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Lecture 8

Clas 201: Lecture 8 Notes

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Classical Studies
CLAS 201
Nicholas Maes

 Theatre: something that is distinctly Greek o If others did it, they took it from the Greeks o Dedicated to the god Dionysus (god of wine; if you take in wine, you are taking in the god, and you become “enthusiastic” and have too much of the god in you and it has a psychological effect on you; you suffer from “madness”; b/c you undergo this change in personality and personality comes from the roman word persona, it is felt that Dionysus is also the god of theatre; he is also the god of madness)  Thespis: the 1 actor in Greek history o He separated himself from the chorus o Now instead of a chorus singing a song in praise in Dionysus, he is an actor o He’s also the first ancient equivalent of an academy award winner o Goat-song = tragedy Staging  Dionysia takes place in the spring  You are going to need people to sponsor the different playwrights  3 tragic playwrights and 5 comedic playwrights  Choregos is expected to come forward and say “i will pay for the playwrights” (their costumes, etc.) o If you have money, you were expected to spend it o Rich people would be thinking, what’s the point of having a fortune if you’re not going to show it off to the public/spend it; you don’t hold on to it, you spend it lavishly  3 playwrights are selected in the summer (before the Dionysia) to produce the tragedies o Each playwright were expected to write 3 playwrights + 1 satyr play (4 plays each)  5 comedic playwrights = each will produce 1 play  Dionysia o Sacrifies are made to the god o A number of cows are slaughtered so the public can all eat meat that day o Day 1: 10 choruses compete against each other  50 people in each chorus  Dithyramb o Days 2-4: tragedies start  Everyone takes off work  30,000-35,000 people  If you miss a production/play, you can’t ever see it again; once it has been performed, that is it! You can’t see it ever again  Some tragedies were so remarkable, that years later, people discovered these manuscripts and decided to restage them  Day 2: you see 4 plays (3 tragedies + 1 satyr)  Day 3: you see 4 plays (3 tragedies + 1 satyr)  Day 4: you see 4 plays (3 tragedies + 1 satyr)  For each tragedy, around 30 people involved in each one o Day 5: 5 comedic playwrights would show their spectacles (5 in a row)  There is a thin line between tragedy and comedy  Dionysus is the god of both tragedy and comedy  Another 150 people involved (all together, a lot of manpower put into this)  Greek theatre is a public exhibit for everyone to see (except not sure about women) o Its all in the open; there’s no way you can hide from the audience o No lighting effects (can’t simulate night, fire, etc.); everything is left to imagination o Theatre is built into a mountain side (with benches arranged up a mountain; like bleachers) o Acoustics were not a difficulty b/c you’re yelling upwards in a contained space o Epidauros = theatre in Greece that is very large; at the very top, you will hear someone whisper from the very bottom (acoustics were just right) o Aristotle = a city should not be any larger than a place where everyone can hear 1 person speak o Plays describe a number of different themes (abstract or personal) and you cannot be a good citizen if you don’t listen to what the playwright thinks what a citizen should be o A theatre is a place where you go to see something o At the foot of the hill, you have a round space = orchestra (a dancing place)  The chorus stations itself at the orchestra o Right behind the orchestra is a raised platform called the bema (where actors stand)  Chorus performs elaborate dances to music, and often comment on what is happening with the actors on the bema o Skene = behind the bema and is a place where the props and equipment for the actors are kept (a changing room, etc.)  