Greek

Theater

Theater and drama in Ancient Greece took form in about 5th century BCE, with the

Sopocles, the great writer of tragedy. In his plays and those of the same genre,
heroes and the ideals of life were depicted and glorified. It was believed that
man should live for honor and fame, his action was courageous and glorious and
his life would climax in a great and noble death. Originally, the heroís
recognition was created by selfish behaviors and little thought of service to
others. As the Greeks grew toward city-states and colonization, it became the
destiny and ambition of the hero to gain honor by serving his city. The second
major characteristic of the early Greek world was the supernatural. The two
worlds were not separate, as the gods lived in the same world as the men, and
they interfered in the menís lives as they chose to. It was the gods who sent
suffering and evil to men. In the plays of Sophocles, the gods brought about the
heroís downfall because of a tragic flaw in the character of the hero. In

Greek tragedy, suffering brought knowledge of worldly matters and of the
individual. Aristotle attempted to explain how an audience could observe tragic
events and still have a pleasurable experience. Aristotle, by searching the
works of writers of Greek tragedy, Aeschulus, Euripides and Sophocles (whose

Oedipus Rex he considered the finest of all Greek tragedies), arrived at his
definition of tragedy. This explanation has a profound influence for more than
twenty centuries on those writing tragedies, most significantly Shakespeare.

Aristotleís analysis of tragedy began with a description of the effect such a
work had on the audience as a "catharsis" or purging of the emotions. He
decided that catharsis was the purging of two specific emotions, pity and fear.

The hero has made a mistake due to ignorance, not because of wickedness or
corruption. Aristotle used the word "hamartia", which is the "tragic
flaw" or offense committed in ignorance. For example, Oedipus is ignorant of
his true parentage when he commits his fatal deed. Oedipus Rex is one of the
stories in a three-part myth called the Thebian cycle. The structure of most all

Greek tragedies is similar to Oedipus Rex. Such plays are divided in to five
parts, the prologue or introduction, the "prados" or entrance of the chorus,
four episode or acts separates from one another by "stasimons" or choral
odes, and "exodos", the action after the last stasimon. These odes are lyric
poetry, lines chanted or sung as the chorus moved rhythmically across the
orchestra. The lines that accompanied the movement of the chorus in one
direction were called "strophe", the return movement was accompanied by
lines called "antistrophe". The choral ode might contain more than one
strophe or antistrophe. Greek tragedy originated in honor of the god of wine,

Dionysus, the patron god of tragedy. The performance took place in an open-air
theater. The word tragedy is derived from the term "tragedia" or"goat-song", named for the goat skins the chorus wore in the performance.

The plots came from legends of the Heroic Age. Tragedy grew from a choral lyric,
as Aristotle said, tragedy is largely based on lifeís pity and splendor. Plays
were performed at dramatic festivals, the two main ones being the Feast of the

Winepress in January and the City Dionysia at the end of March. The Proceeding
began with the procession of choruses and actors of the three competing poets. A
herald then announced the poetís names and the titles of their plays. On this
day it was likely that the image of Dionysus was taken in a procession from his
temple beside the theater to a point near the road he had once taken to reach

Athens from the north, then it was brought back by torch light, amid a carnival
celebration, to the theater itself, where his priest occupied the central seat
of honor during the performances. On the first day of the festival there were
contests between the choruses, five of men and five of boys. Each chorus
consisted of fifty men or boys. On the next three days, a "tragic tetralogy"
(group made up of four pieces, a trilogy followed by a satyric drama) was
performed each morning. This is compared to the Elizabethan habit of following a
tragedy with a jig. During the Peloponnesian Wars, this was followed by a comedy
each afternoon. The Father of the drama was Thesis of Athens, 535 BC, who
created the first actor. The actor performed in intervals between the dancing of
the chorus and conversing at times with the