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Notes on Greek Tragedy

Page history last edited by amrodrig@jeffco.k12.co.us 13 years, 1 month ago

Station #1

 

Tragedy

Thespis was the alleged winner of the first contest and is coined with being the inventor of drama.

 

534 B.C.E the City of Dionysia held contests for the best tragedy presented at the festival.

 

The original meaning of tragedy may have come from the word tragoida, meaning “goat song.” The term is thought to date from a time when the chorus danced around either a goat for a prize or around a goat that was sacrificed.

 

Most Greek tragedies contained elements of lyric poetry, choral singing and dancing, and mythological subject. Many of the subjects included the promotion of fertility, guaranteeing the return of spring, the productivity of human beings and the land, ample harvests, and to ward off evil.

 

The most prominent playwrights of the fifth century were Aeschylus, Sophocles, and Euripides. Of the 1000 plays published by numerous playwrights, thirty-one tragedies by the three most prominent playwrights exist today.

 

Playwrights focused very little on the physical and sociological aspects of characterization. More attention was placed on the psychological and ethical attributes.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Station #2

 

Actors and Acting

The Greeks seem to have placed considerable emphasis on the voice, for they judged actors above all by beauty of vocal tone and ability to adapt manner of speaking to mood and character. Nevertheless, the delivery was probably more declamatory than realistic, for actors did not attempt to reproduce the attributes of age or sex so much as to project the appropriate emotional tone.

 

As the primary means of expression, the voice was trained and exercised by the actor much as it by an opera singer today.

 

Facial expression was of no importance to Greek actors since they were always masked. It is suggested that movement tended toward a set of conventionalized, stylized, or symbolic gestures like those used in miming.

 

The same actor usually had to play more than one role; men play all roles; and song, choral passages, dance, and masks were common features.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Station #3

 

 

Chorus

Typically Greek theatre had a chorus of 12 members.  It wasn’t until Sophocles imported his innovations in drama, when he added three more.

 

Koryphaios was the leader of the chorus. This was usually a professional singer and dancer. The rest of the chorus consisted of amateurs chosen by the poet.

 

The appearance of the chorus depended on the genre. For tragedies the chorus wore very solemn masks called “emmelia.” In comedies, the masks were very elaborate and they were called a “codrax.”

 

The chorus was considered to be the mouthpiece of society (in its humble form) and morality, and they were suffering along with the heroes.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Station #4

 

Costumes

There is little information about their costumes. Although there is a lack of information we do know that what the characters wore determined the characters by gender or social status.

 

In order to play female roles, since actors were always men, they wore a “prosterneda” (in front of the chest to imitate female breasts).

 

The chorus serves several functions in Greek drama. First, it is a character in the play; it gives advice, expresses opinions, asks questions, and sometimes takes an active part in the action.

 

Second, it often establishes the ethical or social framework of the events and sets up a standard against which action may be judged.

 

Third, it frequently serves as an ideal spectator, reacting to the events and characters as the dramatist might hope the audience would.

 

Fourth, the chorus helps to set the overall mood of the play and of individual scenes and to heighten dramatic effects.

 

Fifth, it adds movement, spectacle, song and dance, and thus contributes to theatrical effectiveness.

 

Sixth, the choral passages serve an important rhythmical function, creating intervals during which the audience may reflect upon what has happened and what is to come.

 

Some historians now maintain that the dances were based on military formations, with which all adult males citizens would have been familiar.

 

Theatre companies would rehearse no less than eleven months. Historians suggest that training, like that of athletes, was long and arduous, involving diet and exercise, and disciplined practice under the watchful supervision of several persons.

 

Several historians have argued that the standard costume for all tragic actors was a sleeved, highly decorated tunic, usually full-length, although sometimes shorter. This garment is said to have derived from the robes of the Dionysian priests.

 

One account of a Greek performance states the chorus was so frightening in appearance that some women in the audience miscarried.

 

The identity of both actors and chorus might be established in part by symbolic properties: the king by his scepter, the warrior by his spear, the suppliant by his branch, th e herald by his wreath, and so on.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Station #5

 

Music and Dance

Music was an integral part of Greek drama. The musical accompaniment for drama was played on flutes, trumpets, and various forms of percussion.

 

Music and dance was thought to have ethical qualities and powers.

 

Dances were often derived from many sources: animal movements, religious ceremonies, victory celebrations, and various other activities and rites.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Station #6

 

 

Masks

 

All performers during the fifth century, with the possible exception of flute players, wore masks. No masks used by actors have survived since they were made of perishable linen, cork, or lightweight wood. Masks covered the entire head and thus included the appropriate hairstyle, beard, ornaments, and other features. The chorus often represented birds, animals, or insects, all of which were identified by appropriate, though not necessarily realistic, masks.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Notes on Greek Tragedy

 

Name: ___________________________                                           Period:__________

 

Station #1

What I see (facts)

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What I say (comments/thoughts/ideas)

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Explain how this information helps my understanding of Greek Tragedy.

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Station #2

What I see (facts)

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What I say (comments/thoughts/ideas)

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Explain how this information helps my understanding of Greek Tragedy.

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Station #3

What I see (facts)

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What I say (comments/thoughts/ideas)

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Explain how this information helps my understanding of Greek Tragedy.

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Station #4

What I see (facts)

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What I say (comments/thoughts/ideas)

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Explain how this information helps my understanding of Greek Tragedy.

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Station #5

What I see (facts)

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What I say (comments/thoughts/ideas)

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Explain how this information helps my understanding of Greek Tragedy.

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Station #6

What I see (facts)

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What I say (comments/thoughts/ideas)

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Explain how this information helps my understanding of Greek Tragedy.

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