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Ancient Greece & Oedipus Notes

by: Leah Notetaker

Ancient Greece & Oedipus Notes THEA 125

Marketplace > University of Wisconsin - Eau Claire > THEA 125 > Ancient Greece Oedipus Notes
Leah Notetaker

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About this Document

Covers the basic history of theatre in ancient Greece, including theories of origin, staging, and rules of theatre. Also covers the play Oedipus the King and tragedy, including what made a Greek tr...
Intro Theatre-History
Jennifer Chapman
Class Notes
theatre, theater, Ancient Greece, Oedipus, sophocles
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This 5 page Class Notes was uploaded by Leah Notetaker on Wednesday September 28, 2016. The Class Notes belongs to THEA 125 at University of Wisconsin - Eau Claire taught by Jennifer Chapman in Fall 2016. Since its upload, it has received 14 views.


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Date Created: 09/28/16
Ancient Greece  Among the first of ancient cultures to use dramatic theater. Also well known for creating humanism and democracy. From Where Did Drama Come?  Evolved Out of Ritual  Drama is “dramatic literature”.  Scholars disagree about where drama came from; three common theories; may be a combination of all three. The Theories  Theory #1: Drama was created by a real person named Thespis and the improvisation by leaders of the Dithyramb. o Dithyramb- a choral ode in honor of the Greek god Dionysus, the god of things such as harvest, wine, and partying o Ritual itself adapted from a practice in Mesopotamia o Done for good harvest o Would take place at a hill with the leaders at the bottom and the people watching at the top. The leaders would perform a tragiodia, which involved the sacrificing of a goat. o The theory is that one day, Thespis decided to speak one line, and then the others would speak a line, thus creating dialogue. And this would be repeated. o However, the main problem with this theory is that the word “tragiodia” existed long before Thespis.  Theory #2: Drama evolved from the rites performed on the tombs of Greek heroes, done in an annual ritual.  Theory #3: The creation of drama was deliberate and sudden when Aeschylus, an ancient Greek tragedian, added a second actor to a play. o It is important to note that plays were considered poems which only one person performed. The City Dionysia  Despite its name, this is actually a festival in honor of the god Dionysus, not an actual city.  Pisistratus, who was in charge of the city of Athens, had an idea to make Athens the cultural center of its part of the world, adding to the fact that the Athenian army was powerful and conquering of many parts of the area.  The plan: use Dionysus, the god of celebration, to have a festival with Dithyrambs within a week of eating, drinking, partying, sex, orgies, etc.  This proved successful, and around the year 501 B.C., the festival was reorganized to include a contest for drama (tragedy). o To be eligible, each dramatist had to submit three tragedies and a satyr play. The Theatres  Only men were allowed to be performers, and only men were considered citizens, and only citizens were allowed to watch the plays. o However, some scholars believe that the wives and slaves of important men may have attended.  One’s attendance at tragedies was considered an important part of citizenship. o Central to a tragedy was the agon or debate. Debating was an important part of citizenship and the heart of democracy in Ancient Greece. Some words which we know today in theater have agon in them.  Protagonist- hero, main character, usually the “good guy”. Confronted with conflict, undergoes character development.  Antagonist- the opposing force to the protagonist. Sometimes the villain. The Plays  Most of what we know about the performances comes from vase paintings.  The Pronomos Vase depicts a satyr play and shows images of the masks used. o It is believed that the actors wore the masks and the chorus did not.  All tragedies were based on either myth or history. o The tragedies were written in episodes separated by stasima (choral dance songs) o Oldest surviving tragedies are by Aeschylus. His trilogy of Agamemnon, The Libation Bearers, and Eumenides is one of the few trilogies that survives.  The rules of the competition stated that plays could have only two (later three) actors, not including the chorus. Sophocles set the chorus at fifteen members and introduced the idea of a third actor. The Staging & Devices  The stage was outdoors, as the environment was an important part of the audience’s experience and connection to their land.  The stage was on a hillside. The staging was at the bottom while the audience sat on the hill, yet the audience could hear the dialogue very well.  The skene building (the scene building) had scenery on it.  The orchestra was the “dancing place”, often used by the chorus for the stasima.  The ekeklema was a low platform with wheels that carried a table which carried a tableau. o A tableau was a frozen picture of action which was too violent or graphic to be shown on stage. (Death was never shown on stage in Greek theater.)  The machina was a machine with a crane that could be used to make the actors “fly” over the stage. o This word is part of the phrase “deux ex machina” or “machine of the gods”. This came to be known as a device which came out of nowhere in order to resolve a major plot point in a play. Oedipus the King  Written by Sophocles  Written around the year 431 B.C. Tragedy  According to Aristotle’s “The Poetics”, written around 330 B.C., the elements of tragedy include: o Plot- a single unified plot and action; logical order; central question answered o Character- a tragedy must have a hero: a good man, better than us; acts logically o Thought- the way that characters reason; must do so in logical, rational way o Verbal Expression- way in which poetry is composed; has to be beautiful; elevate us; meter, verse, delivery, etc. o Song-Composition- relationship between sound and silence; rhythms, how sound is used; tone and tempo o Visual Adornment- costumes, masks, rudimentary paintings; should support unified story  Tragedy- a process of imitating an action which has serious implications, is complete, and possesses magnitude o It is a representation of something rather than the thing itself. o Action is the bedrock of the play. o The action defines the nature of the episodes.  What is the central action of Oedipus the King? (Saving Thebes) Debate, Action, & Catharsis  Agon- the debate of the play o Protagonist- Oedipus o Antagonist- Creon  Agon is central to the play, all policy making in the polis  What is the central debate of the play? (What makes a good king?)  According to Sophocles: Good leadership is driven by emotions; rationality is driven by great emotions.  Therefore, a good king is a rational man driven by his emotions.  The immediate action of the play must be linked to the polis.  Oedipus: “My suffering is for the city, for myself, for all of you….”  Magnitude- the action has to have scale  The effect of tragedy should be catharsis: the purging of emotion, or feeling of closure.  Oedipus, for example, becomes a ritual scapegoat. (A person made to carry the hardships of others) Oedipus’ Identity  Oedipus’ shift in self-knowledge/ hubris is the dramatic arc of the play; tragic flaw o Hubris- excess of pride/ arrogance  Oedipus’ fall from power is the cause of catharsis in this play. Sophocles’ Accomplishments in Theater  Wrote more than one-hundred plays.  Fixed the chorus at fifteen members.  First to use screen painting in the set pieces.  Introduced third actor.  Won second place for Oedipus the year he entered it.


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