Ancient Greek Theatre Essay

1972 words - 8 pages

Between 600 and 200 BC, two thousand years before Shakespeare, staging and written techniques which define western theatre as we know it were being established in Athens, Greece. The ancient Athenians created a theatre culture whose structure, technique and terminology have survived to the present day in the form of plays which are still considered some of the greatest literary works in existence. The only other times in history when dramatic writing has even come close to the standard of the Athenian poets was brought with the social revolution of the twentieth century and in Elizabethan England during the time of the world's best known playwright, William Shakespeare. However fifteenth century generated only one great writer, whereas ancient Athens produced at least five, and the diverse range of form and content of films and plays in the last century were generally based on a structure of story devised by Athenian poets.There are four periods of development in Greek theatre, over lapping and merging but distinct enough to be separated and labelled. These include:-The Dionysiac, or ritual period, beginning with the cult of Dionyssus in antique times and ending about 550 BC with the first official dramatic competition, by which time the professional actor has emerged,and theatres have been built, generally of wood and trapezoidal in shape.-The Athenian or Classical period, that of the great tragic poets -Aeschylus (525-456), Sophocles (495-406), Euripedes (480-406) and the comic poets Aristophanes (448-380) and Menander (343-292). The dramatic contests continued, with comedy from around 486 BC. Theatres such as that of Dionyssus at Athens are built and later rebuilt in stone.-The Hellenic or Colonial period over laps the Athenian by around 50 years, as from this time on theatres were being built in Greek colonies all around the Mediterranean. The shape of the performance area changes, tragedies lose popularity, and comedy changes style from 'old' (Aristophanes) to 'new'(Menander).-The Greco-Roman period merges into the previous period at about 250 BC and the following Roman period in about the first century AD. The dominant playwrights, Plautus (250-184) and Terence (190-159) wrote in Latin, but from Greek models. By 55 BC Pompey's Playhouse in Rome is built with it's strict semi circular auditorium, and it is obvious that the glory of Greek theatre has all but faded.Neither Greeks nor Romans were conservationists, they tended to knock down theatres and rebuild them rather rapidly at times, leaving little for the modern historian. Archaeological evidence for the entire Greek period is scarce and misleading, most of the plays and philosophical writings from this time have been lost Many modern authorities base their descriptions of Greek theatre upon the writings of Vitruvious, a man whose work dates only to around 150 BC, around a century and a half after the gradual deterioration of Greek theatre began. He is known as the source of the idea...

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