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Greek Tragedy Everything you wanted to know about Greek tragedy but were afraid to ask.

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Presentation on theme: "Greek Tragedy Everything you wanted to know about Greek tragedy but were afraid to ask."— Presentation transcript:

1 Greek Tragedy Everything you wanted to know about Greek tragedy but were afraid to ask

2 What are we going to talk about? The Origins of Tragedy The Origins of Tragedy Which Cities Performed Tragedy Which Cities Performed Tragedy When Tragedy was Performed When Tragedy was Performed The Parts of a Greek Theater The Parts of a Greek Theater The Theaters Themselves The Theaters Themselves The Major Playwrights The Major Playwrights The Way a Greek Tragedy Was Staged The Way a Greek Tragedy Was Staged - number of actors - the costumes - the masks - the audience

3 The Origins of Tragedy Originated from the dithyramb: a choral song in honor of Dionysos Originated from the dithyramb: a choral song in honor of Dionysos Arion of Methymna (7 th century) was the first to write a choral song, practice it with a chorus, and perform it Arion of Methymna (7 th century) was the first to write a choral song, practice it with a chorus, and perform it Lasus of Hermione was the first to do it at Athens Lasus of Hermione was the first to do it at Athens Connected with the worship of Dionysos in Athens Connected with the worship of Dionysos in Athens

4 The Origins of Tragedy Thespis of Corinth Thespis of Corinth The first travelling actor The first travelling actor Active c BCE Active c BCE Added prologue and speech to choral performance Added prologue and speech to choral performance Said to have invented the mask Said to have invented the mask

5 Who Performed Tragedy? Corinth: c. 600 (Arion) Corinth: c. 600 (Arion) Sicyon: c. 550 Sicyon: c Cleisthenes (not the Athenian) - Epigenes Athens: c. 510 Athens: c only Athenian dramas left - “school of Hellas”

6 When Was Tragedy Performed? City Athens City Athens - aka “Greater Dionysia” - end of March Rural Dionysia Rural Dionysia - different demes had performances - “off-Broadway” - various dates in December The Lenaea The Lenaea - less prestigious - sometime in late January/early February

7 Where Was Tragedy Performed? almost every Greek city had a theater almost every Greek city had a theater Theaters could be very small or huge Theaters could be very small or huge Each theater had specific parts Each theater had specific parts Usually in the center of the city Usually in the center of the city

8 The Parts of a Theater The Orchestra The Orchestra The acting area The acting area semi-circular semi-circular Had a small altar to Dionysos in the center Had a small altar to Dionysos in the center Where the Chorus danced and the actors spoke Where the Chorus danced and the actors spoke

9 The Parts of a Theater The Skene The Skene The large backdrop The large backdrop Could be decorated with scenery Could be decorated with scenery Where the action actually took place (hidden) Where the action actually took place (hidden) Roof was accessible Roof was accessible Originally one door in the center, but eventually had three doors Originally one door in the center, but eventually had three doors

10 The Skene

11 The Parts of a Theater The Ekkyklēma A wheeled platform Used to display set pieces Agamemnon The Mēchanē a large crane Used for the entrance of gods Deus ex machina

12 The Theaters Theater of Dionysos Theater of Dionysos Athens Athens Main theater for tragedy Main theater for tragedy 4 th century remains 4 th century remains c. 20,000 seats c. 20,000 seats Located on side of Acropolis Located on side of Acropolis

13 Theater of Dionysos

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15 The Theaters Theater of Epidauros Theater of Epidauros The best-preserved The best-preserved Largest surviving theater Largest surviving theater Located near Argos Located near Argos in the Peloponnesus in the Peloponnesus Sanctuary of Aesclepius Sanctuary of Aesclepius Still in use today Still in use today

16 Theater of Epidauros

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18 The Theaters Theater of Pergamon Theater of Pergamon In Asia Minor (Turkey) In Asia Minor (Turkey) Extremely steep seating Extremely steep seating Fit to the terrain Fit to the terrain Pergamon one of the most wealthy Asian cities Pergamon one of the most wealthy Asian cities

19 Theater of Pergamon

20 The Playwrights Three major tragedians Three major tragedians Aeschylus Aeschylus Sophocles Sophocles Euripides Euripides All active in the 5 th century All active in the 5 th century All won first place in multiple competitions All won first place in multiple competitions Only Athenian plays survive Only Athenian plays survive

21 Aeschylus b. 525 d. 456 (Sicily) b. 525 d. 456 (Sicily) Fought at Marathon Fought at Marathon “Aeschylus, Euphorion's son of Athens, lies under this stone dead in Gela among the white wheatlands; a man at need good in fight -- witness the hallowed field of Marathon, witness the long-haired Mede.” “Aeschylus, Euphorion's son of Athens, lies under this stone dead in Gela among the white wheatlands; a man at need good in fight -- witness the hallowed field of Marathon, witness the long-haired Mede.” First tragedy 499 First tragedy 499 First first prize 484 (13 overall) First first prize 484 (13 overall)

