The History Of Greek Theater
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The History Of Greek Theater
Theater and drama in Ancient Greece took form in about 5th century BCE, with the Sopocles, the great writer of tragedy. In his plays and those of the same genre, heroes and the ideals of life were
depicted and glorified. It was believed that man should live for honor and fame, his action was courageous and glorious and his life would climax in a great and noble death.
Originally, the hero’s recognition was created by selfish behaviors and little thought of service to others. As the Greeks grew toward city-states and colonization, it became the destiny and
ambition of the hero to gain honor by serving his city. The second major characteristic of the early Greek world was the supernatural. The two worlds were not separate, as the gods lived in the same world
as the men, and they interfered in the men’s lives as they chose to. It was the gods who sent suffering and evil to men. In the plays of Sophocles, the gods brought about the hero’s downfall because of a
tragic flaw in the character of the hero.
In Greek tragedy, suffering brought knowledge of worldly matters and of the individual. Aristotle attempted to explain how an audience could observe tragic events and still have a pleasurable
experience. Aristotle, by searching the works of writers of Greek tragedy, Aeschulus, Euripides and Sophocles (whose Oedipus Rex he considered the finest of all Greek tragedies), arrived at his
definition of tragedy. This explanation has a profound influence for more than twenty centuries on those writing tragedies, most significantly Shakespeare. Aristotle’s analysis of tragedy began with
a description of the effect such a work had on the audience as a “catharsis” or purging of the emotions. He decided that catharsis was the purging of two specific emotions, pity and fear. The hero has
made a mistake due to ignorance, not because of wickedness or corruption. Aristotle used the word “hamartia”, which is the “tragic flaw” or offense committed in ignorance. For example, Oedipus is
ignorant of his true parentage when he commits his fatal deed. Oedipus Rex is one of the stories in a three-part myth called the Thebian cycle. The structure of most all Greek tragedies is similar to Oedipus Rex. Such plays are divided in to five parts, the prologue or introduction, the “prados” or entrance of the chorus, four episode or acts separates from one another by “stasimons” or choral odes, and “exodos”, the action after the last stasimon. These odes are lyric poetry, lines chanted or sung as the chorus moved rhythmically
across the orchestra. The lines that accompanied the movement of the chorus in one direction were called “strophe”, the return movement was accompanied by lines called “antistrophe”. The choral ode might contain more than one strophe or antistrophe.
Greek tragedy originated in honor of the god of wine, Dionysus, the patron god of tragedy. The performance took place in an open-air theater. The word tragedy is derived from the term
“tragedia” or “goat-song”, named for the goat skins the chorus wore in the performance. The plots came from legends of the Heroic Age. Tragedy grew from a choral lyric, as Aristotle said, tragedy is
largely based on life’s pity and splendor.
Plays were performed at dramatic festivals, the two main ones being the Feast of the Winepress in January and the City Dionysia at the end of March. The Proceeding began with the procession of choruses
and actors of the three competing poets. A herald then announced the poet’s names and the titles of their plays. On this day it was likely that the image of Dionysus was taken in a procession from his temple
beside the theater to a point near the road he had once taken to reach Athens from the north, then it was brought back by torch light, amid a carnival celebration, to the theater itself, where his priest occupied
the central seat of honor during the performances. On the first day of the festival there were contests between the choruses, five of men and five of boys. Each chorus consisted of fifty men or boys. On the next three days, a “tragic tetralogy” (group made up of four pieces, a trilogy followed by a satyric drama)
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Ancient Greek theatre, Tragedy, Greek tragedy, Theatre of ancient Greece, Sophocles, Aeschylus, Theatre, Euripides, Greek chorus, Satyr play, Oedipus the King, Dionysia
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