It also sets the tone/setting (“here I am, at the castle of troy”)  This is where we get the word “scene” or “scenery” o Parodoi = entrance o Exodoi = exit  Depending on what side the actor is coming from, the population would know he’s coming from the city (for example), and the other platform would mean he’s coming from a far away city o Ekkuklema = a wheeled platform  You have different worlds in greek tragedies (world of the stage, world of the chorus, and what happens behind the closed doors)  Greek tragedy rarely brings the “bloody scenes” onto the stage (usually happens behind closed doors)  The consequences of violence has to be shown to the audience after (ex. the doors slowly open and on the wheeled platform is Agamemnon’s dead body) o Mechane = crane  Having the god come in and wrapping things up when the plot required clarification/was very complicated o Characters are dressed in very elaborate costumes (b/c people far away only see a very small person on stage); actors have elaborate masks o The chorus also wears masks (Dionysus is also the god of masks) o There is a MAXIMUM of 3 actors  Some plays are elaborate and need 10 characters, but they will be played by a maximum of 3 characters  These actors are half actors/half opera singers (plays are acted out in speech as well as song; it is more like a musical than anything else) o 3 actors:  Protagonist  Deuteragonist  Tritagonist  Actors may share a role (ex. when 1 actor originally played Agamemnon but also played another and they had to be on the stage at the same time, they would share roles) o Chorus = 12-15 individuals  Never as affected by the tragedy as the actors themselves  Chorus is a spectator/observer to the action of the actors/tragedy o Problem: they can’t separate 1 act from another act b/c they can’t lower the curtain  To compensate, all greek tragedies start with a prologue (where character sets the tone for the audience)  Prologue: Where you are situated, who’s involved in the tragedy, when is it taking place (there are no program notes for the audience, so the character in the prologue tells the audience all the information they need) o Most greek tragedies involve mythical stories o Parodos: opening song of the chorus  After the prologue  Gives you a certain “emotional colouring” as to what is going to happen o Episodos = involve the actors (where the actors speak to each other)  After parados  Where the action of the play takes place (even though action usually takes the place of verbal o Stasimon:  After episodos  After episode 1, stasimon 1, then episode 2, then stasimon 2, etc. o Most greek plays of 3-4 episodes followed by stasimon o Epilogos = the final scene o Exodos = final song of the chorus  Thanks for watching the show; a little piece of wisdom (depressing) o This order delivers entertainment in a very ordered fashion  Why watch Greek tragedies? o 12 plays a year o Aeschylus = wrote 93 plays and only 7 have come down to us  What makes a classic and how things come down to us? A lot due to chance, could be selection, difficult to say  Oresteian trilogy o Sometimes they were all connected, sometimes they were not o In Aeschylus’ plays, they were all connected st o 1 play: Agamemnon  Agamemnon has been gone for 10 year  Clytemnestra (his wife) has started an affair with Aegisthus  Aegisthus has beef against Agamemnon’s father (and thus Agamemnon himself)  Agamemnon’s father Atreus had a problem with his brother Thyestes (Aegisthus’s father)  Atreus fed Thyestes a feast and fed him a stew that consisted of 8 of his 9 children; the only surviving child of Thyestes wants revenge on Atreus, but b/c Atreus is dead, he wants revenge on Agamemnon  Clytemnestra isn’t cheating Agamemnon just b/c of lust/boredom; she has an agreement with Agamemnon; Agamemnon got stranded on an expedition due to winds and confronted a prophet (who told him the gods were angry with him); in order to satisfy the gods, he has to sacrifice his daughter Iphigenia  Clyemnestra isn’t happy that their daughter was killed  Agamemnon goes to troy to conquer it to punish the trogans (for Paris stealing Helen)  Agamemnon makes his way home and Clyemnestra hides Aegisthus and Electra is mad that Clyemnestra (her mother) has been unfaithful to her father  Clyemnestra pushes Orestes (Agamemnon’s son) to one side and neutralize Electra and cuts Agamemnon down with an axe when he comes back and she gives him a bath  The play ends with the destruction of Agamemnon; Clyemnestra is ruler  Where does justice come from, and how is it that people suffer?  Play argues the whole principle of Theodicy: the justice of the gods  Justice comes about over a space of generations (acts of violence have to be atoned for)  Who is going to deal with the violence of Clytemnestra and Aegisthus? (it must take place in the next generation and is pushed to the next episode)  Ancient crime of Atreus against Thyestes that has to be atoned for  When Aegisthus kills Agamemnon, he is really asserting justice (for previous events) o 2 play: Choephoroi (Libation Bearers)  Libation = liquid offering to the gods (wine, etc.)  How is Clytemnestra and Aegisthus going to be punished for their act of
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