22 Aeschylus Introduced the second actor Introduced the second actor Wrote over 70 plays (seven survive) Wrote over 70 plays (seven survive) Always revered Always revered Main interest is in situation and event rather than character Main interest is in situation and event rather than character Oresteia, Seven Against Thebes Oresteia, Seven Against Thebes Pericles directed the chorus for Persians Pericles directed the chorus for Persians Both sons were very successful playwrights Both sons were very successful playwrights

23 Sophocles b. 496 d. 406 b. 496 d. 406 Served as a general with Pericles (441) Served as a general with Pericles (441) Very active in city politics (413) Very active in city politics (413) First tragedy 468 First tragedy 468 First first prize 468 First first prize 468 Won 18 first prizes Won 18 first prizes Never finished third Never finished third

24 Sophocles Introduced the third actor Introduced the third actor Wrote over 120 plays (seven survive) Wrote over 120 plays (seven survive) The most successful of the Big Three The most successful of the Big Three Challenged conventional mores Challenged conventional mores Introduced more dialogue between characters (less Chorus) Introduced more dialogue between characters (less Chorus) Oedipus Tyrannus, Oedipus at Colonus, Antigone, Electra Oedipus Tyrannus, Oedipus at Colonus, Antigone, Electra

25 Euripides b. 485 d. 406 (in Macedonia) b. 485 d. 406 (in Macedonia) Not active militarily or politically Not active militarily or politically First tragedy 455 First tragedy 455 First first prize 441 First first prize 441 Won only four first prizes Won only four first prizes The least successful of the Big Three The least successful of the Big Three

26 Euripides No innovations on the stage No innovations on the stage Wrote ninety plays (19 survive) Wrote ninety plays (19 survive) Sophocles: “I present men as they ought to be, Euripides presents men as they are.” Sophocles: “I present men as they ought to be, Euripides presents men as they are.” More realistic than the other two More realistic than the other two Alcestis, Medea, Hippolytus, Bacchae, Orestes Alcestis, Medea, Hippolytus, Bacchae, Orestes

27 The Staging of Tragedy “Classical theater resembled today’s rock concerts: the audience knew every number by heart, performers wore high heels, loud costumes and heavy make-up, and they relied on background singers, known as the Chorus.” “Classical theater resembled today’s rock concerts: the audience knew every number by heart, performers wore high heels, loud costumes and heavy make-up, and they relied on background singers, known as the Chorus.” -Howard Tomb

28 The Staging of Tragedy “The audience knew every number by heart…” “The audience knew every number by heart…” Most tragedies dealt with mythological themes Most tragedies dealt with mythological themes “Performers wore high heels, loud costumes and heavy make-up…” “Performers wore high heels, loud costumes and heavy make-up…” They wore elaborate clothes, tall boots, and masks They wore elaborate clothes, tall boots, and masks “They relied on background singers, known as the Chorus.” “They relied on background singers, known as the Chorus.” Especially after the introduction of the third actor Especially after the introduction of the third actor

29 The Staging of Tragedy - Actors Maximum of three actors Aeschylus second Sophocles third All roles played by men Same group of actors for each set of plays for each author

30 Playwrights did not act in their own plays after Sophocles Chorus publicly funded A choregos would pay for and train the chorus Viewed as a civic duty Could be prosecuted for failing to do it wealthy enough Choregos got a monument if his chorus won

31 The Staging of Tragedy - Costumes Actor wore: Mask Robes Platform boots (kothornoi) Chorus could be in costume (comedy)

32 The Staging of Tragedy - Masks The most salient feature The most salient feature All parts by men, so mask depicted gender All parts by men, so mask depicted gender Acted as a megaphone Acted as a megaphone Voice inflection paramount Voice inflection paramount Multiple Masks = Multiple Characters Multiple Masks = Multiple Characters Only three actors Only three actors More than three speaking roles, need for costume and mask change More than three speaking roles, need for costume and mask change Oedipus and his eyes Oedipus and his eyes

33 The Audience Any male could attend Any male could attend Women most likely able to attend Women most likely able to attend Aeschylus’ Furies Aeschylus’ Furies State funded attendance State funded attendance Cost was the average daily wage of a laborer Cost was the average daily wage of a laborer Theoric Fund Theoric Fund Never suspended, even when Athens in dire straights Never suspended, even when Athens in dire straights Supplied public tickets Supplied public tickets “Must-see TV” “Must-see TV”

34 The Audience Catharsis Catharsis “learning through suffering” “learning through suffering” Moderation is to be sought in all things, even good things Moderation is to be sought in all things, even good things The mighty fall so far that we admire them for being so high The mighty fall so far that we admire them for being so high A spiritual cleansing of the audience A spiritual cleansing of the audience Performances emotional Performances emotional


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