Greek tragedy is a type of theater whose origins can be traced back to Ancient Greece during the 5th century BC. The purpose or importance of Greek Tragedy was such for the inhabitants of classical Athens that it became a sort of religious ceremony and promoted social values and principles. Another term for referring to this genre is Attic tragedy.
Greek tragedy is, from a dramatic point of view (according to theatrical criteria), somewhat appendix of ritualistic acts of worship in honor of the Greek god of grape, harvesting, wine, brewing, fertility, rapture and religious ecstasy as well as theater, namely, Dionysus. The reason for the Greek tragedy being closely connected with epic poetry or the epic in general might have something to do with Mythos (mythos in Greek means word or story). Mythos is a term which Aristotle came up with in his work, Poetics (written in the 2nd century BC) to describe the story line in an Athenian tragedy. According to him, for a tragedy to be considered such, one of the key elements to be included is mythos.
Tragedies typically include something called direct representation, in which the public sees with their own eyes the characters that appear on stage as separate entities, acting autonomously in each scene, each of them equipped with its own psychological dimension. The most important and recognized authors of Greek tragedy include thinkers, philosophers, scribes, teachers and literary professionals known as tragedians, such as Aeschylus, Euripides, Sophocles and Aristotle, all of whom had to face a great deal of criticism from clergy members and council men.
Greek tragedies had a big impact and influence on the aesthetics of Ancient Rome and the period of Renaissance in Europe. Tragic texts relied heavily on myths that made references to oral traditions. However, tragic plays relied mostly on actors.
It is a discourse of humorous nature aimed at amusing the audience and originated in Ancient Greece. In Athens’ theaters, during the first democracy, people who could cast vote were exposed to political satire played by actors or poets, which could affect the way candidates were portrayed. Greek comedy is often defined as a dramatic performance which amusingly represents a conflict between different sectors of the society.
Satire or political satire took help of comedy as a means to illustrate corruption and attribute it to certain sectors of the society (usually high society); like public institutions or governing bodies. Most members of the society that were entertained by such comical performances were plebeians; in other words, they were members of the lower social classes. Parody is another element used in Ancient Greece as a means of ridiculing the upper classes.
Other types of comedy include black comedy. It was named black because it explores, through humor, human nature and its darker depths. There are other types of comedy which recourse to humor by ridiculing societal norms such as those involving sex, race, gender roles, etc.
Commedia dell’ Arte
Commedia dell’ Arte is a type of theater which often includes characters wearing masks. This type of theater originated in Italy during the sixteenth century. What is so important about this type of theater is that it was one of the first to include real, female actresses. Up till this point, women in theater were always portrayed by men dressed as women instead. Stage clothes such as masks, for example, were characteristic elements of la commedia dell’arte. Following is a list of other typical elements of commedia dell’ Arte:
- Comical or buffoonish characters
- Heritage minstrels, jesters and jugglers
- Collective inclusion
- Interaction of the actors with the public
- Costumes and transvestism
Theater in Ancient Greece
Theater of Ancient Greece or simply Greek Theater is a cultural movement that took place in the Ancient Greece between the years 700 BC and 220 BC. Athens, the most important city in Greece at the time was a rather influential city in terms of politics, culture, and even armed forces around this period. Greek Theater became an important part of the cultural identity of this city and, during a festival named Dionysia (in honor of the Greek God Dionysus, who, according to Greek Mythology, is the god of grape harvesting, wine, brewing, fertility, rapture and religious ecstasy as well as theater) theater was established by the governing authorities as a convention or norm.
Tragedy is estimated to have been conceived and established around the year 500 BC, while comedy is thought to have officially come into the picture a mere 10 years later. These 2 dramatic genres, together with the satyr play are all recorded to have been given birth in Athens. Athens tried to export the Dionysia festival to many other colonies with the objective of promoting a shared cultural identity and eventually succeeded in its efforts.
The Greek Theater’s original stage would normally take place in a circular, outdoor space (called the orchestra), in which dance and instrumental music were performed. The place itself was made of smooth and compact soil or clay and built in a particular, acoustically ideal fashion so that it would benefit the representation and successful execution of choral songs. One of the many famous varieties of choral songs was called dithyramb, which, according to tradition and historians who specialize in Ancient Greek history, later derived in Attic tragedy (a particular kind of poetry recited in Greece which contains many elements of heroism). All major theaters in Greece were built in open spaces.