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Greek Drama Background All you need to know to confidently analyze the theater that began the western traditions which brought us Hair, Grease, and Mamma.

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Presentation on theme: "Greek Drama Background All you need to know to confidently analyze the theater that began the western traditions which brought us Hair, Grease, and Mamma."— Presentation transcript:

1 Greek Drama Background All you need to know to confidently analyze the theater that began the western traditions which brought us Hair, Grease, and Mamma Mia!

2 Origins of Greek Drama Originally a ceremony of state religions—plays produced only at religious festivals Dionysus Greater Dionysia Six-day religious festival honoring Dionysus, god of wine, revelry, fertility, and song (Roman Bacchus, god of vegetation) at the end of each season, 4 major festivals. The greatest of these was in spring “Greater Dionysia”

3 Schedule for Original Greek Drama Days one through three—one long parade or religious procession, followed by many holy sacrifices, choral singing contests, etc. tetralogy Three days of drama—tragedy, tragedy, tragedy, comedy / Drama was foremost at the event at the festivals. Each day a tragic poet presented his tetralogy (set of four total plays: three tragedies, and one Satyr play). Each afternoon there was also a comic poet’s play.

4 Details about the Original Greek Theater The playwright was director, coach, and often actor as well. Last day was grand judging of the plays and awarding of prizes Laurel Wreaths The winner of the festivals received Laurel Wreaths as an award of honors (Hence, “don’t rest on your laurels!”)

5 Origins of Greek Drama The winner of the early tragedy competitions were awarded a “tragos” or as you know it, a goat. Tragedy The origin of the word Tragedy is “tragoedia” meaning “goat song” Cost of the plays and prize money was borne by wealthy citizens chosen by the city-state

6 Origins of Greek Drama Theater was a public event—large crowd, country people, foreigners, even slaves (they were released for the festivities)— 14,000 to 25,000 spectators

7 Setting the stage

8 Setting the Stage amphitheater orchestra Scene of drama is outdoor (amphitheater), on hillsides to permit seeing and hearing. There was no stage, the actors performed in front of a staged building, which represented a palace or temple. Between the actors and the audience was the dancing circle or “orchestra,” in the center of which stood the altar to Dionysus which was a reminder of the religious nature of the play.

9 Setting the Stage There were no artificial lights, so performances began at sunrise. The best surviving example of these first theaters is the theater at Epidaurus. The Athens Theater, near the southeast foot of the Acropolis, could accommodate about 14,000 spectators.

10 Other Details about Greek Theater Poetic form always employed No curtain or intermission None of this stuff.

11 Hey, haven’t I heard that story before? Since plots were usually well-known myths, the audience knew the plot before the play began. So the play was about the instruction of the play, the spectacle as a whole and the dramatic irony.

12 Drama is… Meant to be seen or performed, not read. Becomes a play when it is acted out.

13 Drama has… Elements just like a novel or a short story: plot, characters, setting, and theme. Modern Drama also contains different elements: lighting, sets, props, etc.

14 Drama has… Stage Direction Stage Direction is what we call the writing that tells actors where to move and the behind the scenes people what to do.

15 Drama has Peripeteia A reversal of circumstances or turning point, sudden change of events.

16 Drama has CharacterFoils Drama has Character Foils contrast Is a character that highlights or brings out the personality traits of another character, and the contrast serves to emphasize the other character’s traits.

17 Drama has Anagnorisis (an-ag-NOR-uh-sis) The recognition by the tragic hero of some truth about his or her nature, identity, or actions that accompanies the peripeteia. This is the beginning of the dénouement (any action after the conflict is resolved).

18 I’m hearing voices… Monologue Monologue is a speech in which one character is talking, but there are other characters on stage. Poor guy. His monologue was over when the others left the stage. 

19 I’m hearing voices… Soliloquy Soliloquy is a speech in which one character is alone on stage expressing his/her thoughts to the audience. Hamlet’s “To be, or not to be” speech is a pretty famous soliloquy

20 I’m hearing voices… Dialogue is conversation between characters.

21 Comedy is… A type of drama where the hero overcomes his flaws and triumphs in the end.

22 What is Tragedy? Poetics Aristotle's ideas about tragedy were recorded in his book of literary theory titled Poetics. In it, he has a great deal to say about the structure, purpose, and intended effect of tragedy. His ideas have been adopted, disputed, expanded, and discussed for several centuries now. The following is a summary of his basic ideas regarding the tragic hero:

23 Greek Heroes Share More Than Fame... Greek Hero Structure The Greek nobility valued strength and skill, for these attributes enabled the person who possessed them to achieve glory and honor, both in his lifetime and after he died. This value is known as Arête.

24 Hero Structure: What's wrong with being great???? Arête = striving for excellence: Strength, skill, courage, intelligence, insight, ingenuity: Be the best of the best. What is the danger of Arête?

25 Hero Structure: What was the danger of Arête Again? The hero forgets his human limitations and thinks he’s greater than he actually is… Which leads to… Hubris = excessive pride. What is the danger of hubris?

