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Classical Theatre from Ancient Greek to Medieval Morality

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Dalhousie University
THEA 2011
Jure Gantar

Classical Theatre Exam! Greek and Roman (Antiquity) Theories of Origin: Three sets of theories of origin 1) Ritual 2) Dance 3) Storytelling Rhapsodes- Greek storytellers that used different voices to portray characters The Gods of Greek mythology: Primordial Gods- Chaos: lack of order Gaia: Goddess of the Earth Eros: God of Love Tartaros: Death (underworld) These primordial Gods represent the basics of the universe. Gaia is the only one who can procreate. Venus of Villundorf is the oldest statue of Gaia and the main idea behind her is fertility. Gaia marries Uranus, the god of the sky. After the Primordial Gods come the Titans- Cronus (time), Iapetus, Hyperion, Oceanus, Coeus, Crews, Theia, Rhea, Mnemosyne, Phoebe, Tethys, Themis. These 12 are all to bring about order and are the basic forces of nature. Cronus is the king of the titans was afraid his son would overthrow him because he had castrated his father with a sythe so Cronus ate all of his children except Zeus. Zeus is the one who overthrew him. Cronus and Rhea have the Olympian gods and they deal with humans. Zeus- Sky, created the humans Poseidan- sea Hades- underworld Hestia- hearth and home Demeter- harvest Hera- wife and mother Zeus uses energy to overthrow Cronus. Olympian Gods are immortal. Dionysis ------wine and fertility Iapetus- Atlas (holds the world) Menoetius Epimetheus Promethus- light and fire to humans Prometheus – gives light and fire to the humans Prometheus and Zeus are cousins……human and nature colliding Cyclical Myths Abydos passion play: Isis, Osiris, set, Horus Aphrodites and Adonis Oedipus, Laios and Jocasta Dionysus, Zeus and Semele Cyclical myths mimic the cycle of nature and that the same things happen to each set of Gods. Birth- Growth- Death- Rebirth Spring- Summer- Autumn- Winter Rebirth- If it happens in nature there is a hope that it can happen in humans too. Every new generation gets rid of the old system of values from your parents- symbolic of “killing your father”. Cronus brings about the package of time and Zeus brings about energy through lightening (fire) Carnival- farewell to meat …. Originated at the beginning of lent Dionysia- drank alcohol and perhaps drugs which altered their unconscious states and they thought that it showed their heaven and the gods. The myth of Prometheus Society is dramatisising its break from the gods. After the primordial unity they receive the knowledge of good and evil .The part of the spring is why they needed the children. It was important for the rebirth section. Primordial Unity – Sin of Reason- Suffering- Sacrifice In order to become one with god/ nature there had to be formal sacrifice Cyclical Archetypes An attempt to reconnect with god King – the old man/father Jack – young man/ son Queen- mother Joker- magician/ jester – a catalyst to restore the young man or help Thirteen people- Judas and Jesus – thirteen people at a table, the first to rise will die Tridecaphobia- the fear of the number 13 If the mother reported that the father was impotant then the youngest son had the right to kill him &replace him. Two cycles – seasons, human life Ancient Fertility Rituals Greek and Roman Eleusinian mysteries- Eleusis was a village outside Athens. They had a secret ritual in which (dedicated to Demeter) a lot of the villagers would sleep with many people to ensure fertility even if the husband had trouble. Saturnalia- Roman ritual- Saturn is the god that was castrated. But it represents the passage into a new year. Servants became masters and things were turned upside down. But, to move onto the new year the king must be killed. So they made the servants masters and chose one to be king for the day- this servant dies. Dionysia- Dionysis is the son of a mortal and zeus but nobody believed that he was zeus’ child. She was tricked into asking zeus to reveal himself but the sight killed her and Dionysis had to be saved by Zeus stitching him into his thigh. Dionysis was then raised by nymphs. In Greece and Israel only drunkards drank undiluted wine. Everyone else added wine to water which sterilyzed it and prevented them from getting sick. Zeus shows up as a swan, golden rain, and lightening but Dionysis showed himself as himself and walked amongst humans. So he was more relatable. Myth and Ritual When you have a ritual that stops having a transformational purpose and you stop thinking when you walk out, it becomes theatre. Reenactment of cyclical narratives temporarily restores primordial unity Ritual Killing – King must killed so that the new king can take his place and life can continue Human Sacrifice- The king says to sacrifice other humans in his place and life can still continue Animal Sacrifice- Animals can take the place of humans. This is usually used in Fertility rituals (goats, bulls, etc) Masks as a surrogate- Mask usually symbolise fertility animals and people pretend these animals die- theatre comes in here. Greek