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:
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,
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
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)
Promethus- light and fire to humans
Prometheus – gives light and fire to the humans
Prometheus and Zeus are cousins……human and nature colliding
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
An attempt to reconnect with god
King – the old man/father
Jack – young man/ son
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
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
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
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,
Masks as a surrogate- Mask usually symbolise fertility animals and people pretend these animals die-
theatre comes in here.
Greece included turkey (Asia minor)
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
Greeks had colonies in Italy which is how that culture made it Rome.
The Antestheria is the oldest festival and happens at the end of Feb. Only excerpts from plays were
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
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)
Each of the 10 leaders voted on the best but only 5 were checked in order to let fate have a
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
Socrates was the butt of many comedies
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
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
Two Categories: City actors and touring actors
Thespus is the legendary first actor and he was a touring actor
Privileged social position partly because they derived from priests
Were sent around as diplomats
Well paid and well respected
Eligible for prizes
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
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
Aulos- an ancient type of flute
Costumes and 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.
Onkos- hair pieces
Cothurni- high soled sandles to make people look a lot taller
Did not wear cothurni
Phallus – fake, abnormally large and could be moved on command
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.
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
The orchestra was not use by the chorus (chorus represented a non –existant
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
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
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
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
Rulers, warriors, landowners
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 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
Rising to the feet
Offering gifts to actors
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.
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
Actors Sanskrit drama used Mudras (coded hand gestures) and dance. Kathakali was a newer genre of
Kalidassa wrote the Sanskrit equivalent of the odyssey. It included 3 nataka plays(plays on
heroic or godlike characters)
2. Urvashii won through valor
3. Malavikaa and Agnimitra
Together these made the Mahabharata, the longest surviving text.
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.
There are three types of Theatre:
Origins: Develops from ritual, in particular two specific rituals.
Based on Buddhism
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
Kyogen were short interludes that happened in betw