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Centre for Drama, Theatre and Performance Studies
Alan Ackerman

Monday October 22, 2012 – DRAMA LECTURE Lysistrata Review: Peloponnesian War -> Civil war in Greece, Athenians not doing very well. In midst of this, Aristophanes writes this absurd play with a lot of physical comedy (giant phalluses or phalluses you can pull with a string for great dramatic effect) Idea of weaving very important especially as war unravels Why is structure so important? What is the importance of a prologue, a strophe or antistrophe, a chorus…. Aristotle said best tragedies were characterized by a beginning, a middle and end. Play also climaxes with a moment of repetition and reversal. We live our lives in language. Some people believe that we are genetically hardwired for grammar. Structures of grammar important, even structures of buildings are important. Structures vary when we go to different places, encounter different people. Bernard Shaw: “A well made play is like a freight train” In 20 century, we have a playwright like Samuel Beckett who writes plays in which nothing happens twice (En Attendant Godot). Sometimes, structure itself is the subject, the content or the theme of the drama that is meaningful. We can’t separate what the play is about and the structure (= how the play represents these ideas). Aristotle says that what makes Sophocles great is where he starts his story and what he chooses to tell us. Aristotle tells us that structuring is a model of thinking. You have to make selections, you have to order notes (as Aristotle does in Poetics). In order to make your ideas intelligible, you have to order them. Structure of Aristophanes comedy:  It is episodic, they have a sense of spontaneity rather than structure  Often actions seem to follow by accident -> makes them funnier  Plays combine spoken verse, recitative, they had music and dance (contributed to musical effect)  We had no stage directions  Plays began with a prologue (exposition = couple characters come on stage and give us info about play by taking to each other)  Agon in Lysistrata among men and women (they are the antagonists)  Stichomythia (found in Lysistrata) = dialogue in which they alternate single lines quite rapidly, we find repetitive patters (generates excitement, easy way to generate tension and conflict)  Most Greek plays have a parabasis (Lysistrata doesn’t have the same as others) = a long passage that cuts the play in 2 and completely suspends the action (we see some of this around p.155 when a woman comes forward to address the audience). Action of play thus split into 2 parts.  Innovation in Lysistrata: we have 2 choruses (one of men, one of women)  Play ends with komos (= a kind of resolution, we have a rebirth of society, a happy ending, often a sacrifice and a feast -> drinking, marriage…)  The action of the play should quickly lead us to the central conflict  Variations seen in Lysistrata: We have 2 choruses which are later unified (reconciliation = one of principle themes in play)  There is also no proper parabasis in play  Agon: A roman orator considered comedy good to be studied by orator students because it presents good debates. Subject of women in Athens: Central to this play and very disturbing for many characters on stage. Lysistrata embodies women as ruler of state, which is horrifying. For the Athenians, the Amazons were the best example of women taking over. There is ambivalence in the play’s representation of women (marriage considered as taming the wild young woman). Idea of women in power clearly marked in Greek ideology as abnormal. The plot of Lysistrata is inscribed in the contradictory views of the roles of women (according to men in Greece). Women decide to seize the acropolis -> very disturbing. Gathering (between men + women) is of a disordered nature. At same time, aim of gathering very positive, very praiseworthy and potentially beneficial = we have a number of paradoxes (ex: we have an army of women -> paradoxical to have an army of women we would consider tamed). War has pushed women to declare war in order to make peace. Younger women are subverting the normality in which marriage is the goal of life for a girl as war is the goal of life of a boy. Women have seized the religious center of the city and have taken over a manly activity. By seizing the acropolis, the women achieve something the Amazon’s never did. In end, Athenians join their wives and Spartans join their wives. What do we make of the happy ending in this play? It was written and performed in very dark times. Athenian democracy was over, so what do we make of happy ending? The body is central to this play, everything is centered on the body. Play is full of double entendres, the Greek body politic has become deformed, unmanageable. Does the play really bring about a restoration of normality? Women bring about restoration of peace but also of male control (from which all problems arose in the first place). Discussion of a woman’s body under form of desirable areas of Greece -> p. 166 (each part of body is a part of Greece), we have body, sexy language and humor. It represents something very troubling that got the state into trouble in the first place -> idea of sexual violence. It is by n
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