is a stage tragedy written by Sophocles in about
Setting . .......The
action takes place in the ancient Greek city of Mycenae several years after
the Trojan War.
was the daughter of Agamemnon, a Greek king who became general of the Greek
armies when Greece declared war on Troy. When Agamemnon's fleet gathered
at the Greek port city of Aulis to debark for Troy, the Olympian goddess
Artemis—offended that Agamemnon had killed an animal sacred to her—stilled
the winds, making it impossible for Agamemnon and his armies to sail to
Greece. The only way Agamemnon could gain favorable winds, Artemis decreed,
was for him to sacrifice his young daughter, Iphigenia. Agamemnon did so
and even gagged his daughter so that, with her last breath, she could not
curse him for this deed. Her death enraged Agamemnon's wife, Queen Clytemnestra.
Artemis quickened the winds and Agamemnon sailed off to Troy, Clytemnestra
never forgot what Agamemnon did. While he was fighting the Trojans, she
took a lover, Aegisthus. Together, Clytemnestra and Aegisthus plotted Agamemnon's
murder while he was fighting at Troy. When the Greeks at long last defeated
the Trojans and Agamemnon returned home as a conquering hero, Clytemnestra
murdered Agamemnon. Electra, grieving over her father's death, thirsted
for revenge against her mother. Meanwhile, to save her young brother—Agamemnon's
heir—from the wrath of Clytemnestra and Aegisthus, she sent him away. Years
later, he returned to Mycenae with one thought on his mind: to avenge his
Daughter of Agamemnon, king of Mycenae and general of the Greek armies
during the Trojan War. He was murdered by his wife, Clytemnestra, after
he returned from the Trojan War. (See Mythology
Background, above.) Electra seeks to avenge her father's death. She
is the protagonist.
Murderer of her husband, Agamemnon.
Brother of Electra. Like Electra, he seeks to avenge the death of Agamemnon.
Electra's sister. Unlike Electra, she has no burning desire for vengeance
against Clytemnestra. She would rather forget the past and accommodate
herself to her mother and Aegisthus as rulers of Mycenae.
Lover of Clytemnestra.
(Teacher): Old man who is the attendant and teacher of Orestes.
of Women of Mycenae Pylades:
Son of the king of Crisa.
of Clytemnestra Attendants
of the Chorus
the roles of the chorus in Electra are the following:
and interpret the action.
as an actor in the play.
the author's views and/or to support or criticize characters.
of Sophoclean Tragedy
tragedy of Sophocles, as well as other Greek playwrights, is a verse drama
written in elevated language in which a noble protagonist
falls to ruin during a struggle caused by a flaw (hamartia)
in his or her character, such as pride (hubris), or an error in his or
her rulings or judgments. A Greek tragedy has the following characteristics:
based on events that already took place. The audience is familiar with
(main character) is a person of noble birth and stature. (Electra is the
daughter of a king.)
has a weakness and, because of it, becomes isolated and suffers a downfall.
the protagonist's fall is not entirely his or her own fault, the audience
may end up pitying him or her.
protagonist gains self-knowledge. He or she has a deeper insight into himself
and understands his weakness. This characteristic may not apply to the
undergoes catharsis, a purging of emotions, after experiencing pity,
fear, shock and other strong feelings. The people go away feeling better.
usually unfolds in one place in a short period of time, generally about
house of Hades and Persephone,
Hermes of the abyss, and thou, dread Curse,
ye Erinyes, daughters of the gods,
dreaded ones, who look
all who perish, slain unrighteously,
all whose bed is stealthily defiled,
ye, and help avenge my father's death;
me my brother here.
chorus of virgins from the palace commiserates with her as she bemoans
her endless sorrow and yearns for the return of Orestes to avenge their
father's death. Her
younger sister, Chrysothemis, comes out of the palace and urges Electra
to forget the past and accept the status quo, noting that "our rulers must
be obeyed in all things."
Electra replies, "Strange indeed, that thou, the daughter of such a sire
as thine, shouldst forget him, and think only of thy mother! All thy admonitions
to me have been taught by her; no word is thine own." .......The
leader of the chorus urges them to be at peace with each other. Chrysothemis
then says her advice to her sister was intended to preserve her for harm,
explaining that Aegisthus and Clytemnestra plan to confine her in a dungeon
far away—never again to see sunlight—unless she ceases her lamentations
for her father. Electra, however, says she will not yield to the will of
her mother and Aegisthus. .......Chrysothemis
then tells Electra that Clytemnestra has had a bad dream.
said that she beheld our sire [Agamemnon], restored to the sunlight, at
her side once more; then he took the sceptre,—once his own, but now borne
by Aegisthus,—and planted it at the hearth; and thence a fruitful bough
sprang upward, wherewith the whole land of Mycenae was overshadowed. Such
was the tale that I heard told by one who was present when she declared
her dream to the Sun-god.
