The Theater of
Ancient Greece
An introduction to Oedipus Rex
Virtually everything we
know of today’s theater—
script, stage, acting
techniques---traces its
heritage to the Golden
Age ...
Drama is defined as…
the acting out of basic
human emotions and
conflicts by actors on a
stage before an
audience.
Some
thoughts on
tragedy….
“We participate in tragedy.
At comedy, we only look.”
---Aldous Huxley
“Tragedy is more important than
love. Out of all human events, it is
tragedy alone that brings people out
of their petty d...
“If a single person dies in
front of you, it is a tragedy.
If a million people die on the
other side of the earth, it is
a...
“I’ve never thought of my
characters as being sad. On
the contrary, they are full of
life. They didn’t choose
tragedy. Tra...
“Destiny has two ways of
crushing us– by refusing
our wishes and by
fulfilling us.”
---Henri Frederic Amiel
“What makes tragedy so
tragic is not that the noble
individual falls into ruin, but
that his fall causes so much
suffering...
What is critical to understanding the
play Oedipus Rex?


It is representative of Athenian tragedy of fifth century,
B.C....
Origins in Religious Ritual
Greek drama is tied
directly to religious
rituals in which the
gods often
appeared as
characte...
Origins in Religious Ritual
These performances
were so significant
that the government
of Greece suspended
business and da...
Convention of 5 th Century
AtheniAn theAter

Celebrated
kings and
heroes often
became
protagonists
in the plays
Physical Characteristics of Greek
Theater Imposed Restrictions
The theater
accommodated at
least 15,000 people—
all the ci...
Why they wore masks…
As a result , actors wore
masks with
“megaphones” to
project their voices.
The masks also were
exagge...
Here are some examples of Masks…
Modern symbol for drama
The masks represent
Tragedy and Comedy
The audience sat on benches in the
theatron , “the seeing place.”
The rectangular building with three doors,
called the skene (“scene”), served as the
general backdrop for the action as we...
Lighting Restrictions
All plays were
performed during the
day because lighting
was not available at
night. Performances
te...
Other restrictions…
A lack of painted
scenery and the
passage of time in the
performance had to
be indicated through
chara...
Parados (“parade”)
The chorus was
made up of nearly
fifty citizens. The
chorus would enter
in the beginning or
parados cha...
The Function of the Chorus






Create psychological and
emotional background to
the action
Introduce and question
ne...
Modern Conventions from Ancient
Greece
Thespis, the first
actor, stepped
from among the
ranks of the
chorus to speak
lines...
Beginning of dialogue
Thus, the
concept of
dialogue began
with playwrights
generating
interactive lines
between actor
and ...
Introduction of the second actor
Aeschylus, the earliest
of the three great
tragedians,
introduced the second
actor. This ...
Introduction of the third actor
Sophocles, the second
of the three great
tragedians,
introduced the third
actor, the most ...
Aeschylus, sophocles, euripedes…
the three greAtest trAgediAns

Both Aeschylus
and Euripedes,
the third and
latest of the
...
Costuming
Costumes were
designed to make the
actors appear larger
than life to help an
audience see them
from a distance a...
Costuming
Often the costumes
were oversized and
cumbersome,
preventing a lot of
movement. A
declamatory style
of acting he...
Rhetorical Technique
A rhetorical tradition
of the period was
seen in lengthy
monologues and
stichomythic
dialogue between...
Structure of Greek Drama
1.
2.
3.
4.
5.

Prologue the opening scene where the
background of the story is established
Parod...
Dramatic Conventions of Greek Tragedy
1.
2.
3.
4.
5.
6.
7.
8.
9.
10.

Continuous presence of the chorus after the
prologue...
Aristotle








Pupil of Plato
Teacher to Alexander
the Great
Photographic memory
Scientific in thought
Famous for...
Aristotle first proposed how tragedy works…
a.

