NOTES - Crestwood Local Schools

Athens, Sophocles, and the
Greek Theater
Athens of Classical Greece
I. Brief Historic Overview
A. Self-governing city-state (polis)
B. During the 5th Century B.C., Athens was
the richest and most advanced of all citystates
C. Great wealth led to the support and
promotion of arts and entertainment,
especially the Festival of Dionysus, where
Sophocles produced his tragedies
Athens of Classical Greece
Lack of farmland
led to frequent
battles with
neighboring citystates; by end of 5th
century B.C., Sparta
had starved Athens
into submission and
Athenian Power
II. Importance and Emphasis of the Arts
A. Public Unity The theatrical
experience was
an all encompassing public
Attending the
theater was
social, political,
and religious.
II. Importance and Emphasis of the Arts
A. Public Unity (Cont’d) - Ancient Greek myth—the
theme of most dramatic tragedies—touched the
individual and the universal heart and drew the
audience together, especially in times of hardship.
II. Importance and Emphasis of the Arts
B. Sacred Art Dramatic tradition
began as choral
celebrations to
Dionysus (Roman
god Bacchus), god
of wine, pleasure,
and fertility
II. Importance and Emphasis of the Arts
C. Civic Duty - Because the
Festival of Dionysus
served as a ritual to
honor the god,
attending the theater
was a religious duty and
responsibility of all
pious citizens.
Sophocles (496-406 B.C.)
Although information about the
Greek playwright Sophocles is vague
and incomplete, there are some
important details about his life that
remain. He is considered one of the
most influential writers upon
Western culture and one of the most
tragic playwrights of all time.
Sophocles lived during the Classical
Period (500 to 400 B.C.), a time of
important transition for Greece, when
political and cultural events
were changing and shaping the
Athenian culture.
Sophocles (496-406 B.C.)
I. Early Years and Education
A. Birth - Born about 496 B.C.
at Colonus near Athens, Greece.
B. Family - His father was a
wealthy weapons-maker and a
leading citizen, which prepared
the way for Sophocles to play
an important role in Athenian
Sophocles (496-406 B.C.)
I. Early Years and Education
C. Education Sophocles studied
poetry, music, dancing,
and gymnastics-all
of which were
considered to form a
education for citizens.
Sophocles (496-406 B.C.)
I. Early Years and Education
D. Awards - By age
15, he won the
honor of leading the
boys' chorus in the
victory paean
celebrating the
Athenian naval
victory over the
Persians at Salamis
in 480.
Sophocles (496-406 B.C.)
I. Early Years and Education
E. Influences - Sophocles read and
studied the ancient traditions and
first epic poetry of Greece, written
by Homer.
F. Teacher - Studied under the
Greek playwright Aeschylus
Sophocles (496-406 B.C.)
II. Adult Years and Public Service
A. Served as a
diplomat, a general,
and as a priest of
Alscepius, a
minor god of
C. Won first prize
for dramatic writing
at the Festival of
18 times
B. In 443 B.C., the great
Athenian leader Pericles
chose Sophocles to be
treasurer of the Delian
Sophocles (496-406 B.C.)
III. Contributions to Literature and Drama
A. Wrote over 120
B. Credited for
pioneering the
use of on-stage
scene paintings
Sophocles (496-406 B.C.)
III. Contributions to Literature and Drama
C. Created more
complexity in drama by
adding a third actor to
the traditional pair;
increased the Greek
chorus from twelve to
fifteen, and began to
integrate chorus into
the action.
Sophocles (496-406 B.C.)
III. Contributions to Literature and Drama
D. Aristotle, Greek philosopher, said,
“The purpose of tragedy is to
arouse pity and fear in the
audience, and so create a
catharsis, or cleansing of
emotions—that will enlighten
people about life and fate.”
Sophocles' entire Oedipus Trilogy
achieves catharsis!
E. Oedipus Rex (Oedipus the King)
(430 B.C.) is regarded as his
The Greek Theater
I. History
A. Began when writer
Thespis separated one man
from the chorus and gave
individual lines to speak
B. In 534 B.C., Thespis
produced the first tragedy at
the Festival of Dinoysus
in an
of up to
The Greek Theater
II. Performance
B. Staqe:
Bare floor
behind it
The Greek Theater
II. Performance
C. Costume: Actors wore long robes with masks that
depicted their characters; they also often wore cothurni,
platformed shoes, to give the illusion of great height
when playing the parts of gods, goddesses, and mythical
The Greek Theater
II. Performance
ISMENE: And what life is dear to me, bereft of thee?
