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Classical Greek Tragedy

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1 Classical Greek Tragedy
Ancient Greece invented drama Drama grew out of festivals honoring Dionysus—included performances by choruses (troupes of dancers who would chant and sing) Famous Greek playwrights: Aeschylus ( BC) Sophocles ( BC) Euripides ( BC) Aristophanes ( BC)

2 Greek Theater The Greek theater is the predecessor of the current day “amphitheater.” Built in the open, usually on the side of a hill. large, could usually accommodate as many as 15,000 spectators basic shape was circular

3 Greek Theater Threatron: the seating area; higher than the stage
15,000 could be seated Seats of honor in the front row were reserved for important guests.

4 Greek Theater Orchestra: stage area, at the bottom of the seating area
Where the chorus and actors performed At the back of the stage was the altar of Dionysus. This was the place where sacrifices were performed before the plays. Passageways: corridors through which the chorus came on stage

5 Greek Theater Skene: added in 5th century BC; a long, rectangular building with an open platform in front and three doors in the back and served as a scene background (no elaborate scenery for plays) Used for costume changes Usually had three doors for characters to go in and out In Oedipus Rex, the skene would be made to look like Oedipus’ castle and the doors would be palace doors.

6 Greek Theater Proscenium: façade of the skene; where the scenery was painted or placed Usually a palace or temple Mechane: on top of the skene; was a technical device that consisted of a metal crane from which a dummy representing a god was suspended god could be lowered to the stage or raised from the stage.

7 Deus Ex Machina Sometimes, plays would end with a god lowering to the stage and setting all the affairs in order—an overly simplistic ending to the complicated plot of Greek tragedy. This was called the deus ex machina, which means “god from the machine.” The deus ex machina was employed largely by Euripides to give a miraculous conclusion to a tragedy. The god appears as if from on high and unravels all the unsolved problems of the play. You’ll need to determine if Oedipus Rex ends with a deux ex machina or not.

8 Costumes Because the theater could seat so many people, actors wore expensive costumes, including masks, and used small megaphones to make sure everyone could see and hear Padding, headpieces, and platform shoes to increase their size on stage Communicated largely through gestures, tone of voice, and body movement. Masks made quick changes possible between scenes (some actors played multiple roles)

9 Types of Greek Theater Greeks created the three major types of plays: tragedy, comedy, and farce Festival line-up: three tragedies and a satyr play by one playwright and a comedy by a different playwright Tragedies usually written in cycles of 3 Oedipus Rex Antigone Oedipus at Colonnus

10 Greek Tragedy Best definition was by Aristotle in Poetics
Downfall of a character who is neither completely good nor completely bad Fall brought about by a tragic flaw Witnessing the downfall of basically good people evoked emotions of pity and fear in the audience Audience then experiences a catharsis or some sort of emotional cleansing

11 8 Characteristics of Tragedy
1. The hero (protagonist) is a person of high estate who must be good and have good intentions. The hero must also be true to life. 2. The hero has a hamartia, fatal or tragic flaw, an error or frailty; usually hubris— excessive human pride, arrogance. 3. The hero suffers a reversal of fortunes. 4. No universal questions are raised; fate is accepted as inevitable when it becomes apparent; no debate is held with the gods.

12 5. The gods are capricious; often enemies of the hero and are never loving or righteous. No justice can be expected from the gods. 6. A full chorus is present and gives advice. The chorus reflects opinions of the townspeople. 7. A complicated plot is present along with cataclysmic events; however, all violent actions take place off stage and are reported to the audience by witnesses. 8. Hero suffers a great and permanent fall with no hope. The story ends in despair and evokes both pity and fear in the audience.

13 Role of the Chorus in Greek Plays
The play begins with the prologue, the time before the chorus enters. The play is divided into a series of episodes or scenes, each ending with an ode, an elaborate lyric poem, sung or recited by the chorus. Each ode is divided into: Strophe: first movement and reading; chorus moved from right to left Antistrophe: countermovement and/or reading; chorus moved from left to right 1, 2, or 3 strophe/antistrophe readings at the end of each episode

14 History of the Chorus Thespis: the famous chorus leader gave himself individual lines separate from the chorus. This made interaction possible between the chorus and a lone actor on stage—drama was born and modern-day actors are called thespians.

15 Size of Chorus Dwindles
At first the chorus was composed of fifty men and was significant to the plot of the play. Later as time progressed, the importance of the chorus diminished as did the size and the number of lines. In the plays of Aeschylus, a second character was introduced and so one-half of the lines in the play were spoken by the chorus. In the plays of Sophocles, a third actor was introduced to the play. One-fourth to one-seventh of the lines in the plays were spoken by the chorus of fifteen men with one serving as the leader. He became the fourth actor in many scenes. The chorus usually remained on stage during the entire play.

16 Function of the Chorus 1. Represents members of population or townspeople and converses with or gives advice to characters. The chorus is involved in or affected by the action of the play. 2. Serves as commentators on events, interprets events, and gives background of preceding events. 3. Chants odes between episodes of play. Often the singing is accompanied by stately dance movements to the left and to the right which contributed beauty to the play. 4. Relieves tension Examples: Mamma Mia! and Hercules

17 Other Characteristics of Plays (seen in Oedipus Rex)
Unity of Time: All the action in the place takes place during a single day, though characters may recall previous events. Unity of Space: The play takes place in a single location—in front of the Palace at Thebes. Unity of Action: Everything that takes place, occurs, or is described, relates to the overarching idea. There are no subplots and no unrelated patterns of imagery or diction. Nothing that does not relate is included.

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