Theatre Greece included turkey (Asia minor) Ilium- Troy Athens was the intellectual centre and famous for its political system – they had a direct democracy. Greek city state = Hollis Macedonia- Important for a military tactic, and Alexander the Great who conquered everything throughout the Mediterranean and to India, thus spreading out Greek culture and language. Sparta- were taught to be the best possible soldiers and they were constantly exercising. If a child looked weak they were left on a cliff. Persians threatened Greece but in doing so they created a sense of unity between the usually separate regions. Greeks had colonies in Italy which is how that culture made it Rome. Theatre Festivals The Antestheria is the oldest festival and happens at the end of Feb. Only excerpts from plays were performed. The rural Dionysia involved phallic ritual and crude songs. Happened in December and was a sort of “fringe” festival. It lowered inhibitions and encourage fertility. The Lenaia Festival of comedy in January was a domestic event. Satyr plays and Dithrambs were never performed. The City Dionysia- The most popular festival in Athens. At the end of march. Open to the whole Hellenic world and involved public celebrations.  Statue of Dionysus is taken to Eleuthera  Proagon- pre battle hype was a build up  Two sets of dithrambic choruses (10 of men 10 of boys) followed by kronos (comedy) The cities competed against each other.  Tragic tetralogy (three tragedies and a satyr play)  Tragic tetralogy  Each of the 10 leaders voted on the best but only 5 were checked in order to let fate have a hand.  Comedies (either3 or 5) Athens had around 150 000 people. The theatre of Dionysis seated about 20 000 so roughly 1/7 th of the population. Socrates was the butt of many comedies Comos- Party Greek Theatre Space: Architecture Dodona was dedicated to Zeus. It is surrounded by oak trees and they used the rustling of leaves to tell fortunes. Theatres were often built on sacred sites. They were always built into the hill, not free standing and faced west so the sun set behind the actors. Epidauros- has a fully circular orchestra (greek classical) Acroplolis- in the hill above Athens Odeion- indoor theatre space, fully enclosed and covered Greek Literature was always read aloud Orchestra- big round space where the chorus danced Classical Theatre: Euripides, Esculus, Sophocles th Theatre in 4 Century BC There are no logeions anymore because the wood did not survive. The orchestra is more than a semi circle. Theatre in 2 century BC (Hellenistic) With the rise of Alexander and the fall of democracy there were less plays being written. So they re-did older plays with better technical effects and elements. Theologion- a higher stage where the gods would act Proskenion- the area in front of skene to make room for visual effects. 1st century theatre AD (ROMANISED)  Orchestra was elaborate and semi circular  No need for chorus space because they were meant to represent the voice of the people and the Romans were not interested in democracy  It could also be water tight  Skene is replaced by Scaena Frons which was more elaborate Stage Machinery  Mechane- a kind of crane that flies the gods down  Athena- goddess with the helmet  Ekkyklema- a rolling platform  Scenography- scenic painting Actors Two Categories: City actors and touring actors Thespus is the legendary first actor and he was a touring actor City:  Privileged social position partly because they derived from priests  Were sent around as diplomats  Well paid and well respected  Eligible for prizes Touring:  Expelled from Athens  Well versed in comic techniques  Participated in phallic processions and rustic iambic verses Originally there was only one actor and he was the protagonist. He would talk to the chorus. Aeschylus introduced the second actor to support the first (deuteragonist). Aeschylus was succeeded by Sophocles and he added the third actor (triagonist). This is where it stopped for Greek theatre. The three actors played all the roles and there were never any female actors. Euripides was disliked because he overdid the special effects. Greek audiences expected Euphonia from the actors (well-spoken verse) or they could be booed off.  Choregus- oversaw the chorus and he finds, rehearses and subsidises them.  Archont- Tribal leaders in Athens who selected which plays would be performed  Chorus- All men. In a Dithrambic chorus there were 50 men, 12 in a tragic chorus (Aeschylus) and in a Sophocles tragic chorus there were 15. 15 was the most for a chorus in Greece whilst comic choruses had 24.  