Clytemnestra told Chrysothemis to take an offering the grave of Agamemnon
to appease his spirit. Electra tells her to ignore their mother's instructions
and instead to go to the grave and pray for the return of Orestes. .......Later,
Electra feuds with her mother, whom she loathes more than any other human
being. Clytemnestra attempts to justify the murder of her husband, saying
she killed Agamemnon because he killed their daughter, Iphigenia. Was it
not right for a mother to exact justice for the murder of her innocent
daughter? Was not Agamemnon guilty beyond redemption for sacrificing Iphigenia,
his own flesh and blood? There is a measure of truth in Clytemnestra’s
words, and Electra well knows it. Nevertheless, after Electra’s desire
for justice yields to her desire for revenge after years of agonized rumination,
she rejects her mother’s defense and indicts her as a ruthless killer and
a traitor to her husband’s bed. .......When
Electra receives news of the death of Orestes, she breaks down, saying,
memorial of him whom I loved best on earth! Ah, Orestes, whose life hath
no relic left save this,- how far from the hopes with which I sent thee
forth is the manner in which I receive thee back! Now I carry thy poor
dust in my hands; but thou wert radiant, my child, when I sped thee forth
from home! Would that I had yielded up my breath, ere, with these hands,
I stole thee away, and sent thee to a strange land, and rescued thee from
death; that so thou mightest have been stricken down on that self-same
day, and had thy portion in the tomb of thy sire!
only to deal Electra tragedy upon tragedy; first her father, struck down
ruthlessly by her mother and her lover; now Orestes, killed in a chariot
was counting on Orestes to kill hated Clytemnestra and her lover and partner
in murder, Aegisthus, who dared to ascend Agamemnon’s throne. Orestes,
still in disguise, questions her about her treatment in the palace.
is it that subjects thee to this constraint?
mother-in name, but no mother in her deeds.
doth she oppress thee? With violence or with hardship?
violence, and hardships, and all manner of ill.
how distraught Electra is—Orestes decides to reveal himself to her, showing
her the signet ring of Agamemnon. It is proof that he is Orestes. Electra,
overcome with joy, says, "O blissful day!" .......Then
they plot and carry out double murder. When Orestes stabs Clytemnestra,
Electra urges him on even as her mother begs for pity. “Stab her
doubly, if you can!" she tells Orestes as he wields
his knife. Moments later, after Aegisthus returns to the palace from business
elsewhere, Orestes parades him to the very spot where Agamemnon was killed
and—although the play does not explicitly describe what happens—kills him.
The chorus then proclaims that the children of Agamemnon have achieved
freedom. Justice has been done.
main theme of Electra is revenge. Electra seeks revenge against
Clytemnestra just as Clytemnestra sought revenge against Agamemnon. Electra's
brother, Orestes, returns to Crisa with one thought on his mind: revenge.
Sophocles establishes the theme of revenge in the opening lines of the
play, when Orestes' elderly servant and teacher tells him, "I carried thee
of yore [away] from the slaying of thy father, as thy kinswoman, thy sister,
charged me; and saved thee, and reared thee up to manhood to be the avenger
of thy murdered sire."
obsession with revenge is so excessive that it dominates all her thoughts
and actions, turning her into a bloodthirsty madwoman. When Orestes comes
for Aegisthus, Electra says, "Kill him as quickly as you can, and throw
his corpse to the creatures with whom his kind should have burial, throw
it far from our sight! For in my eyes this alone can bring us release from
the misery of the past." Electra triumphs at the end, but her triumph has
morally corrupted her.
desiring revenge, Electra wants justice—an eye for an eye. The leader of
the chorus supports her and predicts, "If I am not an erring seer and one
who fails in wisdom, justice . . . will come, triumphant in her righteous
strength,—will come ere long, my child, to avenge." Before it comes in
the person of Orestes, Clytemnestra tells Electra,
father . . . was slain by me. Yes, by me—I know it well; it admits
of no denial; for justice slew him, and not I alone,—justice,. . . This
father of thine, whom thou art ever lamenting, was the one man of the Greeks
who had the heart to sacrifice thy sister to the gods—he, the father, who
had not shared the mother's pangs.
easy to see that Electra and Clytemnestra, as well as Orestes, can all
claim justice as an ally. But when they themselves become the judges, juries,
and executioners, there is no justice. Whether Sophocles intended to deliver
this message in the play is arguable. But one can nevertheless conclude
that the play calls attention to the need for an impartial system of justice
in civilized society.
