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Intro to Greek Theater EQ: How can I gain insight into Greek tragedy and such concepts as fate, hubris, and dramatic irony / How does Greek drama compare.

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Presentation on theme: "Intro to Greek Theater EQ: How can I gain insight into Greek tragedy and such concepts as fate, hubris, and dramatic irony / How does Greek drama compare."— Presentation transcript:

1 Intro to Greek Theater EQ: How can I gain insight into Greek tragedy and such concepts as fate, hubris, and dramatic irony / How does Greek drama compare to our modern theater?

2 Defining Drama A story written to be performed by actors. Like a short story or novel, a drama focuses on characters in conflict. However, unlike fiction, a drama presents its action through dialogue, the conversation and speeches of the characters. The origins of Greek drama are thought to have developed out of a form of religious, ritual worship Thespis (from whose name comes the term ‘thespian’) is supposed to be the man responsible in giving the first speaking role to someone.

3 Elements of drama The plot is the ordered sequence of events that make up the play. A play is often divided into larger units, called acts, which are then divided into smaller units called scenes. These divisions were unknown to the Greeks and Romans, but beginning in Elizabethan Era, these division were formed. The characters are people who participate in the action of the play and are portrayed onstage by actors. Dialogue is the conversation and speeches of the character Stage directions are notes included in the play to describe the sets, costumes, lighting, scenery, sound effects, and props. These indicate where a scene takes place, how it should look and sound, and two the actors should move and deliver their lines.

4 Tragedy A tragedy is a play that shows the downfall or death of the main character, or tragic hero. In ancient Greek tragedy, the hero is always a noble or outstanding person, such as the title character in Sophocles’ Oedipus the King. The word "tragedy" comes from the Greek "tragoida," meaning "goat song," the song that accompanied sacrifices to the gods The tragic hero’s downfall is caused by a tragic flaw: a mistake or unwise decision. Sometimes, this is the result of an innate character weakness, such as excessive pride, called hubris. However, the error may instead result in ignorance.

5 Dramatic conventions Dramatic conventions are literary devices that break the illusion of reality. In practice called the suspension of disbelief, the audience agrees to accept these conventions while watching-or reading- a play. Soliloquy- a speech in which a character is along on stage revealing private thoughts and feelings to the audience (understood that the characters on stage do not hear) Aside- a brief remark delivered by a character to express private thoughts while other characters are on stage (understood that the characters on stage do not hear) Monologue – speech presented by a single character often to express thoughts aloud to other characters/audience The transition from one scene or act to another might involve a considerable passage of time in the plot.


7 Ancient Greek plays follow this consistent format:
A prologue presents the background and describes the conflict Then, the chorus, or group of dancers, enters and sings a parodos, or opening song Choral songs, called odes, separate scenes. The odes are divided into alternating parts called strophe and antistrophe.

8 The chorus Unlike the actors, non-professionals who had a talent for singing and dancing and were trained by the poet in preparation for the performance. Standard number of members of a chorus was twelve but was raised to fifteen by Sophocles. The chorus, like the actors, wore costumes and masks. The first function of a tragic chorus was to chant an entrance song called a parodos as they marched into the orchestra. Once the chorus had taken its position in the orchestra, its duties were twofold. It engaged in dialogue with characters through its leader, the Coryphaeus, who alone spoke the lines of dialogue assigned to the chorus. The tragic chorus's most important function was to sing and dance choral songs called stasima (singular = stasimon).

9 The Chorus

10 The elements (3 unities)
The unity of action: a play should have one main action that it follows, with no or few subplots. The unity of place: a play should cover a single physical space and should not attempt to compress geography, nor should the stage represent more than one place. The unity of time: the action in a play should take place over no more than 24 hours.

11 Themes The quest for identity The nature of innocence and guilt
The nature of moral responsibility Human will versus fate The abuse of power

12 Ancient Greek theatre: 3 major playwrights from 5th c. B.C.
Tragedies: Aeschylus B.C.- 80 plays, 7 extant Euripides B.C.- 90 plays, 19 extant Sophocles B.C plus plays, 7 extant (won 24 awards)

13 Characteristics of Sophocles' plays:
Emphasis on individual characters Complex characters, psychologically well-motivated characters subjected to crisis leading to suffering and self-recognition - including a higher law above man Exposition carefully motivated Scenes suspenseful climactic Action clear and logical Poetry clear and beautiful Few elaborate visual effects Theme emphasized: the choices of people

14 Oedipus: The myth and the play
A riddle…. “What goes on 4 legs in the morning, 2 at midday, and 3 in the evening?”

15 Oedipus Trilogy The 3 plays are about King Oedipus of Thebes and his family. These were not written to be performed at a single festival. Instead, he composed them over a 36-year period— beginning with Antigone, which is the 3rd and last part of the story.

