognizes the other character’s true identity, discovers the true nature of his situation, or that of the others (the “ah-ha” moment) – leading to the resolution of the story. Aristotle discussed anagnorisis in his Poetics in detail. He defines it as “a change [that] occurs from ignorance to knowledge, creating love or hate between the individuals doomed by the poet for bad or good fortune.” Simply, it is a startling discovery, which brings a change from ignorance to knowledge. EXAMPLE: In “Oedipus Rex,” anagnorisis occurs when a messenger comes and reveals to King Oedipus his true birth. Oedipus then recognizes his queen, Jocasta, as his real mother, and the man whom he has killed at crossroads as his real father, as well as himself as an unnatural sinner, who has caused the disaster in the city of Thebes. Oedipus’ recognition is artistically satisfying, as peripeteia (reversal of fortune) accompanies it. Here peripeteia is a reversal of fortune from good to bad, moving to a tragic catastrophe. e. Catharsis - the purging of emotions such as pity or fear. Greek tragedian expects the audience (i.e. ourselves) to respond with a sense of pity, relief, and a sense of divine justice. (Glad that it wasn’t us) f. Allusion - a reference to a historical or literary figure or event. It may allude (refer) to myth, religion, or to any other aspect of ancient or modern culture. 6. Structure of Greek Plays a. Prologue - a speech often in verse, at the beginning of the play, that is addressed to the audience; any preface or introduction to a literary work; An opening dialogue presenting the tragedy's topic that took place before the entry of the chorus. b. Parados - the first song sung by the chorus in a Greek tragedy; The entry chant or song of the chorus, often in an anapestic (short-short-long) marching rhythm or meter of four feet per line. (A "foot" in poetry contains one stressed syllable and at least one unstressed syllable.) Following the parode, the chorus typically remains onstage throughout the remainder of the play. The parode and other choral odes usually involve the following parts, repeated in order several times: c. First Episode - There are several episodes in which actors interact with the chorus. Episodes are typically sung or chanted. Each episode ends with a stasimon. d. First Stasimon (choral ode) - A choral ode in which the chorus may react to the preceding episode. i. Strophe - (Turn) : A stanza in which the chorus moves in one direction (toward the altar). ii. Antistrophe - (Counter-Turn): The following stanza, in which it moves in the opposite direction. The antistrophe is in the same meter as the strophe. e. Second through ??? Stasimon f. Exodos Gr. (Exodus) - the closing choral song in a Greek drama; the exit song of the chorus after the last episode. 7. General Analysis of information: a. Aristotle’s Dramatic Unities from Poetics i. Unity of Time - the action of the play occurs within a 24 hour period ii. Unity of Place - the action of the play takes place within the same area/setting iii. Unity of Action (Plot) - one plot-line; all events contribute to the final effect (example: nothing is funny in the tragic play) b. Elements of Tragedy i. Tragedies are based on stories and heroes of Greek mythology. Because of the religious and civic nature of the festival of Dionysus, they are required to be ii. iii. c. d. e. f. g. h. i. j. k. l. m. n. morally instructive as well as entertaining. Tragedies are not just sad stories of unhappy people; rather, they are complex studies of the nature of human beings in conflict with themselves, another, society, and the gods. iv. Tragedies depict high-born persons who, because of some tragic flaw or shortcomings in their personalities, make a mistake which brings about misery, loss of moral dignity, great sorrow, and suffering. Protagonist Antagonist - the character(s) or force that opposes the main character/ hero in a Greek drama Conflict Climax - The narrative element that is the turning point of the play; once done there is no turning back. Catastrophe - Catastrophe is a final resolution that appears in a narrative plot or a long poem. It unravels the mystery or intrigue, and brings the story toward a logical end. In a tragedy, it could be the death of a protagonist or other character. Tragedy (elements of tragedy - Aristotle - Poetics) - a serious drama typically describing a conflict between the protagonist and a superior force and having a sorrowful or disastrous conclusion that excites pity or terror Tragic hero Tragic flaw Men play the roles Actors wore masks and elevated shoes Performances were outdoors during the day Drama: a play; a literary composition meant to be acted out Works Cited Cartwright, Mark. "Ancient Greek Theatre." Ancient History Encyclopedia. Ancient History Encyclopedia, 14 Jul 2016. www.ancient.eu/Greek_Theatre/ Web. 30 Oct 2018.