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Greek tragedy
Greek tragedy
Greek tragedy
Greek tragedy
Greek tragedy
Greek tragedy
Greek tragedy
Greek tragedy
Greek tragedy
Greek tragedy
Greek tragedy
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Greek tragedy


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  • 1. Medea
    Greek Tragedy
  • 2. Dramatic performances were frequent in Ancient Greece as they formed part of the festival which honoured Dionysus, the god of wine and winemaking.
    Dionysus was like the ‘party’ god – he was the god of excess and riot
    Each year from about 508 BC, a theatrical contest would be held in his honour. Playwrights from across Greece would enter into the competition.
    Many of these plays were only performed once and so have been lost over time.
    Theatre in Ancient Greece
  • 3. The architecture of Greek theatre
    Theatron: space where the audience sat to watch
    Orchestra: held the chorus.
    They would sing and dance in this space
    Parodos: a passage that the actors used to enter and exit the stage.
    Skene: a tent or raised stage, where the key characters performed.
  • 4. The Classical period occurred during the 5th Century, between the attempted Persian invasion (as discussed in the film ‘the 300) and the Peloponnesian war.
    Three playwrights would each submit three tragedies and one comedic satyr play (about the gods). Only one playwright would be the winner.
    Plays were performed at the Theatre of Dionysus at Athens
    Euripides, Sophocles and Aeschylus are the three great tragedians of Ancient Greece.
    The Classical period of Greek Theatre
  • 5. Theatre of Dionysus, Athens
    Theatres in Ancient Greece were designed to amplify sound so that everyone could hear what was going on.
    The chorus were located in the ‘orchestra’ pit.
    The actors inhabited the stage behind it.
  • 6. Athenian tragedy aimed to explore the nature of humanity and human suffering.
    It aims to illustrate life itself – in all its misery and glory
    Aristotle suggested that tragedy was:
    Tragedy is, then, an enactment of a deed that is important and complete, and of magnitude, by means of language enriched, each used separately in the different parts [of the play]: it is enacted, not [merely] recited, and through pity and fear it effects relief (catharsis) to such [and similar] emotions. Poetics, VI 1449b 2-3
    The purpose of tragedy
  • 7. There are common features in all of the surviving tragedies:
    They use stories from Greek mythology
    They deal with the ‘fall’ of a hero – their demise
    The tragic actions have a significance to the society – the community will be greatly affected
    The tragic actions are of significance to family
    There is religious involvement – the gods play a part.
    Features of Greek Tragedy
  • 8. In each play, you would have a cast of characters and the ‘chorus’, made up of about 12-15 people.
    The cast move the story along – their actions tell the story, things don’t just happen to them.
    The chorus acts as one character. They explain what is happening and also provide moral judgements.
    All parts are played by men, however, many characters are women. Men would wear a fake bosom and stomach to simulate the female body.
    Actors could play more than one role.
    The players
  • 9. Each actor wore a mask.
    Masks could be changed around many times during a play.
    Each mask would have an exaggerated facial expression to illustrate the thoughts and feelings of the character. They were elaborate so as to be seen easily from a distance
    All members of the chorus wore the same mask. This helped to emphasise their unity – they should be seen as one character.
    The Use of Masks
  • 10. Euripides was one of the least successful of the playwrights during the festival; he only won five times, and one of these wins was posthumously.
    His work is unique for many reasons:
    Gods are minor characters, they don’t drive the story
    He focuses on people at their most erratic and intense
    He used a variety of machinery to support the story
    He uses long debates between the key characters, called ‘agons’.
    He twists the understanding of the stories he retells.
  • 11. ‘Medea’ is also notable as a play.
    It uses a mechane – which is a crane – to complete the play.
    Mechane (deus ex machina) were used primarily for gods. The fact that Medea is able to escape via this contraption is unique to this play.
    This is the first time that the myth of Medeainvolves her deliberately choosing to kill her children.
    Other, alternative endings are that the children were killed by accident or that they were killed by the revenge-driven citizens of Corinth.
    The Medea