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Historical Context: Greek Tragedy

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1 Historical Context: Greek Tragedy
Let’s prepare to perform Antigone!

2 The Stage Three Main Portions of Greek Theatre:
Skene – Portion of stage where actors performed (included 1-3 doors in and out) Orchestra – “Dancing Place” where chorus sang to the audience Theatron – Seating for audience

3 The Greek Amphitheater

4 The Stage

5 The Stage

6 Actors in Greek Theater
The main actors (playing multiple characters each) Chorus 12 or 15 choreutes (dancers) trained to sing and dance from their youth Read: “Because Greek tragedy and comedy originated with the chorus, the most important part of the performance space was the orchestra, which means 'a place for dancing' (orchesis). A tragic chorus consisted of 12 or 15 choreutes (dancers), who were young men just about to enter military service after some years of training. (Athenians were taught to sing and dance from a very early age.) The effort of dancing and singing through three tragedies and a satyr play was likened to that of competing in the Olympic Games. In contrast with the chorus of twelve or fifteen, there were only three actors in fifth-century Athenian tragedy. There are no one-actor plays remaining to us, though Aeschylus' earliest play, Persians, requires only two actors.” 6

7 Who are the Actors? Must be a young man (women were not allowed to perform) Must be a Greek citizen Must have some money or authority in society Must have the approval of the Honorable Archon Read: “The actors in tragedy were hired and paid by the state and assigned to the tragic poets probably by lot. By the middle of the fifth century three actors were required for the performance of a tragedy. The protagonist took the role of the most important character in the play while the other two actors played the lesser roles. Since most plays have more than two or three characters (although never more than three speaking actors in the same scene), all three actors played multiple roles. Since women were not allowed to take part in dramatic productions, male actors had to play female roles. The main duty of an actor was, of course, to speak the dialogue assigned to his characters. This, however, was not the only responsibility of the actor. He occasionally had to sing songs solo or with the chorus or with other actors (e.g., a song of lament called a kommos). The combination of acting and singing ability must have been as rare in the ancient world as it is today. 7

8 Who is the Chorus? A group of actors/audience members that interject into the plot of the play They speak in chorus and would usually have a drumbeat or musical interlude to accompany them The chorus is there to help the audience consider different view points of the characters. They also pray to the Gods. (Remember this was a religious festival!) The chorus provides a review for the audience, offers prayers for the group, and helps the reader consider the different view points of the characters

9 Masks in Greek Theater Masks were used in Greek drama to portray character types or character emotions to the entire audience, which could be up to 20,000 people crowded onto a hillside. These masks fit over the head, with a wig attached, and had large mouth openings so that speech would not be muffled. Read: “The large size of the theater (in its final form it seated 20,000 people) and the distance of even the nearest spectators from the performers (more than 30 feet) dictated a non-naturalistic approach to acting. All gestures had to be large and definite so as to 'read' from the back rows. Facial expression would have been invisible to all but the closest members of the audience; the masks worn by the actors looked more 'natural' than bare faces. The masks of tragedy were of an ordinary, face-fitting size, with wigs attached and open mouths to allow clear speech. Theatrical masks were made of wood (like the masks of Japanese Noh drama), leather (like the masks of the Commedia dell’arte), or cloth and flour paste (like many masks made for modern productions today).” 9

10 Masks in Greek Theater Prevented the audience from identifying the face of any actor with one specific character Allowed men to impersonate women without confusion Helped the audience identify the sex, age, and social rank of the characters Were often changed by the actors when they would exit after an episode to assume a new role Read: “Unfortunately, no original masks remain, only stone carvings, which may have been used as mask-molds and paintings on pottery. The playing of multiple roles, both male and female, was made possible by the use of masks, which prevented the audience from identifying the face of any actor with one specific character in the play and helped eliminate the physical incongruity of men impersonating women. The masks with subtle variations also helped the audience identify the sex, age, and social rank of the characters. The fact that the chorus remained in the orchestra throughout the play, and sang and danced choral songs between the episodes allowed the actors to exit after an episode in order to change mask and costume and assume a new role in the next episode without any illusion-destroying interruption in the play.” 10

