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The Theban Plays of Ancient Greece


The Theban Plays of Ancient Greece History of Greek Theater Greek drama began as part of seasonal festivals honoring Dionysus, the god of wine and fertility. – PowerPoint PPT presentation

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Title: The Theban Plays of Ancient Greece

The Theban Plays of Ancient Greece
History of Greek Theater
  • Greek drama began as part of seasonal festivals
    honoring Dionysus, the god of wine and fertility.
  • Plays were usually produced in the spring, during
    the harvest, which was symbolic of renewal and
  • Stories were well known to the audience (think
    Cinderella). Audiences wanted to see a fresh
    take on a familiar story.

  • Three tragedies were performed as well as one
    satyr play, a comedy about the gods.
  • The plays were watched in open air amphitheaters
    (15,000- 40,000 people).
  • The plays were judged by a committee and a winner
    would be announced. Winners were highly honored.

A birds eye view of the theater
Theater above the Temple of Apollo at Delphi
(No Transcript)
Your view as an audience member would look like
  • Because the audience was so huge, and people were
    often seated far away from the stage (or
    orchestra), the actors needed to make themselves
    larger than life.
  • So the actors wore masks. Some scholars believe
    that the actors also wore high-heeled shoes
    called kothornoi.

Special Effects in Greek Theater
  • The ekkyklema, or rolled out thing, was a
    mechanical device to roll out characters (dead)
    or other things behind the scenes actions.
  • This helped to prevent gory or murderous scenes
    from taking place on stage.

Special Effects in Greek Theater
  • The mechane was a pulley device used to raise
    actors in the air, which helped to represent
    actors flying in air.

The Greek Chorus
  • The Greek tragic chorus was a group of 15 men who
    would sing and dance, but their role was also to
  • respond to the play in a manner the playwright
    hoped the audience would (or to represent the
    ideal spectator).
  • reflect on what has happened and what might
    happen next (also known as foreshadowing).
  • speak to and advise central characters regarding
    what they (the main characters) should do.

Images of the Greek chorus
Images of the Greek chorus
Images of the Greek chorus
  • Interesting fact
  • The first actor came from the ancient Greek
  • According to legend, Thespis of Athens became the
    first actor in the Western world when he stepped
    outside the Greek chorus and entered into a
    dialogue with it.
  • This is why actors are called thesbians.

  • He was born around 496 B.C. during Greeces
    golden age, and died around 406 B.C.
  • He wrote around 123 plays, but only seven remain
    in existence.
  • At the age of 28 he won first prize at the Athens
    drama festival and after that never finished
    lower than 2nd place.

Sophocles, continued
  • He was very interested in showing how a persons
    life is shaped by his choices and whims of chance
    (the fate free will debate).
  • The dangers of excessive pride (hubris) became a
    theme that Sophocles often touched upon.

The Theban Cycle
  • Sophocles wrote three plays, a trilogy, that
    centered around the royal house of Thebes
    (Oedipus the King, Oedipus at Colonus, and
  • Antigone , the third play in the series was
    actually written first, then Oedipus the King
    (the first play), and finally Oedipus at Colonus
    (second play).
  • The three plays are linked together by specific
    characters but the themes and issues are
    drastically different in each.

Elements of Greek Tragedy
  • Aristotle, an ancient Greek philosopher, studied
    the plays of his time and noticed a trend in the
    main characters.
  • Aristotle coined the phrase tragic hero and found
    that many of the heroic figures contained similar

The Characteristics of a Tragic Hero
  • A tragic hero is larger than life and shows no
    one is immune to tragedy.
  • A tragic hero must rise to good fortune and then
    fall to death or defeat.
  • A tragic hero usually falls because of a flaw in
    his/her character known as a tragic flaw
  • A tragic hero inspires pity and fear in his/her

The Tragic Process
  • The experience of the tragic hero can be outlined
    as seven different steps in a sequence of
  • 1. Initial Incident this is the action that gets
    the play moving, often some kind of conflict or
  • 2. Rising Action this event pushes the tragic
    hero toward his peak of fortune.
  • 3. Climax this is the turning point when the
    tragic heros fortunes begin to turn for the

The Tragic Process, continued
  • 4. Falling Action this is when the world of the
    tragic hero begins to collapse.
  • 5. Anagnorisis this moment of recognition
    allows the tragic hero to become aware of what
    has happened, what went wrong, and what the truth
    is. The tragic hero has suffered from mental
    blindness, mistaking appearance for reality and
    clinging to an unreliable truth.

The Tragic Process, continued
  • 6. Catastrophe despite the tragic heros
    anagnorisis, he or she cannot prevent the
    inevitable death or defeat which results from the
    mistakes made.
  • 7. Order Restored this is the time when, after
    the tragedy plays itself out, the world manages
    to keep going it is the time when the strength
    of the human species is demonstrated because the
    tragedy teaches all of us but destroys only a
    few. The audience then walks away with a feeling
    of catharsis.