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Classical Drama


Classical Drama Classical Drama originated in the sixth century B.C. It developed a rich tradition in ancient Greece and Rome. Classical Drama Classical Drama ... – PowerPoint PPT presentation

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Title: Classical Drama

Classical Drama
  • Classical Drama originated in the sixth century
    B.C. It developed a rich tradition in ancient
    Greece and Rome.

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The Greek Theater
  • The Greek tragedies were produced as part of an
    annual religious festival in Athens.
  • Each year new plays were presented before the
    entire populace of the city, and an award given
    to the playwright who presented the best series
    of three dramas.

  • Each playwright would produce three tragedies and
    a satyr.

Components of the play
  • Tragedy a drama that recounts the downfall of a
    dignified, superior character who is involved in
    historically or socially significant events.
  • Satyr a short, comic interlude. (Pokes fun _at_ a
    serious subject.)

  • Protagonist/Tragic Hero this character is in
    conflict with an opposing character or force, the
  • Tragic Flaw a defect in the hero that brings
    about or contributes to his or her downfall.
    This flaw may be poor judgment, pride, weakness,
    or an excess of an admirable quality. The tragic
    hero recognizes his/her flaw and its
    consequences, but only after it is too late to
    change the course of events.

  • Sophocles received the prize often during his
    long, productive life.
  • The Theban Plays written by Sophocles
  • Antigone (441 B.C.)
  • Oedipus Rex (430 B.C)
  • Oedipus at Colonus (401 B.C.)

Characteristics of Sophoclean Tragedy
  • It is based on events that already took place
    are familiar.
  • The protagonist is a person of noble stature.
  • The protagonist has a weakness and because of it
    becomes isolated and suffers a downfall.
  • Because the protagonists fall is not entirely
    his/her own fault, the audience may end up
    pitying him/her.
  • The fallen protagonist gains self-knowledge. He
    has a deeper insight into himself and understands
    his weakness.
  • The audience undergoes catharsis, a purging of
    emotions, after experiencing pity, fear, shock
    and other strong feelings. The people go away
    feeling better.
  • The drama usually unfolds in one place in a short
    period of time, usually about a day.

Pride as a Character Flaw
  • Pride was considered a grave sin because it
    placed too much emphasis on individual will,
    thereby downplaying the will of the state and
    endangering the community as a whole. Because
    pride makes people unwilling to accept wise
    counsel, they act rashly and make bad decisions.
    Great pride is referred to as hubris.

  • The plays were put on beneath the bright skies of
    Greece, in huge outdoor amphitheaters, somewhat
    like modern football stadiums cut in half.
  • Built upon hillsides, they seated as many as
    40,000 people at a time.

  • The stage was a slightly raised platform in the
    open area upon the ground.
  • A long building, called the skene, served as a
    backdrop of the action and as a dressing room.
  • We do not know for certain all the details of the
    Greek theater. Scholars believe that the stage
    was backed by a structure with pillars and
    columns which could represent a palace or the
    walls of a city.

  • A spacious circular floor, the orchestra, was
    located between the skene and the audience.

  • All of the actors were men. They wore masks
    which may have contained built in megaphones to
    send their voices through the vast theater.
  • The actors wore elegant robes, huge masks, and
    often elevated shoes which added to the grandeur
    of the spectacle.
  • Sophocles used three actors in his plays between
    scenes, they changed costumes and masks when they
    needed to portray different characters.

  • The play depended more on the words the actors
    spoke than on the subtle effects of facial
    expression or gesture. The actors movements had
    to be broad and bold. This kind of theater has
    little relation to the realistic style of drama
    we expect today.

  • One aspect of the Greek theater which often
    confuses modern readers is the chorus. We still
    find the chorus in our musical comedies, but it
    is rare in serious plays and films.
  • The Greek chorus was a group of actors (12-15)
    who moved and sang together as one character.
    Actually the plays themselves developed from a
    kind of community sing when bit by bit a chorus
    grew up that told stories in song and verse.

  • To this an actor was added who carried on a
    dialogue with the chorus. Then a second actor
    was added, and a third. With each additional
    actor, the chorus shrank in size and importance.
  • Between scenes, the chorus sang and danced to
    musical accompaniment in the orchestra, giving
    insights into the message of the play.
  • The chorus is often considered a kind of ideal
    spectator, representing the response of ordinary
    citizens to the tragic events unfolding in the

  • The chorus could also set the mood of the story.
  • Sometimes the chorus sided with one or another
    character in the play.
  • Sometimes it warned a character of impending
  • Often the chorus, with its folk truths and its
    common sense, created a contrast with the loftier
    passions and thoughts of the hero.
  • The chorus did NOT mouth directly the ideas of
    the author.

(Like todays background music, narrator, or text
that identifies time and place.)
Conventions standard ways of presenting action
  • The Greek tragedy usually followed conventions
    requiring unity of time, place, and action. A
    play took place within a single days palace or
    in the square of the city.
  • Unity of action meant that the writer
    concentrated on one story line at a time. There
    were no subplots or diversions.
  • Greeks felt that physical horror was so repulsive
    to see that it ruined the artistic effects of the
    drams. Therefore, all violent action s took
    place off stage. They were reported to he
    audience by messengers.

  • The Greek tragic dramatists seldom invented
    original stories or epics of their people.
  • Sophocles audience knew the outcome of the story
    before arriving at the theater. The playwrights
    concentrated on character portrayal, on ideas,
    and on poetry.
  • The center of the story was the emotions of the

Glossary of Greek Drama
  • Catharsis a purification of emotions.
  • Drama Literary work with dialogue written in
    verse and spoken by actors playing characters
    experiencing conflict and tension. In Greek
    drama, a play derives its plot from stories from
    history or mythology.
  • Dramatic Irony Failure of a character to see or
    understand what is obvious to the audience.
    Oedipus, for example, was unaware early on of
    what the audience knew that he was married to
    his own mother, Jocasta.  

  • Dionysus Patron god of Greek drama god of wine
    and vegetation. Dionysus was the son of Zeus and
    one of the most important of the Greek gods.
    Dionysus died each winter and was reborn each
    spring, symbolizing renewal and rejuvenation.
    Festivals of Greek drama were held in his name.
  • Hybris or Hubris Great pride. Hybris often is
    the character flaw in Greek drama.
  • Ode Poem sung in a play or a festival. 

  • Prologue (Prologos) Introduction of a play that
    provides background material.
  • Satire In Greek literature, a play or a passage
    in a play that pokes fun at public figures or the

A Greek theater consisted of the following  
Skene Building behind the stage. First used as
a dressing area for actors (and sometimes an
entrance or exit area for actors), the skene
eventually became a background showing
appropriate scenery.  Paraskenia Extensions or
annexes on the sides of the skene.  Proscenium
Acting area, or stage, in front of the skene.  
Orchestra Ground-level area where the chorus
performed. It was in front of the proscenium.   
Parados Passage on the left or right through
which the chorus entered the orchestra. 
Thymele Altar in the center of the orchestra
used to make sacrifices to Dionysus.  Theatron
Tiered seating area built into a hillside in the
shape of a horseshoe.  Machine Armlike device
on the skene that could lower a "god" onto the
stage from the heavens. 
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Some Words to Know for the Reading
Thebes Ancient City of E. Central Greece NW of
Oracle of Delphi A shrine in Delphi where
people would consult a representative (priest or
priestess) of the god/goddess.
Sphinx In Greek mythology, the head of a woman,
body of a lion, teeth and wings and claws like an
eagle killed all who couldnt answer her riddle.
Cryptically With hidden meaning (ambiguous) or
using code or cipher.