Greek and Roman Theater “Drama…an imitation of action not the action itself.” -Aristotle
The role of “drama” in the ancient Greek culture was a specific one: it played a significant part in the religious rites of the period.
Thank you to Lycurgus who, aside from giving us that great name which I will probably give to my first born son, also established a library in 330BC, which was the only way in which we have any record of any of these early Greek works. While the Greeks were great at writing plays, they were not so great at keeping them for future reading, most of the early great works were lost. How do we know about the Greeks?
Thespis, was the earliest recorded theater practitioner. He was the first recorded winner of the competition for the performance of tragic plays. It is unclear whether he was an actor, a playwright, a priest, or all or some of these. I am a “Thespian” His name lives on in the word “Thespian,” which is the name for someone who practices the art of the theater.
DIAGRAM OF AN ANCIENT GREEK THEATER SPACE You might wish to copy this down, this looks strikingly similar to the diagram that you will be drawing and labeling on the test. Only if you want…I don’t want to bother you…
Orchestra: a circular area with an altar in the center where the performances took place Skene: A building behind everything in which the actors changed costumes The Ancient Greek Theatre Space Proskenion: a raised platform that supported a small stage. AMC FULLERTON MOVIE TIMES WEDDING CRASHERS 2:00 4:15 6:45 7:05 8:45 10:00 WAR OF THE WORLDS 3:30 5:45 7:00 8:15 9:45 10:30 BEWITCHED 2:45 4:00 5:15 7:00 8:30 9:30 THE RED TIMES ARE ON THE “CLASSIC SIDE” THE YELLOW TIMES ARE ON THE “STADIUM-SEATING SIDE” Audience: Usually the theatre spaces were built into hillsides and the seating was arranged in a large semi- circle
Eccyclema: a platform on wheels used to display the effects of violence within a play Periaktos: Triangle prisms which could be pivoted to reveal three different backgrounds The Ancient Greek Theatre Space Deus ex Machina: (god from the machine) a crane-like machine that was used to lower an actor, playing the part of god, onto the stage in order to fix the problems at hand
THE CHORUS a group of actors onstage who often spoke in unison to prepare the audience for what is about to happen or what has just taken place
The mask was designed to be oversized in order to better convey the expressed emotion to an audience in a large theater. Some masks were designed with a megaphone-like mouth- piece in order to help the actor “project” his voice. Masks also allowed for one actor to play many different parts in the course of one play. The Mask What does it mean to “project” your voice?
The Tragedy: A play in which the main character(s) struggle against an outside force, and usually comes to a disastrous conclusion. Most of the successful surviving Greek plays were in the “tragic” form. THE TRILOGY (OH AND A COMEDIC PLAY MEANT TO MAKE YOU FORGET WHAT YOU JUST SAW) The Ancient Greek Plays & Playwrights Tragedies were often presented in threes, connected by a theme or storyline, and then followed by a comic piece called a “satyr play” The Satyr play: These plays were used to “sugar the pill” of the tragedy and would often pick up the same story-line and poke fun at it. Sometimes these would be indecent or base.
A choric performer Sophocles (496-406 BC) The Ancient Greek Plays & Playwrights Introduction of the third actor His works became more actor-lead rather than choric-lead – “characterization by action” Wrote over 100 plays – 20 won him first prize ONLY SEVEN TEXTS SURVIVED Ajax, The Trachiniae, Philoctetes, Electra THE THEBAN LEGEND: His only remaining trilogy consists of “Oedipus Rex,” “Oedipus at Colonus,” and “Antigone.” What is the “Oedipus Complex?”
Late start – studied philosophy and didn’t win a festival until age 40 (next at 54) Euripedes (480-406 BC) The Ancient Greek Plays & Playwrights Developed the Prologue Emphasis on personal life – daily living Wrote over 90 plays – 5 won him first prize 18 TEXTS SURVIVED His plays often dealt with serious, controversial issues in society: roles of women and illegitimate children. Many of his plays deal with a central female character that was shown as very strong
Used pen-name (pseudonym) “Kallistratos” Aristophanes (445-380 BC) The Ancient Greek Plays & Playwrights He used his plays to poke fun at Euripedes Old Comedy: poked fun at period-specific events, people, and places Wrote over 40 comedies 11 TEXTS SURVIVED The Clouds (mockery of Socrates & philosophy) The Frogs (mockery of Euripedes) Many of his plays poke fun at the poor and democracy. It is said that he was desperately trying to fit in with “high class” people.
Philosopher and scientist Aristotle (384-322 BC) The Ancient Greek Influence “Cathartic Effect” – it allows the viewer to watch the experience without being to involved Aristotle Quotes: “The instinct for imitation is inherent in man from his earliest days, he learns earliest lessons by imitation.” “Drama is an imitation of action not the action itself.” ARISTOTILEAN CASE
Ancient Roman Theater ROMAN MASKS The Roman masks were now more specific to archetypal characters: the handsome youth, the father, the prostitute, the parasite, the miser, the mother, the clever slave, and the braggart soldier (you do need to know these archetypes)
A freed slave Terence (190-159 BC) The Ancient Roman Plays & Playwrights All of his plays were re-workings of Greek plays His works were characterized as “light and witty” with a sophisticated plot ONLY SIX TEXTS SURVIVED Andria, Hecyra, Heauton, Timorumenos, Eunuchus, Phormio, Adelphi Four of his surviving plays are carbon-copies of Meander’s Greek comedies Beginnings of “stealing” or “borrowing” works
Roman comic actor Plautus (254-184 BC) The Ancient Roman Plays & Playwrights Plays based on Greek works Plays included debauchery, songs, jokes, and topical allusions Wrote over 130 plays - 20 TEXTS SURVIVED Seneca (4 BC – 65 AD) Only example of Roman tragedy to survive His father was a famous rhetorician so he was often referred to as “Seneca the Younger” Became tutor to Nero (emperor of Rome) – 65 AD he was implicated in a plot to assassinate Nero and was condemned to death but he took his own life