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Greek Tragedy

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Introduction

Ancient Greek Theatre Greek theatre was a tradition that flourished in ancient Greece between 550 and 220 B.C. It developed from the state festival of Athens, honouring the god Dionysus. The earliest drama is Seven against Thebes, 467B.C. Athens was the centre of ancient Greek theatre. Theatre was a festival occasion, with a religious overtone, lasting for about five days. On the first day the statue of Dionysus was taken to Eleusis; at night the statue was placed in the middle of the theatre. There was a crowd of about 17,000 and performances were of a high standard. (Catholic mass was originally a performance; this occasion has an equally serious tone.) As this was a religious festival, it was a sin to behave aggressively in the theatre - on stage no acts of violence were performed; violent actions were 'performed' off stage and described through commentary. ...read more.

Middle

The judges were selected to avoid bribery or favouritism - by lot from an urn brought into the theatre. (Aeschylus came first thirteen times; Sophocles eighteen, Euripides, five -Sophocles' Oedipus Rex came second!) The winning poet was crowned with ivory, a glorious reward, and names were set up in tablets in the theatre area. The playwright then won a producer and a flautist (there was no orchestra, just a flute). The producer gave financial backing. Because it was basically religious, everything in Greek drama was traditionally fixed. The poets selected their own chorus, which led to a 'dance' - mimetic, singing, speaking and gesture were important. ('Orchestra', from 'ochre' to dance - the 'dance' took place in a pit of hard floor, set in a natural hill.) Unity: Tragedy tries to keep within one revolution of the sun - 24 hours limit. ...read more.

Conclusion

The chorus would come on chanting, in between dialogues, take their places and sing odes that separated the pieces of dialogue. They took up the position of an oblong, which they rotated about in 45� - strophe, a turn; antistrophe, a turn in the opposite direction. Dances were mimetic, to suit the acts; actors and dancers always entered from particular entrances. Even dialogue was formalised. The messenger speech: because the tragic act was never shown on stage, the tragedy was described in extraordinarily vivid speeches by the messenger, a highlight of the plays. The formal aspect was contributed to by the subject matter. The subject must come from the Epic Cycle (a collection of epic poems recording events leading up to and including the Trojan War). The myths centre on a few families, such as the House of Atreus. 'Tragodia' - 'tragos', a goat; 'odia', a song. The theory is that the original chorus were goat satyrs, who sang to win the goat as a prize. Drama: 'dram', to do. ...read more.

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