Headstrong Action vs Caution
continually implores Electra to use caution and prudence and even to compromise
and accept the new rulers. She tells Electra,
Now whither canst
thou have turned thine eyes, that thou art arming thyself with such rashness,
and calling me to aid thee? Seest thou not, thou art a woman, not a man,
and no match for thine adversaries in strength? And their fortune prospers
day by day, while ours is ebbing and coming to nought. Who, then, plotting
to vanquish a foe so strong, shall escape without suffering deadly scathe?
See that we change not our evil plight to worse, if any one hears these
words. It brings us no relief or benefit, if, after winning fair fame,
we die an ignominious death; for mere death is not the bitterest, but rather
when one who wants to die cannot obtain even that boon.
is firm in her resolve to kill Aegisthus and Clytemnestra—the sooner, the
climax of the play occurs when Orestes, goaded by Electra, kills Clytemnestra.
is supremely ironic that Electra ends up doing what her mother did—killing
a family member ostensibly to avenge an earlier death.
consists of brief, alternating lines of dialogue spoken in rapid-fire succession.
It occurs frequently in Greek drama, especially when characters are arguing
or expressing strong emotions. The passage occurs just after Chrysothemis
warns Electra that Aegisthus and Clytemnestra plan to cast Electra into
a dungeon if she does not cease lamenting the death of Agamemnon.
they indeed resolved to treat me thus?
whenever Aegisthus comes home.
that be all, then may he arrive with speed!
one! what dire prayer is this?
he may come, if he hath any such intent.
thou mayst suffer- what? Where are thy wits?
I may fly as far as may be from you all.
hast thou no care for thy present life?
my life is marvellously fair.
might be, couldst thou only learn prudence.
not teach me to betray my friends.
do not,- but to bend before the strong.
be such flattery: those are not my ways.
well, however, not to fall by folly.
will fall, if need be, in the cause of my sire.
our father, I know, pardons me for this.
is for cowards to find peace in such maxims.
thou wilt not hearken, and take my counsel?
verily; long may be it before I am so foolish.
Sophocles died more than twenty-four centuries ago, he continues to live
today in his plays as one of history's greatest writers. His themes–justice,
pride, obstinacy, flawed humanity, and the struggle between destiny and
free will–are as timely today as they were in his own time. Aristotle lauded
Sophocles as the supreme dramatist, maintaining that Oedipus the King
was a model for all playwrights to imitate.
was born a mile northwest of Athens in the deme (township) of Colonus between
497 and 495 B.C. Because his father, Sophillus, shared in the profits of
a successful family weapons and armor manufactory, Sophocles was a child
of advantage, enjoying the comforts of the privileged and receiving an
education that undergirded his natural talents. He studied poetry, dance,
philosophy, mathematics, astronomy, law, athletics, and military tactics.
He also studied music and became accomplished at playing the cithara, a
stringed instrument resembling the lyre of the harp family.
spite of his aristocratic background and entitlements, Sophocles was a
man of the people: kindly, generous, popular. Fellow Athenians esteemed
him highly throughout his life. That he was quite handsome may have helped
bolster his popularity.
earned his entry into the Athenian literary world with a play entitled
does not survive. He used it in 468 to defeat another outstanding dramatist,
Aeschylus, in a writing competition. Competing plays were performed in
a theater dedicated to Dionysus, the god of wine and revelry. Sophocles
went on to win about two dozen more drama awards against Aeschylus and
other extraordinary writers. It is said that he sometimes acted in plays.
On one occasion, he reportedly presented a juggling act that dazzled the
Sophocles' Innovations ..
Sophocles' time, dramatists wrote tragedies three at a time. The second
play continued the action of the first, and the third play continued the
action of the second. The entire three-play series of tragedies was called
a trilogy. Sophocles broke with tradition
by writing single plays that stood alone as dramatic units. Ajax
is an example of a stand-alone Sophocles play. The Oedipus series of plays
(Oedipus the King, Oedipus
at Colonus and Antigone) is not technically
a trilogy (although sometimes referred to as one) because the plays were
written years apart as single units.
also emphasized people more than his predecessors, taking characters in
well-known plots from mythology and dressing them up as real human beings
with noble but complex personalities vulnerable to pride and flawed judgment.
