Origins of Greek Theatre



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Origins of Greek Theatre
Greek theatre traces its roots to the 5th century BC when playwrights like Aeschylus, Sophocles, and Euripides entertained the audiences of Athens. Artistic success was determined by the popularity of the play and the pleasure it evoked from its audience. Many of these plays were performed during religious festivals dedicated to Dionysus and fostered “carnival-like” behavior. No aspect of human life is spared: politicians are ridiculed mercilessly, philosophers are mocked as fools, gods are portrayed as grotesque figures. There are no limits to obscenity and all human actions are represented as deeply rooted in the lowest instincts. This sort of behavior was especially true during the performance of Aristophanes’ plays.

A comic playwright during the 5th century BC, Aristophanes “erased the world that is and constructed another.” By adopting “real world” issues and adding a comedic twist, he was able to “abolish all ordinary constraints of space and time, of gravity and physiology.” His humor is more of an intellectual nature with intent to manifest irony through the use of word play. This type of laughter tends to be reactionary rather than revolutionary and therefore nonthreatening.

The writing of Aristophanes tends to be of an obscene nature with numerous sexual and profane references intended to humor the audience. Those who performed his plays often wore costumes that exaggerated these obscene references, such as padded bellies and oversized phalluses. However, aside from the extended use of obscenity, Aristophanes’ plays centered on serious commentary – education, good citizenship, war, and politics.

Form of Old Comedy


Prologue: Entry of the chorus – dialogue that informs the audience of the situation or background of the play.

Episodes: Segments of the play divided by chorus breaks, performed by actors with costumes and masks.

Breaks occur as the chorus is divided in two pitting one side against the other (both verbally and physically).



Epilogue/exodus: Marching away song or conclusion as the scheme has been resolved.
Name:

Lysistrata: Discussion Questions (Due on Friday)

1. How might the audience view the character traits of Lysistrata? What figure(s) in mythology or tragedy does she most resemble?


2. How are the “foreigners” depicted in this play? Discuss how Lysistrata and the Athenian women respond to their initialobservations of the women from other lands as they arrive at the top of the play. Discuss differences in language, dialect, and slang.


3. Why do you think Aristophanes chose to have two choruses? Why older men and women? How does this choice add to the comedy?


4. How are the male characters depicted differently than the female characters in language and actions? Provide evidence


5. In a play filled with common characters, which character appears to hold the highest social standing? Why? How is this character treated by others?




6. The play is filled with sexual inuendoes, what does this imply about classical Greek culture?


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