Unity of Action: nothing happens that
does not in some way specifically
ad...
AristoteliAn Unities
Oedipus Rex is an example of what are now
referred to as Aristotelian Unities

Adherence to these ten...
Characteristics of Sophoclean Tragedy







Based on an event that
already took place and
which the audience is
famil...
Themes in Oedipus Rex

 Fate punishes the proud and insolent with

an ironic outcome that is terrible
 The bigger they a...
The Purpose and Effect of Tragedy
 Emphasizes

human

suffering
 Ends with rigid finality
 Moves with solemnity
and for...
The Tragic Struggle
 Serious and painful

struggle
 Struggle against the
unchangeable
 Discovery of true
nature leads t...
Tragic Methods





Tragedy depends
upon the validity
of universal
norms
Coherence in the
episodes
Plot moves from
free...
Greek drama   oedipus rex
Greek drama   oedipus rex
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Greek drama oedipus rex

  1. 1. The Theater of Ancient Greece An introduction to Oedipus Rex
  2. 2. Virtually everything we know of today’s theater— script, stage, acting techniques---traces its heritage to the Golden Age of Greece
  3. 3. Drama is defined as… the acting out of basic human emotions and conflicts by actors on a stage before an audience.
  4. 4. Some thoughts on tragedy….
  5. 5. “We participate in tragedy. At comedy, we only look.” ---Aldous Huxley
  6. 6. “Tragedy is more important than love. Out of all human events, it is tragedy alone that brings people out of their petty desires and into awareness of other humans’ suffering. Tragedy occurs in human lives so that we will learn to reach out and comfort others” ---C.S. Lewis
  7. 7. “If a single person dies in front of you, it is a tragedy. If a million people die on the other side of the earth, it is a statistic.” ---Josef Stalin
  8. 8. “I’ve never thought of my characters as being sad. On the contrary, they are full of life. They didn’t choose tragedy. Tragedy chose them.” ---Juliette Binoche
  9. 9. “Destiny has two ways of crushing us– by refusing our wishes and by fulfilling us.” ---Henri Frederic Amiel
  10. 10. “What makes tragedy so tragic is not that the noble individual falls into ruin, but that his fall causes so much suffering in others.” ---Charmezel Dudt
  11. 11. What is critical to understanding the play Oedipus Rex?  It is representative of Athenian tragedy of fifth century, B.C.  It evolved from a ritualistic art form  Physical characteristics of the Greek theater itself imposed restrictions  Many modern conventions of performance began with Greek Theater  Oedipus Rex fits the Aristotelian definition of the perfect tragedy
  12. 12. Origins in Religious Ritual Greek drama is tied directly to religious rituals in which the gods often appeared as characters in the play, determining the fate of mankind and reflecting religious beliefs
  13. 13. Origins in Religious Ritual These performances were so significant that the government of Greece suspended business and daily activities for the week long festivals in honor of the Greek god Dionysus
  14. 14. Convention of 5 th Century AtheniAn theAter Celebrated kings and heroes often became protagonists in the plays
  15. 15. Physical Characteristics of Greek Theater Imposed Restrictions The theater accommodated at least 15,000 people— all the citizens— creating poor acoustics and vision problems for those in the back
  16. 16. Why they wore masks… As a result , actors wore masks with “megaphones” to project their voices. The masks also were exaggerated expressions for those seated far back. Masks also allowed actors to change roles quickly and easily.
  17. 17. Here are some examples of Masks…
  18. 18. Modern symbol for drama The masks represent Tragedy and Comedy
  19. 19. The audience sat on benches in the theatron , “the seeing place.”
  20. 20. The rectangular building with three doors, called the skene (“scene”), served as the general backdrop for the action as well as an area for the actors to change costumes, masks, and roles
  21. 21. Lighting Restrictions All plays were performed during the day because lighting was not available at night. Performances tended to last from dawn ‘til dusk.
  22. 22. Other restrictions… A lack of painted scenery and the passage of time in the performance had to be indicated through character lines or the chorus.
  23. 23. Parados (“parade”) The chorus was made up of nearly fifty citizens. The chorus would enter in the beginning or parados chanting and relating the theme or conflict of the play
  24. 24. The Function of the Chorus     Create psychological and emotional background to the action Introduce and question new characters Point out significant events as they occur Establish facts and affirm the outlook of society