11 Sophocles The so-called “Sophoclean heroes” include Oedipus and Creon .They dominate six of the plays of Sophocles that have survived through time. These characters are stubborn and strong willed. They pursue their own purposes and fashion their own identities. Athenians had traditionally identified themselves through family. Now that democratic society had begun to focus on the individual, citizens were compelled to define themselves through what their own actions. more information at: 11

12 Tragedy A drama or literary work in which the main character is brought to ruin or suffers extreme sorrow, especially as a consequence of a tragic flaw, moral weakness, or inability to cope with unfavorable circumstances

13 Parts of a Tragedy: Dramatic Irony
A plot device in which the audience's or reader's knowledge of events or individuals surpasses that of the characters When YOU know something the characters do NOT know Typically occurs as a part of the climax or turning point in the plot – Helps cause that moment of catharsis!

14 Parts of a Tragedy: Catharsis
A release of emotional tension, as after an overwhelming experience, that restores or refreshes the spirit Aristotle says it is the effect of tragic drama on its audience The moment after the main character makes a BIG decision building  building  Building  BUILDING  Ahhhhhhhh

15 Parts of a Greek Tragedy: Stichomythia
Dialogue in alternate lines, a form sometimes used in Classical Greek drama in which two characters alternate speaking single epigrammatic lines of verse Often used as a means to show characters in vigorous contention or to heighten the emotional intensity of a scene Characters may take turns voicing antithetical positions, or they may take up one another's words, suggesting other meanings or punning upon them

16 Parts of a Tragedy: Deus ex Machina
A God or Gods are introduced into a play to resolve the entanglements of the plot Found in Greek and Roman drama – You may remember this from Odyssey and Oedipus! Do you remember the 12 Olympians? Let’s review...

17 12 Olympians

18 Gods Specific to Antigone
Dionysus – God of Festivals and the Arts Zeus – God of Gods Athena – Goddess of Wisdom Apollo – God of Light and Poetry Ares – God of War Hades – God of the Underworld

19 Parts of a Greek Tragedy: Pathos
Greek meaning: suffering or feeling emotions When a writer uses pathos s/he is... Appealing to the emotions of the audience in order to persuade Choosing language that will affects the audience's emotional response You use pathos too! If you don’t want to go to school how might you describe your “sickness” to your parents? Is it a mere cough? A sniffle?

20 Parts of a Greek Tragedy: Ethos
Ethos is a Greek word meaning "character" that is used to describe the guiding beliefs or ideals that characterize a community, nation, or ideology. When a writer uses ethos s/he is appealing to an audience’s character Example: "If my age doesn’t convince you that my opinion matters, at least consider that I am your grandfather and I love you dearly."

21 Parts of a Greek Tragedy: Logos
Logos is an appeal to logic, and is a way of persuading an audience by reason. A writer tries to convince the reader that his or her point is valid because it’s logical Example: "It’s a matter of common sense that people deserve to be treated equally. The Constitution calls it ‘self-evident.’ Why, then, should I have been denied a seat because of my disability?"

22 Parts of a Greek Tragedy: Characteristics of a Tragic Hero
Character must... be of noble/high stature have a tragic flaw face a downfall experience enlightenment ultimately die or be pretty close to it! Oedipus IS a tragic hero...How does he fit these characteristics?

23 Parts of a Greek Tragedy: Hubris
A common fatal flaw TOO MUCH PRIDE; ARROGANCE audacity, bluster, brass, conceitedness,  contemptuousness, disdainfulness, ego, egotism, gall, haughtiness, highhandedness, imperiousness,  insolence, loftiness, ostentation, pompous,  presumption, pretension, priggishness, scornfulness, self-importance, self-love, smugness, superciliousness, swagger, vanity

24 Shall we review the Oedipus story?
What do you remember?

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