ANTIGONE: Ask Creon; all thy care is for him.
ISMENE: Why vex me thus, when it avails thee nought?
ANTIGONE: Indeed, if I mock, 'tis with pain that I mock thee.
ISMENE: Tell me,—how can I serve thee, even now?
ANTIGONE: Save thyself: I grudge not thy escape.
ISMENE: Ah, woe is me! And shall I have no share in thy fate?
D. Declamatory script: Because over-sized costumes
made movement difficult, the script relied heavily
upon the actor's dramatic delivery of lines, which is
seen in lengthy monologues and stichomythic dialogue
between two debating characters.
The Structure of the Greek Drama
Historians believe that the structure of
the Greek tragedy influenced the
eventual division of a play into acts and
scenes. Given the study of Greek and
Roman manuscripts, it is reasonable to
assume that this is
The Structure of the Greek Drama
The Greek tragedy is divided into five distinct sections:
1. The Prologos (Prologue) - The opening portion of the
play, which sets the scene and contains the exposition
(introduces the theme and main characters)
2. The Parados - The entrance song of the chorus,
named after the broad aisles on either side of the
theater and in front of the orchestra along which the
chorus entered or exited.
3. The Episodes (Scenes) The scenes in the action of the
drama performed by the actors. The episodes alternate
with and are distinguished from the stasimons, which
are performed by the chorus.
The Structure of the Greek Drama
4. The Stasimons (Odes)- A choral passage (ode)
alternating with the episodes of the plot. The odes
(lyrical poems) use exalted and dignified language
created for the choral passages. The chorus often sang
and danced the tragic odes, accompanied by musical
instruments (usually flute and harp). The tragic ode
consisted of strophes and antistrophes, essentially
stanzas of the poems.
5. Exodos (Epilogue) - The concluding section of the
tragedy. The exodus ends with the chorus singing their
final lines as they exit.
The Structure of the Greek Drama
The Chorus
The chorus of the Greek tragedy served several purposes:
1.Created odes, which contained music and dancing
2.Introduced and questioned new characters
3. Pointed out significant events
4. Established facts
5. Affirmed society's outlook and expressed societal
attitude toward developments in the story
6. Covered passages of time between events
7. Separated the Scenes (Episodes)
Create a collage, Voice Thread, Prezi, video, or
PowerPoint describing your “life’s quest” and
addressing the following:
 Who are you? Where do you come from? What
makes YOU you?
 What is your purpose in life?
 Where do you hope to go in life? What is your
 What are some of the potential roadblocks or
dangers to getting there?
 What universal question(s) are you seeking to
answer at this point in life?
Include photos, clip art, objects, etc. that help
represent who you are and your life’s quest.
How to Begin…
You might consider beginning your
“quest” by writing a “Where I’m From”
poem, or revisiting this poem if you
wrote one earlier in high school.
After visiting where you are from (Who
Am I?), you might consider a similar
poem/template for where you are going
(What is my quest?)
A template and a link to examples,
Where I'm From Poem Template
(For samples, see:
I am from _______ (specific ordinary
item), from _______ (product name)
and _______.
I am from the _______ (home
description... adjective, adjective,
sensory detail).
I am from the _______ (plant, flower,
natural item), the _______ (plant,
flower, natural detail)
I am from _______ (family tradition) and _______ (family trait),
from _______ (name of family member) and _______ (another
family name) and _______ (family name).
I am from the _______ (description of family tendency) and
_______ (another one).
From _______ (something you were told as a child) and
_______ (another).
I am from (representation of religion, or lack of it). Further
I'm from _______ (place of birth and family ancestry), _______
(two food items representing your family).
From the _______ (specific family story about a specific person
and detail), the _______ (another detail, and the _______
(another detail about another family member).
I am from _______ (location of family pictures, mementos,
archives and several more lines indicating their worth).
Where I’m Going Poem Template
My quest is _____ (an accomplishment
you hope to achieve) because I believe in
_____ (name a value you hold). My
dream is_____(name another hope you
have) because I believe _t ___ (name
another value).
I wish for _____
I hope for _____
I am going to _____ (repeat one of the
accomplishment you hope to achieve, or
list a new one) because _____
Laius & Jocasta
Polybus & Merope
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