  25. 25. Modern Conventions from Ancient Greece Thespis, the first actor, stepped from among the ranks of the chorus to speak lines AS A GOD rather than lines ABOUT A GOD.
  26. 26. Beginning of dialogue Thus, the concept of dialogue began with playwrights generating interactive lines between actor and chorus
  27. 27. Introduction of the second actor Aeschylus, the earliest of the three great tragedians, introduced the second actor. This allowed another direction for dialogue.
  28. 28. Introduction of the third actor Sophocles, the second of the three great tragedians, introduced the third actor, the most actors ever to appear on the stage together in Greek drama.
  29. 29. Aeschylus, sophocles, euripedes… the three greAtest trAgediAns Both Aeschylus and Euripedes, the third and latest of the great Athenian tragedians, also employed the third actor.
  30. 30. Costuming Costumes were designed to make the actors appear larger than life to help an audience see them from a distance and to elevate the status of their roles
  31. 31. Costuming Often the costumes were oversized and cumbersome, preventing a lot of movement. A declamatory style of acting helped accommodate the actor’s lack of mobility
  32. 32. Rhetorical Technique A rhetorical tradition of the period was seen in lengthy monologues and stichomythic dialogue between two characters essentially in a debate.
  33. 33. Structure of Greek Drama 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. Prologue the opening scene where the background of the story is established Parodos chorus enters with chants relating to the theme or an extreme situation Episode plot is developed much like a modern Act or scene Stasiman at the end of each episode, the chorus expresses views Exodus final action
  34. 34. Dramatic Conventions of Greek Tragedy 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. 8. 9. 10. Continuous presence of the chorus after the prologue; no intermissions No interior scenes No lighting effects No acts of violence before the audience Mythical subjects Male actors only with masks Dialogue in stichomythia Frequent use of a messenger Uses of machine- deus ex machina Dramatic unities sometimes
  35. 35. Aristotle       Pupil of Plato Teacher to Alexander the Great Photographic memory Scientific in thought Famous for his views on TRAGEDY, mathematics, and deductive logic The Poetics
  36. 36. Aristotle first proposed how tragedy works… a. Unity of Action: nothing happens that does not in some way specifically advance the action forward b. Unity of Setting: all of the action occurs in one geographical location c. Unity of Time: all events occur within a single day
  37. 37. AristoteliAn Unities Oedipus Rex is an example of what are now referred to as Aristotelian Unities Adherence to these tenets of unity makes for the taut, spare austerity we have come to associate with Greek tragedy.
  38. 38. Characteristics of Sophoclean Tragedy     Based on an event that already took place and which the audience is familiar The protagonist is of noble stature The protagonist has a weakness, and because of it, becomes isolated and suffers a downfall The audience may pity the protagonist because the downfall is not entirely his fault    The fallen protagonist gains self knowledge The audience undergoes a catharsis, a purging of emotions, after experiencing pity, fear, shock and other strong emotions. The people go away feeling better The drama usually unfolds in one place and in one day
  39. 39. Themes in Oedipus Rex  Fate punishes the proud and insolent with an ironic outcome that is terrible  The bigger they are, the harder they fall
  40. 40. The Purpose and Effect of Tragedy  Emphasizes human suffering  Ends with rigid finality  Moves with solemnity and foreboding  Emotional response of pity and fear  Laments man’s fate  Identification with the hero  Criticizes hubris, self delusion, and complacency  Offers some HOPE (man can learn), but stresses the limitations of the human condition
  41. 41. The Tragic Struggle  Serious and painful struggle  Struggle against the unchangeable  Discovery of true nature leads to hero’s isolation  Struggle between man and destiny  Life and societal norms are at odds  Struggle is dominated by fate  Struggle against predictable and inevitable  Struggle with forces beyond man’s control
  42. 42. Tragic Methods    Tragedy depends upon the validity of universal norms Coherence in the episodes Plot moves from freedom of choice to inflexible consequences  Causality dominates pattern of (a) deed, which leads to (b) suffering, which leads to (c) recognition or understanding
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