Greek Theatre 6th - 4th century bce Originated in festivals honoring Dionysos Tragedy: Aeschylus (524-456 bce) Sophocles (496-406 bce) Euripides (480-406 bce) Comedy: Old Comedy: bawdy and satiric Aristophanes (c. 485-c.385 bce) New Comedy: social situations: Menander (342-292 bce)
Theatre Festivals The Greater Dionysia took place at the end of March or the beginning of April Three days were given over to theatrical competition. Three playwrights each took part in each contest Each tragedian put on a trilogy in the morning and each comic writer put on one comedy in the afternoon. The festival at Lenaes,staged at the end of January or the beginning of February, placed its emphasis on comedy
ORIGINS of TRAGEDY Tragedy, derived from the Greek words tragos (goat) and ode (song), told a story that was intended to teach religious lessons Tragedy arose from dithyrambic choruses. The dithyramb was an ode to Dionysus. It was usually performed by a chorus of fifty men dressed as satyrs -- mythological half-human, half-goat servants of Dionysus. In the 6 th c. bce Thespis of Attica added an actor who interacted with the chorus. This actor was called the protagonist. In 534 BC, the ruler of Athens, Pisistratus, changed the Dionysian Festivals and instituted drama competitions. Thespis won the first competition in 534 BC.
Tragic Tetralogies Each tragic dramatist had to present a trilogy of tragedies: connected narratively or dramatically The entire trilogy was performed in one day. The trilogy was followed by a satyr play - mocking and lightening the seriousness of the tragedies A Tetralogy, then, is a series of 4 plays: 3 tragedies and one satyr play
TRAGIC STRUCTURE 4-5 alternating scenes and choral odes, including the PROLOGOS: Introductory scene PARADOS: Entry of chorus EPISODEION STASIMON PAEAN: a hymn of praise to the gods EXODOS: final scene EPODE: final ode.
ARISTOTLE’S THREE UNITIES Aristotle’s On Tragedy is usually considered the first piece of Western dramatic criticism. In it, he proclaimed that tragedy must follow the 3 unities: UNITY OF TIME: one day UNITY OF PLACE: one setting UNITY OF ACTION: one plot
AESCHYLUS 525-456 bce General in Persian Wars -- fought at Marathon, Salamis, Platea Fierce proponent of Athenian ideals The first of the great Athenian dramatists, was also the first to express the agony of the individual caught in conflict. Credited with adding the second actor Only extant trilogy: The Oresteia Agamemnon The Libation Bearers The Eumenides
SOPHOCLES 496 - 406 bce Wrote over 100 plays, but only seven survive Credited with adding the third actor Known as actor as well as dramatist Most interested in human dynamics THEBAN PLAYS: Oedipus the King Antigone Oedipus at Colonnus
EURIPIDES c.480-406 bce The last of the thee great Greek tragic dramatists -- 17 plays survive including Medea, The Trojan Women, The Bacchae Explored the theme of personal conflict within the polis and the depths of the individual Disgust with events of Peloponnesian War brought about disillusionment with Athens Men and women bring disaster on themselves because their passions overwhelm their reason
Orestes Pursued by the Furies (1862) Adolphe- William Bouguereau (1825-1905) Chrysler Museum of Art, Norfolk, Virginia The Erinyes
The Judgement of Athena: the substitution of trial by jury for vengeance in Athenian law
The Eumenides The Furies are made "honorary citizens" of Athens Athena agrees to have her people, the Athenians, celebrate the Furies The Furies turn their stygian black cloaks inside out to reveal a scarlet inner lining Aeschylus creates a bold theatrical vision of peace and divine justice bestowed for its mercy upon a deserving land.
Ancient Comedy Scene from Lenaian Festival c. 490-480 bce
ORIGINS of GREEK OLD COMEDY Arose from komos : songs of revelry, charms to avert evil, prayers for fertility sung to Dionysus Chorus dressed ludicrously Audience responded to choral komos and were gradually admitted into chorus Chorus became two-part group with antiphonal song Invention of comic chorus is attributed to Susarion Dorian and Sicilian farces were precursors of Old Comedy
CONVENTIONS of OLD COMEDY Scene set on Athenian street “Events seldom occur – they are merely talked about” Masks and fantastic costumes Satiric of contemporary events and public figures Bawdy
COMIC STRUCTURE Komos: final choral song and exit in wild revelry 4-5 alternating scenes and choral odes illustrating the outcome of the agon Prologos: introductory scene Parados: entry of 24 member chorus dressed in fantastic costume Agon: argument “just prior to the agon, the leader of the chorus always asks one contender to present his argument, and it is this contender who always loses” Parabasis: chorus’s great song Episodeion Stasimon
ARISTOPHANES c. 448 - 380 BCE 30+ plays; 11 extant; 6 first prizes Plays include Clouds Wasps Birds Lysistrata Frogs Critiques of Euripides & Socrates: reactionary conservative; social critic Plato's epitaph for Aristophanes : “The Graces, seeking a shrine that could not fall, discovered the soul of Aristophanes.”
New Comedy By 317 BC, a new form had evolved that resembled modern farces: mistaken identities, ironic situations, ordinary characters and wit. Basic plot: Boy meets girl, complications arise, boy gets girl – ends with betrothal or marriage. 5 act structure: acts divided by interludes performed by the chorus Stock characters: young lovers, parasite, lecherous old men, clever servants, etc. Social rather than political satire
MENANDER 342-292 bce 1905 a manuscript was discovered in Cairo that contained pieces of five Menander plays, and in 1957 a complete play, Diskolos (The Grouch, 317 BC), was unearthed in Egypt. Menander’s comedy with its emphasis on mistaken identity, romance and situational humor, became the model for subsequent comedy, from the Romans to Shakespeare to Broadway.
