Greek Theatre Essay Research Paper Greek TheatreThere

Greek Theatre Essay, Research Paper

Greek Theatre

There have been many artistic achievements that have had a substantial role in shaping outlooks and tastes for cultures and generations for 1000?s of years. Of all the different kinds of productions the Greeks have established, the tragedy is the most extraordinary of their spiritual contributions. Everything from style, intellect, appearance of stage, costume, and people have all been the main influences of drama and theatre over the past twenty-five hundred years.

The earliest of Greek theatre?s dates back to not long before 300 B.C.. The theatre itself was a large open-air structure consisting of three parts. Its original and central element was a level circle; some ninety feet in diameter called the orchestra (which means ?dancing place?) where the chorus performed. Outside one arc of the circle was a low rectangular building called skene or tent, the actors usually made there entrances and exits through and in it they changed their costumes and masks; eventually its front was decorated with simple paintings- whence the word ?scenery?. Rising from the circle of the orchestra was an auditorium of many tiers of stone seats, in sections divided by transverse passages. (Greek Drama, 11).

The audience ?area was rocky and irregular and not much is known about how much seating was constructed (the surviving stone dates from not long before 300B.C.). An audience number of 14,000 has become canonical; but it might have been possible to cram something more like 20,000. There is some evidence of actors putting up temporary wooden stages. A few permanent theatres, outside attica, go back to the 5th century, most notably Syracuse and Corinth, and during the next century more and more cities built one (Taplin, 18).

In Greek theatre it was well known for their style in costuming. There costumes were splendid, they would wear role-markers, such as sceptres, garlands, oriental trousers, or mourning black, the standard outfit for there the main characters was elaborately ornamented. During the performances actors would wear masks to portray different characters or enabled him to become a different person, even a god. Whether these masks were derived from primeval cults of Dionysus, or were invented for the theatre, the players, actors and chorus alike, in tragedy and satyr play and comedy, all wore whole-headed masks, probably made with stiffened linen. Each role had a different mask, but not necessarily a different actor. At first there was allegedly only one actor, but by the time of the earliest surviving tragedy there are two, and before the death of Aeschylus, three. The number stuck at three (for comedy also), sharing all the parts between them (Taplin, 17). The musicians and the chorus were also finely dressed.

The hallmark of the comic mask, male and female was that it was ugly- all its features were distorted from the ideals, which were typical of the tragic mask. The body was uglified as well: actors wore gross padding in front and behind and male actors wore large dangling phallus made of leather (Taplin, 33).

In fifth century Athens the playwrights, often known as teachers, were directors, composers, and trainers as well as writers. They were the chief celebrities if the spectacular success of the new art form. But as time went on, the actors also attracted more and more attention, and from 449 B.C. there was a separate actors competition and prize. They were famed above all for the quality and curiosity of their voices, but clearly the techniques of body language. The individual who judged plays were individuals whose favor could often be swayed by audience response. As stated before the audience was moderately large. If people disliked what was being presented to them they might interrupt it by mocking the actors or throwing food. The people might also beat the wooden or stone benches with their hands. With this embarrassing possibility at stake, playwrights might flatter them with a gift in the beginning of the play. Although it was difficult to gain audience support at times, it may have been an easier task than gaining the people?s attention. The large crowds were very loud and probably did not notice when the actor first stepped onstage. In order to quiet the spectators down the actors had to do something interesting and outrageous. For example, a comedian might tell jokes or tease the audience in the beginning. Or if there were numerous actors they might play around and fake fight or something to that nature. What the actors did in the beginning depended largely upon how well the audience was going to react.

In conclusion theatre is thriving today in many ways, with more new play-scripts than ever before and unprecedented awareness and perception that have followed from its beginnings. Theatre is now a subject widely studied in schools and universities, and provides a model for thought in philosophy, sociology, psychology, and education. This large interest is a result to ancient theatres such as the Greek theatre, and for over 2500 years all modern theatres must pay huge respect to Greek theatre for its countless contributions and enlightenment?s.


Prof.Mott English 102GC


Brown, John Russell

The Oxford Illustrated History of Theatre

University of Oxford Press

Oxford, 1995


Greek Drama

University of Virginia Press

Virginia, 1962

Bieber, Margarete

History of Greek and Roman Theatre

Princeton University Press

Princeton, 1961

Green, Richard, and Eric Handley

Images of Greek Theatre

Austin: University of Texas Press,1995


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