26 Hero Structure: What is the big danger of hubris? Hero does / says something excessive without thinking of the consequences… Which leads to… Até = blind, rash behavior. Até leads to…

27 Hero Structure: What the heck could Até possibly do? I know... It could bring Nemesis=retribution: Gods punish hero directly or other humans punish him. Either way the hero brought his fate upon himself through free-will.

28 So What do Greek Heroes Have in Common? 1. A fundamental belief in freedom

29 Greek Heroes, cont. 2. A supreme pride (hubris) The tragic hero is a character of noble stature and has greatness. This should be readily evident in the play. The character must occupy a "high" status position but must ALSO embody nobility and virtue as part of his/her innate character.

30 Greek Heroes, cont. 3. Capacity for suffering The hero's misfortune is not wholly deserved, and is more severe than his crime.

31 Greek Heroes, cont. 4. Strong sense of commitment

32 5. Not too good/ too bad. Though the tragic hero is pre- eminently great, he/she is not perfect. Otherwise, the rest of us- -mere mortals--would be unable to identify with the tragic hero. We should see in him or her someone who is essentially like us, although perhaps elevated to a higher position in society.

33 Greek Heroes, cont. 6. Flaw “Hamartia” (term used in archery to mean, “near miss”) Often the character's hamartia involves hubris (defined previously as a sort of arrogant pride or over- confidence).

34 Greek Heroes, cont. 7. Vigorous protest of limitations, fate, or any reality that doesn't quite fit into the hero's plan.

35 Greek Heroes, cont. 8. At some point every hero undergoes a major Transformation as a result of his conflicts and fate. This is called the “Fall.”

36 Greek Heroes, cont. 9. After the Transformation, the hero experiences some impact (understanding). In other words, the light bulb goes off. So the Fall wasn't all bad, he gains wisdom and knowlege that he never would have gotten otherwise. Even if he doesn’t live long enough to apply it.

37 Greek Heroes, cont. 10. The hero, at least partially, chooses his/her fate.

38 Greek Heroes, cont. The hero's downfall, therefore, is partially her/his own fault, the result of free choice, not of accident or villainy or some overriding, malignant fate. In fact, the tragedy is usually triggered by some error of judgment or some character flaw that contributes to the hero's lack of perfection noted above.

39 Greek Heroes, cont. This error of judgment or character flaw is known as hamartia and is usually translated as "tragic flaw" (although some scholars argue that this is a mistranslation).

40 Tragedy is it all bad? Even in tragedies, there is usually some comedy.

41 Major Players in the Theater Sophocles (497-406 B. C.) increased the number of actors to three. Increased the number of chorus members to fifteen. Was first to introduce scene painting.

42 Sophocles Sophocles lived during the time of the highest cultural achievement in Athens. He was well educated. He founded a society for music and literature. In a 60-year period, he composed 123 plays (only seven survive in their entirety). So popular that when he first competed, military had to be posted for security. His career paralleled the rise and fall of the Athenian Empire. He won the first festival of Dionysis in which he competed – defeated Aescylus. Won approximately 20 times. Never won third place.

43 Sophocles Child prodigy in the humanities. Acted in his own plays, but quietly. He was a priest of Alcon & Asclepius () Close friend of Pericles (Ruler of 5th century Athens) Political connections made their way into his plays A LOT.

44 Sophocles Born and was raised in Colonus (setting of Oedipus at Colonus) Father very wealthy. Married to Nicostrata, but he had, like all Greeks, some men on the side. Son, Iophon, took him to court for being senile. He recited Oedipus at Colonus to prove sanity.


46 Historical Perspective on Sophocles: Out of Sophocles’ drama came many of the precepts of Aristotle’s Poetics (One hundred years later) Tragedy (as defined in The Poetics) catharsis tragic vision. The imitation of an action that is serious in itself, with incidents arousing pity and fear, for the purpose of effecting catharsis (literally means a cleansing) (Kartharsis) also called the tragic vision.

47 Oedipus Rex Written between 430 and 415 B.C Author: Sophocles 497-406 B.C.

48 Back Story Due to Unity of Action, Oedipus Rex begins In Medias Res (in the middle of things). It means that it begins just before the climax of the Oedipus Rex story. This is also because the entire audience already knew Oedipus’s story, so it was more about the ironies and the justifications of the gods pointed to in the themes of the play.

49 Ironies So, note as we read the amount of ironies present in the play, and it is your job to know the 3 ironies: Verbal – the opposite of what is said is meant Situational – the opposite of what is expected, happens Dramatic – the audience knows something is ironic, but the characters do not

50 Themes in Oedipus Rex Man must accept the responsibility for his acts and their consequences regardless of his motives and inability to control the forces.

51 Themes in Oedipus Rex Intellectual pride leads to punishments and one must assume personal responsibility for suffering.

52 Themes in Oedipus Rex Man in search of himself tries to assert this freedom in spite of dominance of the gods. The only way to free himself from the forces of the gods is through self- knowledge.

53 Themes in Oedipus Rex One must question. The blinding is an assertion of personal freedom and self- knowledge. This frees him from the gods.

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