The Greek theatre history begins with festivals which honor gods. An example of such a festival was ‘City Dionysia’ festival which honored god Dionysus. During this festival, which was taking place in Athens men perform songs to welcome god Dionysus. Plays were also presented. Athens was the main city where these festivals and theatrical traditions were presented. At ancient Greek Festivals, the actors, directors and dramatists were all the same person. Later only three actors were allowed to perform in each play.
And this was followed by adding few non-speaking roles to perform on-stage. Because of the limited number of actors, the chorus played a very active part of Greek theater. During the chorus’ delivery of its lines music was often played.
The theatrical forms of the ancient Greek theater were tragedy, comedy and satyr. Athenian tragedy, comedy and satyr plays were some of the earliest theatrical forms to emerge in the world. Greek theater and plays have had a lasting impact on Western drama and culture.
Satyr plays dealt with mythological subject in comic manner. Tragedy had as an originator, Thespis, who is considered to be the first Greek actor of tragedy plays. Aristotle’s Poetics say that tragedy originates from dithyrambs which were songs sung in praise of Dionysus at the Dionysia each year. Sophocles, Euripides and Aeschylus were three well-known Greek tragedy playwrights. The structure of Greek tragedy consisted of the following:
1. Late point of attack
2. Violence and death offstage
3. Frequent use of messengers to relate information
4. Usually continuous time of action
5. Usually single place
6. Stories based on myth or history
7. Focus on psychological and ethical attributes of characters Comedy plays were derived from imitation. Aristophanes wrote most of the comedy plays. The structure of the comedy consisted of two parts. Part one had the prolog, where chous gives debate or ‘agon’ and parabasis, a choral ode addressing the audience, in which a social or political problem is discussed. Part two consists of scenes which show the result of the happy idea. Theatre buildings were called a theatron. They were large, open-air structures constructed on the slopes of hills. Most of the Greek theatres were constructed in such a way so that the smallest sound could be transmitted to any seat of the audience. They consisted of four main parts: the orchestra, the skene and the audience (theatron) and the parodos.
The orchestra was a large area at the center part of the theatre normally circular. It was there where play, dance and acting took place. The earliest orchestras were simply made of hard earth but later in the Classical period some orchestras began to be made of marble and other materials. The orchestra of the theater of Dionysus in Athens was about 60 feet in diameter. The skene was a large building behind the orchestra which was used as a backstage. It was the place where actors change their costumes and masks. It was usually decorated as a palace, temple or other building, depending on the needs of the play.
The audience (theatron) was where people were sitting to enjoy the play and it was in the front of the orchestra. It was usually part of hillside overlooking the orchestra. People in the fifth century BC probably sat on cushions or boards but by the fourth century many Greek theaters had marble seats. The parodos were the passageways by which the chorus and some actors made their entrances and exits. The audience also used them to enter and exit the theater before and after the performance.
The two masks of the picture represent the symbols for theater. They represent the comedy and tragedy masks which were worn in ancient Greece. They also represent duality. Actors were very far away from the audience that without the aid of costumes and masks they would be difficult to see. Actors wore thick boots to add to their height and gloves to exaggerate their hanks so that their movements would be easy to see by the audience.
The masks were made of linen or cork, so none have survived. We however know that they looked like from statues and paintings of ancient Greek actors. Tragic masks carried mournful or pained expressions, while comic masks were smiling. The head of the actor was covered by his mask, which included hair. It is believed that the shape of the mask amplified the actor’s voice, making his words easier for the audience to hear. This mask is associated with the famous ancient
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Ancient Greek Theatre. (2016, Dec 09). Retrieved from https://studymoose.com/ancient-greek-theatre-essay