Parts of Menander’s comedies found their way into plays by Roman playwrights: Plautus and Terence Shakespeare's Comedy of Errors Stephen Sondheim's A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum.
ROMAN THEATRE Drama flourished under the Republic but declined into variety entertainment under the Empire Roman festivals: Held in honor of the gods, but much less religious than in Greece Ludi Romani Became theatrical in 364 B.C. Held in September (the autumn)and honored Jupiter. By 240 B.C., both comedy and tragedy were performed. Five others: Ludi Florales (April), Plebeii (November), Apollinares (July), Megalenses (April), Cereales (no particular season).
Under the Empire, these festivals afforded "bread and circuses" to the masses – many performances. —including a series of plays or events. Acting troupes (perhaps several a day) put on theatre events.
ROMAN THEATRE Encompassed more than drama : acrobatics, gladiators, jugglers, athletics, chariots races, naumachia (sea battles), boxing, venationes (animal fights) Entertainment tended to be grandiose, sentimental, diversionary Actors / performers were called histriones Fresco with theatre masks
INFLUENCES on Roman Theatre Greek Drama – borrowed plots and stories: less philosophical Etruscan influences – emphasized circus-like elements Fabula Atellana – Atellan farces (town near Naples). Short improvised farces, with stock characters, similar costumes and masks based on domestic life or mythology – burlesqued, parodied popular during the 1 st century B.C., then declined may have influenced commedia dell ‘Arte
Roman Theatre Design First permanent Roman theatre built 54 ce (100 years after the last surviving comedy) So permanent structures came from periods after significant writing More that 100 permanent theatre structures by 550 ce. Built on level ground with stadium-style seating (audience raised) Could seat 10-15,000 people Awning over the audience to protect them from the sun During the Empire around 78 ce, cooling system installed– air blowing over streams of water
Artist’s Impression of the Roman Theatre of Verulamium : Britain circa CE 180, excavated in 1847 by Alan Sorrell
Roman Theatre Design Skene becomes scaena – joined with audience to form one architectural unit S tages raised to five feet, 20-40 feet deep, 100- 300 feet long, 3-5 doors in rear wall and at least one in the wings scaena frons – façade of the stage house – had columns, niches, porticoes, statues – painted stage was covered with a roof trap doors were common Orchestra becomes half-circle Paradoi become vomitorium into orchestra and audience
TYPES of Roman Theatre Roman Drama : 2nd c. bc - 4th c. ce Livius Andronicus – 240 – 204 B.C. – wrote, translated, or adapted comedies and tragedies, the first important works in Latin. Little is known, but he seems to have been best at tragedy. Gnaeus Naevius – 270-201 B.C. excelled at comedy, but wrote both Both helped to "Romanize" the drama by introducing Roman allusions into the Greek originals and using Roman stories.
ROMAN COMEDY Chorus was abandoned No act or scene divisions Songs Everyday domestic affairs: Boy meets girl, complications, boy gets girl: marriage Action placed in the street Bawdy Stock characters Only two playwrights' material survives: Plautus (c. 254-184 bce) Terence (195 or 185-159 bce)
STOCK CHARACTERS Senex: old man in authority Pappas: foolish old man Bucco: braggart, boisterous Miles gloriosus: braggart soldier Dossenus: swindler, drunk, hunchback Shrew: sharp-tongued woman Courtesan Clever servant Young Lovers
PLAUTUS Titus Maccius Plautus c. 254-184 B.C.E. 21 extant plays including Pot of Gold, The Menaechmi, Braggart Warrior -- probably between 205-184 B.C. All based on Greek New Comedies Added Roman allusions, Latin dialog, varied poetic meters, witty jokes Some techniques: Stychomythia – dialog with short lines, like a tennis match Slapstick Songs
TERENCE Publius Terenius Afer (195 or 185-159 B.C.E.) Born in Carthage, came to Rome as a boy slave, educated and freed The Afer in his name may indicate that he was an African, and therefore he may have been the first major black playwright in western theater. Six plays, all of which survive including The Brothers, Mother-in- Law, etc. More complex plots – combined stories from Greek originals. Character and double-plots were his forte – contrasts in human behavior Less boisterous than Plautus, less episodic, more elegant language. Less popular than Plautus.
Roman Tragedy None survive from the early period, and only one playwright from the later period: Seneca 5 act structure – later adopted by Elizabethans Elaborate speeches -- rhetorical influence Interest in morality – expressed in sententiae (short pithy generalizations about the human condition) Medea, Herculaneum c. 70 bce
SENECA Roman philosopher, orator, dramatist and statesman Nine extant tragedies, five adapted from Euripides:The Trojan Women, Medea, Oedipus, Agamemnon Suicide in 65 A.D.– at the orders of Nero Seneca had a strong effect on later dramatists. Uncertain whether Seneca's plays were actually performed or simply intended for recitation before a small private audience: closet dramas Lucius Annaeus Seneca (5 or 4 B.C.E.– 65 C.E.)
Senecan Conventions Violence and horror onstage (Jocasta rips open her womb, for example) Characters dominated by a single passion – such as revenge – drives them to doom: known as Senecan Revenge tragedies during Renaissance. Technical devices: Soliloquies and asides Confidants take the place of the chorus Ghosts: interest in supernatural and human connections
Roman Spectacle Gladiatorial combats Chariot races Naumachia: Naval battles in a flooded Coliseum “Real-life” theatricals Decadent, violent and immoral All theatrical events banned by Church when Rome became Christianized
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