Audiences in ancient Athens did not go to a Sophocles play to be entertained
by a plot with a surprise ending. They already knew the ending. They went
to a Sophocles play to see how the characters reacted to the forces working
for or against them—mostly against. Thus, Sophocles' plays required superb
writing and characterization to hold the interest of the audience.
portraying his characters, Sophocles raised irony to high art, making the
characters unwitting victims of fate or their own shortcomings. The irony
was both verbal (with characters speaking words laden with meaning unknown
to them) and dramatic (with characters ensnaring themselves in predicaments
charged with danger that they do not recognize but that the audience well
knows will lead to disaster). The audience knew, for example, what Oedipus
did not know (until the end of Oedipus the King):
that the man he killed and the woman he married were his father and mother.
This type of dramatic irony occurs often
in Sophocles' plays, allowing the audience to become engrossed with a character's
response to a situation rather than the eventual outcome of the situation.
of Sophocles' innovations was an increase in the number of actors in plays
from two to three, presenting more opportunities to contrast characters
and create foils.
He also introduced painted scenery, enhanced costuming, and fixed the number
of persons in the chorus at 15. The chorus also diminished in importance;
it was the actors who mattered.
key to his work was provided by Matthew Arnold in the phrase to the effect
that Sophocles possessed an 'even-balanced soul,' " drama critic John Gassner
wrote in Masters of the Drama (New York: Random House, 1954, Page
42). "He comprehended both the joy and grief of living, its beauty and
ugliness, its moments of peace and its basic uncertainty so concisely expressed
by his line 'Human life, even in its utmost splendor and struggle, hangs
on the edge of an abyss.' "
handling of human tragedy was influenced, in part, by the tragedies of
war. During his lifetime he had witnessed the devastating Persian and Peloponnesian
wars and even participated in a war when he served as a general with Pericles
to quell rebellion on Samos, an Aegean island.
military duty, Sophocles served as a city treasurer, helping to control
the money of the Delian Confederacy of states. He also served as member
of a governing council and as a priest in the service of Asclepius, the
god of medicine, to whom he was especially devoted. Well into old age,
he remained productive in civic activities and writing. He wrote Oedipus
at Colonus, for example, when he was over 90. It was that play
which saved him from a charge of mental incompetence brought by his sons.
According to ancient accounts by Cicero and Plutarch, when Sophocles appeared
in court, he read from Oedipus at Colonus, which he was working
on at that time. So impressed were the members of the jury that they acquitted
him, apparently realizing that only a man fully in charge of his faculties
could write such beautiful words. Sophocles died about 405. He and his
wife, Nicostrate, had a son, Iophon, who was also a tragedian. Sophocles
and his mistress, Theoris of Sicyon, had a child named Agathon. Agathon
was the father of Sophocles the Younger, also a writer.
Public domain image of Sophocles from Widimedia Commons
of Greek Drama
Agon: a debate between
characters in a play. For example, in The
Clouds, a comedy staged in 423 B.C. by Aristophanes, two teachers
at a thinking shop operated by Socrates debate the validity of traditional
values and logical reasoning (which Aristophanes supports) vs the new ideas
and deceptive reasoning of philosophers known as sophists.
Startling discovery; moment of epiphany; time of revelation when a character
discovers his true identity. Anagnorisis occurs in Oedipux Rex when
Oedipus realizes who he is.
Chief opponent of the protagonist in a Greek
Peninsula in southeastern Greece that included Athens. According to legend,
the King of Athens, Theseus, unified 12 states in Attica into a single
state dominated by Athenian leadership and the Athenian dialect of the
Greek language. The adjective Attic has long been associated
with the culture, language and art of Athens. The great period of Greek
drama, between the Sixth and Fourth Centuries, B.C., is known as the Attic
Period. Drama itself was invented by an Attic actor, Thespis,
who introduced speaking parts to accompany choral odes.
Denouement (resolution) of a tragedy in the drama of ancient Greece.
In literature and art, a purification of emotions. The Greek philosopher
Aristotle (384-322 B.C.) used the term to describe the effect on the audience
of a tragedy acted out on a theater stage. This effect consists in cleansing
the audience of disturbing emotions, such as fear and pity, thereby releasing
tension. This purgation occurs as a result of either of the following reactions:
(1) Audience members resolve to avoid conflicts of the main character–for
example, Oedipus in Oedipus Rex and Creon in Antigone–that
arouse fear or pity or (2) audience members transfer their own pity and
fear to the main character, thereby emptying themselves of these disquieting
emotions. In either case, the audience members leave the theater as better
persons intellectually, morally, or socially. They have either been cleansed
of fear of pity or have vowed to avoid situations that arouse fear and
pity. In modern usage, catharsis may refer to any experience, real or imagined,
that purges a person of negative emotions.