16 Video clip “Oedipus Rex: The Height of Greek Tragedy”

17 The myth King Laius of Thebes learned from an oracle that he was destined to have a song who would kill his own father and marry his mother. When the king’s wife, Jocasta, had a son, Laius pinned the baby’s feet together and ordered a servant to leave him on a mountain to die. Instead, the servant gave the baby to a shepherd, who have him to the king and queen of Corinth. They named the child Oedipus (“swollen food”) because of his wounded feet.

18 The myth continued… The oracle : as a young man, Oedipus learned from the oracle at Delphi that he was fated to kill his father and marry his mother. Horrified, he fled Corinth to avoid fulfilling the prophecy. During his travels, he encounters a chariot that tries to run him over. Enraged, he kills the man and the passenger and continues on his way.

19 Myth continued… The riddle of the sphinx- Oedipus arrived outside Thebes, where a monster called The Sphinx was terrorizing the city. The sphinx had a woman’s head, lion’s body, serpent’s tail, and eagle’s wings. She refused to let travelers enter the city unless they could answer her riddle: “What goes on 4 legs in the morning, 2 at midday, and 3 in the evening?” No one had solved her riddle, and she had eaten those who failed. When the Thebans learned King Laius had been killed, they had no time to find his murder. The propriety was the sphinx. The Queen’s brother offered her hand in marriage to whoever could solve the riddle. Oedipus encounters the sphinx and gives the correct answer: “Man, who crawls in infancy, walks upright in his prime, and leans on a cane in old age.” In reward, he marries the Queen, becoming the new King.

20 Myth continued… A new prophecy: Oedipus had ruled Thebes for almost 20 years when the city was struck with a plague. Sophocles began his tragedy when Oedipus consults the oracle and learns that the plague will not end until Laius’ murderer is exiled from the city.

21 Antigone This play takes place after the death of Oedipus and dramatizes a fateful struggle between Oedipus’s daughter Antigone and his successor as the ruler of Thebes, King Creon. This play explores the timeless conflict: the clash between individual conscience and established authority, or the law of the state.

22 Oedipus at Colonus This covers the middle part of the story—the death and redemption of Oedipus in exile and old age. This play was written when the playwright was 90 years old, but it does not reflect any decline in Sophocles’ poetic powers.

23 Structure The play maintains a tight dramatic framework.
All the action takes place in a single location and involves a small number of characters interacting with the central figure Oedipus who remains on stage for nearly the entire play. The chorus, which serves as a nameless onlooker and represents the gives voice to the audience’s questions and beliefs, is used as a collective “actor” within the drama.

24 Structure Prologue: opening scene
Parodos: the first of the Chorus’s lyric songs or choral odes A regular alternation of scenes in dialogue and choral odes, and finally the exodos (concluding scene.) Strophe Antistrophe

25 Dialogue Although the words are powerful, it is what is left unsaid that is often more powerful. Practically every line contains a possible double meaning or ambiguity This verbal irony serves to reinforce the dramatic irony of the play, as the main character and even the chorus only gradually come to grips with what is evident to the audience at the very start. It is the razor-sharp irony is the element that spellbinds audience.

26 Define these terms Synecdoche Metaphor Simile Antithesis
Rhyming couplet Mythological allusions

27 Define these vocab words
Promulgation Interdict Hephaestus Ares Zeus

28 Modern connections Do you know of other films where the plot revolves around good intentions leading to catastrophe or around actions resulting in unexpected outcome? Consider The Lord of the Rings trilogy; think of the characters and how they act in avoidable ignorance or consider the extent to which no human being can make a better decision, given the information available.

29 Pablo Picasso, The Tragedy (1903)

30 Caravaggio’s The Death of a Virgin
Examine the painting. How does the artist choose to create dramatic effects? For instance, not the nuances of light and shadow, mood, composition of the figures, and illusion of depth. Compare the Caravaggio with the Gentileschi. What are both artists doing with color and light? Similarities? Differences? -Describe and explain the significance of at least 3 examples-

31 Artemisia Gentileschi, Judith and Her Maidservant with the Head of Holofernes (1625)

32 Activity! (after viewing)
Select a specific scene (from Oedipus) Note the action in the scene Examine the ways that the dialogue “depicts” the action Write an informational/explanatory essay in response to the following prompt: How does the dialogue in the scene that you selected contribute to the visual representation of the action and, by extension, to the plays theme?

33 The tragic hero EQ: What are the characteristics of the Greek tragic hero and how can this understanding help me to better understand the tragedy of Antigone?

34 4 characteristics of a tragic hero
1. POSITION. The hero is royal or noble with great power, usually a king. He is a good, respected man who acts out of good intentions. He has much to lose. 2. TRAGIC FLAW (hamartia). In spite of his good intentions, the hero makes a tragic error which causes his reversal. The error usually stems from a character flaw, usually pride. 3. REVERSAL (catastrophe). Because of his tragic error, the hero suffers a downfall from his happy, envied position to suffering and misery. 4. RECOGNITION (catharsis). The hero realizes that his own flaw or error has caused his reversal. This recognition always occurs too late for the hero to prevent or escape his reversal.

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