Ancient Greece • The City-States – AthensAncient Greece wasn’t just one – Corinth unified country. It was made up of a bunch of independent – Sparta city-states… and they didn’t always get along. – Thebes – And MANY others • Greco-Persian Wars • Peloponnesian War
Colchis – Medea’s Home The pink dots on the map are some of the key Greek city-states. And way out in the corner – not even on the map – is the land Medea came from. She would have been looked on as an outsider and a barbarian.http://cache.eb.com/eb/image?id=1033&rendTypeId=4
Greek Theatre Was… • Ritual – Plays were performed as part of a festival honoring the god Dionysus – plays were ONLY performed as part of these festivals, not simply for entertainment • Competitive – 3 Playwrights would submit 3 tragedies (a triology) and a satyr play, competing for prizes and honors • Subsidized – These theatre festivals were paid for by the city-state • Choral – The plays included a chorus: a group of actors who speak, move and think as a unit. We’ll talk more about them later.
Origins of Greek Theatre The Cult of Dionysus • God of fertility and procreation (and wine) • Rites of worship included alcoholic intoxication, orgies, human and animal sacrifice – ‘tragoidia’ • Controversial rites involved uninhibited singing and dancing – ‘ecstasis’ • An essential part of the rites of Dionysus was the dithyramb. The word means choric hymn. This chant or hymn was probably introduced into Greece early accompanied by mimic gestures and, probably, music.
Theatre Festivals • Though there were many festivals, the main one was the City Dionysia, an annual theatreIf this festival was run for about 350 years, and festival honoring (you guessed it) each year 3 playwrights Dionysus submitted 3 plays – Started 534 BCEapiece, that makes about 3,150 plays. You know – Competition made up of how many complete • 3 tragedies and a satyr play (brief scripts we have from comic pieces usually made up of Greece? raunchy jokes and slapstick humor) by 32 3 playwrights That’s 1% • 5 comedies by 5 playwrights (added later)
Component Parts of a Greek Theatre • Theatron: Greek word meaning “Seeing Place” – the word for the audience portion of the theatre • Orchestra: Greek word meaning “Dancing Place” – the word for the stage portion of the theatre • Thymele: the word for the altar in the middle of the orchestra • Parados: The two entrance pathways leading to the stage • Skene: The building that forms the back wall of the theatre – it would have been where the actors could go to be off stage
Other Cool Greek Stuff • Ekkyklema – violence did not happen on stage in Greek theatre, so they used a wheeled cart called the ekkyklema to bring on the “bodies” of the dead characters – showing the evidence of the violence • Periaktoi – three-sided pieces of scenery with different scenes on each side – they could rotate to show different scenes • Machina – a crane used to lift actors or even chariots over the skene, generally to represent the entrance of a god. This is where the termPeriaktoi “Deus ex Machina” (God from the machine) comes from – a term describing endings that seem a little too easy, too “ta-da-nick-of-time.”
The Greek Theatre This is a famous theatre that’s still standing. The acoustics are so good that if you stand on the toprow, you can hear someone light amatch in the center of the stage.
Here’s a computer reconstruction of what the theatre might havelooked like when it was new.
Masks and Costumes Actors wore masks because it would • Masks and costumes could have been a sin to pretend to be give the audience informationsomeone else. The mask shows that about the characters’the actors do not believe that they are – Genderthe characters and are not trying to lie – Ethnicity to the city. – Social Class • All characters were masked • There were conventions for what certain colors meant – the audience would automatically know something about a character if they were wearing a certain color – their status, their occupation, etc. • Masks were probably made out of wood, so none have survived, but pictures of them have.
The Chorus • 15 men • Paid for by the CHOREGUS – It was an honor for the member of the city who was selected to rehearse and fund the chorus • Rehearsed/Trained for up to 11 months • Singing and Dancing crucial - mostly in unison, sometimes split in two groups • Accompanied by a flute player
ChorusThe chorus served a variety of purposes inthe plays•Character – they could interact with othercharacters•Establish social/ethical framework – theycould give information about the rules of theworld of the play•Ideal Spectator – they could react to the action– showing the audience how they should react•Establish mood – this sort of speaks for itself•Spectacle – they danced and moved in unison,creating something interesting and beautiful tolook at•Rhythm – they sang, and they also broke upthe rhythm of the story, inserting choral odesin between scenes to make sure the audiencewas following along.
