ancient theatre history

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Ancient Theatre History. Theatre 1-2 Brittany M. Sutton Revised November 06. Ancient Drama Time Frame. 5000 BCE to 300 CE. Pre-Greek Period (5000 BCE to 600 BCE). History of drama dates back to start of mankind: Hunters pantomimed adventures First storytellers told tales in chants - PowerPoint PPT Presentation


  • Ancient Theatre HistoryTheatre 1-2Brittany M. Sutton Revised November 06

  • Ancient Drama Time Frame5000 BCE to 300 CE

  • Pre-Greek Period (5000 BCE to 600 BCE)History of drama dates back to start of mankind: Hunters pantomimed adventuresFirst storytellers told tales in chantsFirst organized groups pantomimed the hunt, war, and love dancesMask appeared- first actors became god or animalMans attempt to imitate nature developed into formal, religious song and dance ceremonies: Worship specific gods and rulersCelebrate the hunt and war

  • Man begins acting out his wishes for:NatureRainGood harvestsSunshine Earliest record of theatrical performance dates back about 4000 years to Egypt: Three-day event that included actual battles and elaborate ceremonies about the murder, dismemberment, and resurrection of Osiris (god of the lower world).

  • Osiris- Egyptian God of the UnderworldPrehistoric Theatre: War Dance

  • Early Greek Period(600 BCE-500 BCE)Drama as we know it developed during this period when religious hymns developed to sing praises to gods:Dithyrambs (hymns) sung to Dionysus (god of wine and fertility):In honor of his death, a group of chanters, called the chorus, would dance around an alter which a goat was sacrificed on.Chant was called tragos (goat-song)= tragedyKomos=comedyCeremonies in honor of Dionysus evolved into large contests:First contest was won by Thespis: First to step away from chorus and engage in dialogue between chorus and himself- first actor (Thespian). Also credited with introducing mask in Greek plays.

  • Dramatic contests part of festival lasting five to six days:Most famous festival was City Dionysia: *First day: games (similar to carnival). *Second and Third: poetry contests. *Fourth, Fifth, and Sixth: different playwright would present four plays each day: first three were part of a trilogy (related in theme and characters) and fourth was a satyr play (comedy).

  • Performance of the dithyramb (550-500 BCE)DionysusCity Dionysia

  • ContinuedTheatre existed only for men: both as performers and audience: women not permitted to attend until about 400 BCE.Audiences large: some theatres could hold over 17,000.

  • Chorus: Main part of early Greek theatre Purpose: to narrate, explain, comment on action, and also engage in dialogue with actors. Originally about fifty performers in chorus.Number and responsibilities decreased as actors took over larger roles.

  • Greek Period (500 BCE-100 BCE)Tragedies clash between Gods and ambitions of man: showed mans efforts to change fate were useless.

  • ContinuedImportant People & ConceptsAeschylus: Father of tragedyAdded second actorReduced chorus to twelve. Wrote only existing trilogy- man (Agamemnon) returns from war and is killed by his wife and her lover: children take revenge by killing mother: trial of one of the children.

  • Sophocles: Considered greatest Greek tragedy writerAdded third actorOedipus Rex: kills father, marries mother, gouges out eyes. Adds scenery and action. Antigone

  • Aeschylus

  • Painting of Agamemnon

  • Sophocles

  • Oedipus Rex

  • Antigone

  • ContinuedEuripides: Separates action from chorusMore concerned with human relationships. Medea: womans husband cheats on her: to get revenge, she sacrifices her two sons. Aristophanes: Main author of Greek comedy.Masks used to show emotions(where masks of comedy and tragedy come from)

  • Euripides

  • Medea

  • Aristophanes

  • Roman Period (100 BCE to 300 CE)Theatre becomes hedonistic (vulgar): Gladiator contestsSlaughter of humans (Christians and lions)Audiences only wanted to see vulgar performances: Moral decay of Rome=rise of Christian church=fall of Rome during Dark Ages.Slaves used as actors until first CenturyPlays presented along with circusesPlaywrights paid by acting companiesPlautus, Terence, Seneca: Major playwrightsPlautus: ComedyTerence: Known more for the way he presented charactersSeneca: Senecan tragedy: gory tragedy. Violence takes place off stage. Too traumatic to show on stage. Deaths are described in detail. After the fall of Rome, only wandering minstrels (dancing and juggling) kept drama alive.

  • Roman Amphitheatre

  • PlautusTerrenceSeneca

  • Questions to PonderBecause of the moral decay which led to the fall of the Roman Empire, where do you expect theatre to go in the future?How has ancient theatre impacted the theatrical traditions of today?