Chorus- sang in unison and the leader was the only one who might have spoken. They were always organised in geometrical figures  Coryphaeus- the leader of the chorus  The chorus was mimetic. In comedies they imitated the animals and plays were named after animals. Music Lyre- Aulos- an ancient type of flute Costumes and Masks Masks  Worn by all performers except musicians  No masks survive because they were made of linen, cork, or wood  Masks covered the whole face and included beards  Hellenistic masks were larger the face and exaggerated facial expressions. They shaped the masks to act like a megaphone. Costumes Tragic costume  Onkos- hair pieces  Cothurni- high soled sandles to make people look a lot taller Comic costumes  Fake bellies  Did not wear cothurni  Phallus – fake, abnormally large and could be moved on command Audience All free men were encourage to attend. it was a civic duty and there were subsidies for poorer men. Women may have attended and there is a record saying that in the third play in Eumenidies (the furies) women had miscarriages out of terror. Theatres housed between 10000 and 50 000 and to show displeasure audiences stomped their feet. Eating and drinking was encouraged. Roman Theatre Space It was a free standing building and it was not a ritual event anymore. Not built into the hill.  Orchestra was now a semi circle  May have been used for seating  Water tight so it could be flooded  Parodos was roofed over to provide a corridor (Vomitorium)  Roof covered the stage itself  Expensive costumes  The orchestra was not use by the chorus (chorus represented a non –existant democracy)  Chorus often not as present  Pulpitum- Stage  Scaena Frons- the new Skene (very architecturally developed)  Cavea- seating (always semi-circular)  Vomitorium- used as a way to bring in musicians etc. Roman Dramatic genres Theatrical vs Literary Theatrical:  Fescennine verses- Phallic, iambic processions  Fabula Alellana- (Atellan farce) may be a direct predecessor of Commedia dell arte  Fabula Saltica- (pantomime) story told without words  Fabula riciniata- (mime) masks not always used and women could appear too Fabula = story Literary:  Fabula Pallatia- dressed in Greek clothing  Fabula Togata- comedies set in Rome (in togas) Stock Characters Miles Gloriosus- boasts about battlefields Parasitus- lives off other people Senex iratus- irate old man Servus callidus- quick witted slave Adulescens amator- adolescent in love Indian Theatre History: Around 1500BC (the time of the Trojans) the Aryans from the north pushed the Dravidians to the south. This merges the civilisations and is a creator of the veder religion and the Sanskrit language. 120- 500AD was the height of Indian drama. Actors in this culture were of a similar social position to prostitutes and were between Sudra and untouchables on the pyramid caste system. Priests Rulers, warriors, landowners Merchants Artisans/ farmers Staging There were both all-male and all female troupes of actors. Men could also play women’s roles. The stages were temporary and had a curtain at the rear. Stagehands and musicians were seated on stage and all stages faced the temple. Audiences Audiences were from a higher caste than the actors. Success in Indian theatre was expressed either through Human Success or Divine Success and appreciation was expressed vocally and physically by: Human:  Applause  Laughter  Tears  Exclamations  Rising to the feet  Offering gifts to actors Divine:  Profound silence  Concentration Audiences were typically part of the Kshatriya class. The spectators kept score of faults and tallied results. Prizes were awarded to actors with the fewest faults. Natyasastra This means the art of theatre. It is the oldest Indian book of poetics and is comparable to Aristotle’s poetics. The author was Bharta Muni and it was written between 200BC and 300AD. The first manuscript of the work was rediscovered in 1860s. the most important concept in it is: Rasa and Bhava. Bhava Actor (create the necessary mood) Rasas Audience (evoke the desired states of mind and spirit to stir the appropriate sentiments.) Actors Sanskrit drama used Mudras (coded hand gestures) and dance. Kathakali was a newer genre of Indian drama. Sanskrit Drama Kalidassa wrote the Sanskrit equivalent of the odyssey. It included 3 nataka plays(plays on heroic or godlike characters) 1. Sakuntala 2. Urvashii won through valor 3. Malavikaa and Agnimitra Together these made the Mahabharata, the longest surviving text. Decorum:  Conforming to a set of rules  Very little external action  Performed through verbal description  Action happens off stage  Caste system is built into it The upper classes spoke Sanskrit whilst the lower classes spoke in Prakrit. Japanese Theatre There are three types of Theatre: 1. Noh 2. Kabuki 3. Bunraku Noh Origins: Develops from ritual, in particular two specific rituals. Sarungako-no Based on Buddhism Den’gaku-no Based on Shintoism These two then merge and become Noh. They take things from each tradition. The Ashikaga shoguns (1336-1573) –like warlords- controlled a limited amount of land but had private armies. They tried to show they had most in common with the people. They try to remember and recall the past. They wanted to elaborate on the original rituals and this develops into Noh. With Noh theatre 5 plays are performed in a day – Pentalogy 1. Kamimono- about Gods 2. Shuramono- about warriors 3. Kazuramono- about women 4. Zatsu- madmen 5. Kirimono- demons Noh is not fully masked but the lead characters wear stock character masks 1 2 3 4 5 Kyogen were short interludes that happened in betw
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