The Actors • The Greek word for actors was HYPOKRITĒS: it literally means “The Answerer” • All men – women were not allowed on stage: since the plays were religious rituals, it was not appropriate for those “inferior” women to participate in that way. • The actors were not professional actors, they were just normal members of the city who were called up to serve their community… kinda like jury duty • All the actors wore masks – which means they really had to project to be heard in those giant theatres
Athenian Squares Here’s a little who’s who of theEuripides Plato Aristotle most important names in Greek theatreLady Gaga Aeschylus Aristophanes Thespis Sophocles Menander
Aristotle 384-322 BCE Student of Plato wrote Poetics Plot Character Language Thought/Idea Music You Spectacleremember him…
AristotleWhat makes good tragedy? didn’t stop with the 6 elements of drama… Mimesis (imitation) – the greatest pleasure and learning tool for humans is in imitating what they see Complete Action – plays should imitate a plot from beginning to end in a logical and complete sequence Magnitude – the play should be of the appropriate length for people to sit through it comfortably and to hold it in their mind at one time Catharsis – by watching the suffering of the characters, the audience experiences a purging of unproductive emotions, thereby making them better citizens
CharacterAristotle pointed out thatthese superiorcharacters, these “TragicHeroes,” did what theythought was right, butbecause of some flaw orfault, they missed themark. He referred to thisas “hamartia” – anarchery term meaning “toaim for the target, butmiss”
Thespis• 6th Century BCE• “The First Actor” – the general belief is that Thespis was the first person to step out of the chorus and speak on his own• Semi-legendary – we have no real way of knowing this for sure, so he’s kind of a legend, but we generally accept it to be true.• He also wrote for one actor and a chorus• None of his work has survived• His name is where we get the term “Thespian” to describe an actor
Aeschylus• 525-455 BCE• The earliest playwright whose plays have survived• Added the second actor (which means dialogue… which means theatre as we know it)• Wrote 70+ plays… we have 7• Wrote The Oresteia: each playwright submitted three tragedies that were meant to function as a trilogy… but we only have pieces of most of them. This is the only one that has survived in its entirety: Agammemnon, The Choreophorae, The Eumenides
Sophocles• 496-406 BCE• Praised by Aristotle as the greatest tragedian• Added the third actor (things are really getting crazy now!)• Reduced the role of the chorus• Wrote 123+ plays… we have 7• Wrote Antigone, Oedipus Rex• Fragments of one of his plays (Inachos) were found inside a mummified crocodile in 2003… history is cool
Euripides Tot favo my ally Gre rite• 480-406 BCE ek!• Known for questioning societal norms• Further reduced the role of the chorus• Wrote about subjects that weren’t always deemed good enough for tragedy – women, slaves, etc.• His tragedies are more “human” than Sophocles and Aeschylus, and he was more loose with form• Only won the City Dionysia 4 times – once after he was dead – he was less popular with the judges, but probably more popular with the people• Wrote 92+ plays… we have 18• Wrote Medea, The Trojan Women, The Bacchae
Yes… they believed that tragedy was the greatest form of drama… but there are two masks in the theatre symbol… so we can’t forget aboutcomedy! Aristotle did briefly mention comedy in Poetics, but he said he was going to talk about it in another book. If he did, it didn’t survive. Sadness.
Aristophanes• 446-386 BCE• The only example of Old Comedy that we have – we have 11 of his plays• Subjects included – domestic disputes, politics, sex, bodily functions and stupid people… sound familiar? You don’t think any of us• Known for political satire – he loved to point out what was ridiculous about Greek society• Wrote The Frogs, The Birds, The Wasps, Lysistrata, The Clouds, etc.
Menander• 342-291 BCE• The only writer of New Comedy that we have left – we have ONE complete play• His plays were more about domestic issues than about satire – it turns out that emperors didn’t have much of a sense of humor• Wrote The Grouch
Medea’s Myth• Medea was the daughter of King Aeetes of Chochis, the granddaughter of the sun god Helios, and a pretty powerful sorceress• Jason was sent from Iolchus where his father had been unseated by his uncle Pelias– he was supposed to bring back the golden fleece• Medea and Jason fell in love, so she betrayed her father by helping Jason, then she murdered her brother and tossed the pieces of his bodies behind their getaway ship so that her father would have to stop to pick them up for burial• When they get back, Jason’s uncle won’t turn over the throne to Jason, so Medea bewitched Pelias’s daughters so they would murder their father.
Medea’s Myth• So… Jason married Medea and had kids… and knowing all the things she did to his family and her own family… he dumps her for someone else. Smart.• After the action of the play, Medea leaves on her flying chariot, marries King Aegeus and bears him a son – Medus• Later, Aegeus’s long lost son Thesus returns, so Medea tries to kill him in order to ensure her own son’s claim on the throne. Her plan doesn’t work, so she has to flee• One story says that then she went back to Colchis where her father had been deposed, so she kissed the new king• Another story says that she and Medus fled to some other kingdom where he became king
This is a cloud of the 150most-used words in Medea.The larger the word, the more it is used. There is clearly a concern with family, eh?
Medea Performed On the next few slides, you’ll see images from different performances of Medea. This is a play from a LOOOOOONG time ago… why are we still so interested in it? What does this play have to say to us today?
Medea Performed www.ulv.theatre/_archive/medea/medea.html
Medea Performed http://www.rfdesigns.org/medea.htm