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Comedy PaperFinal.docx

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Classical Studies
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1When investigating the ancestral roots of Greek comedy we find ourselves inquiring about the origins of the artistic form of drama itselfThis is a natural inference since it is widely accepted that theatrical drama is native to ancient GreeceHowever drama has much earlier roots in prehistoric tribal rites and ritual dances which can be traced to enumerable places and peoples Lever 1This begs the question is tribal cult then the origin of acting and thus of drama1However alluring such questions are they are beyond the scope of this essayFrom the inception of Greek comedy through its variable forms it came into the hands of the Romans as a depoliticized farcical and commodified form of entertainmentThe transition from its ancestral form to unique Roman adaptation can be shown by comparing the most influential contributors from both Greek and Roman comedy focusing on New Comedy as the form that was adapted by RomeOur historical timeline begins before the Common Era in the sixth century AthensAthens at this time was the cultural center of the Western worldIt is in this flourishing cultural epicenter that the dithyramb is born The dithyramb is considered to be the oldest form of Greek drama however is not analogous to drama as we know it todayUnlike modern performances with actors playing character roles in a linear plot dithyrambs were largescale choral performances of song and dance Dugdale 1They consisted of an assemblage of fifty men dancing to a chorus who sang hymns and in honor of the god of theater DionysusFittingly these theatrical presentations were staged at the City Dionysia2Drama as we know it developed out of the dithyramb when in 534 BC a man named Thespis decided to stand outside of the chorus and answer back to themThespis pioneered the first form of dialogue in which the answerer or hipocratos would respond to the chorusThis early stage of dialogue progressed gaining further importance and focus while the chorus would lose its eminence and dwindleThe addition of the hipocratos would eventually lead to the tragic genre of theatresomething more representative of our modern understanding of dramaIn its advanced form tragedy was performed by an allmale cast which consisted of fifteen chorusmembers and three character actors who between the three of them played all the speaking parts male and female alike 4 The structure of the plays was fairly static consisting of a prologue that set the scene followed by the entry and performance of the chorusThe chorus would remain on stage where it divided the scenes or episodes with singing 4Like all aspects of Greek life the gods played a paramount role in the subject matter of these playsEven if a particular play was focused on contemporaneous political events there would be a mythological component incorporatedIt is of importance that for the Greeks the Dionysia and dramatic performance itself was a religious endeavor not merely a form entertainmentDuring this religious festival each playwright would produce three tragedies followed by what was known as a satyr playIn the Greek religious ethos satyrs were mythological creatures they associated with the god Dionysus and therefore the theatreThey were depicted as half man half goat and were known for their insatiable sexual appetites and overindulgent behaviorSatyr plays physically involved the same cast that
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