Bystanders in a Greek play who present odes on the action.
A parode (or parados) is a song sung by the chorus when it
enters. A stasimon is a song sung during the play, between episodes
of action. The chorus generally had the following roles in the plays of
Sophocles and other Greek playwrights: (1) to explain the action, (2)
to interpret the action in relation to the law of the state and the law
of the Olympian gods, (3) to foreshadow the future, (4) to serve as an
actor in the play, (5) to sing and/or dance, and (6) to give the
author's views. In some ways, the chorus is like the narrator of a
modern film or like the background music accompanying the action of the
film. In addition, it is like text on the film screen that provides background
information or identifies the time and place of the action. On occasion,
the chorus may address the audience, as in the revised version of The
Clouds, by Aristophanes.
Short, sleeveless outer garment, or cloak, worn by some actors in a play
of ancient Greece.
Boots worn by actors in ancient Greece to increase their height and, thus,
visibility to theater audiences. Singular: cothurnus.
Outcome or conclusion of a literary work; the final part of a plot. The
denouement occurs after the climax.
Conversation between characters in a play.
Literary work with dialogue written in verse and spoken by actors playing
characters experiencing conflict and tension. In Greek drama, a play often
derives its plot from stories from history or mythology. The English word
comes from the Greek word "dran," meaning "to do."
irony Failure of a character to see or understand what is obvious to
the audience. Oedipus, for example, was unaware early on of what the audience
knew: that he was married to his own mother, Jocasta.
Patron god of Greek drama; god of wine and vegetation. Dionysus, called
Bacchus by the Romans, was the son of Zeus and one of the most important
of the Greek gods. Dionysus died each winter and was reborn each spring,
a cycle his Greek devotees identified with the death and rebirth of nature.
He thus symbolized renewal and rejuvenation, and each spring the Greeks
celebrated his resurrection with ceremonies that eventually included drama
contests. The most prestigious of these festivals was the Greater Dionysia,
held in Athens for five days and participated in by playwrights such
as Sophocles, Aeschylus, Aristophanes, and Euripides. Festivals held in
villages and small towns were called the Rural Dionysia.
Choral hymn that praised Dionysus, god of wine
and revelry, and sometimes told a story. In his great work Poetics,
Aristotle wrote that dithyrambs inspired the development of Greek tragic
plays, such as those of Sophocles. The first "play" supposedly took place
in the 6th Century B.C. when Thespis, a member of a chorus, took the part
of a character in a dithyramb. The action shifted back and forth between
him and the chorus. See also thespian.
Type of dance accompanying some odes.
Scene or section of a play with dialogue. An episode
may be compared with acts or scenes in a Shakespeare play. Episodes come
between the odes sung by the chorus.
dialogue in an episode usually involves one or two characters and the chorus.
or Exode Final scene of a play after the last stasimon.
Dionysia See Dionysus.
Character flaw or judgment error of the protagonist
of a Greek tragedy. Hamartia is derived the
Greek word hamartanein, meaning to err or to make a mistake.
The first writer to use the term was Aristotle, in The Poetics.
or Hubris Great pride. Hybris often is the character flaw (hamartia)
of a protagonist in Greek drama. Pride was considered
a grave sin because it placed too much emphasis on individual will, thereby
downplaying the will of the state and endangering the community as a whole.
Because pride makes people unwilling to accept wise counsel, they act rashly
and make bad decisions.
Armlike device in an ancient Greek theater that could lower a "god" onto
the stage from the "heavens." The Greek word for machine, mechane, later
gave rise to a pejorative Latin term, deus ex machina (god from a machine),
to describe a contrived event in a literary work or film. A contrived event
is a plot weakness in which a writer makes up an incident—such as a detective
stumbling upon an important clue or a hero arriving in the nick of time
to save a damsel in distress—to further the action. The audience considers
such events improbable, realizing that the writer has failed to develop
the plot and the characters in such a way that their actions spring from
their motivations. The term (pronounced DAY ihs ex MAHK in uh or
ihs ex MAHK in uh) is usually used adverbially, as in The policeman
arrived deus ex machina to overhear the murderer admit his guilt
to his hostage. However, it can also refer to a character who becomes
the "god from the machine."
Face covering with exaggerated features and a mouth device to project the
voice. Greek actors wore masks to reveal emotion or personality; to depict
the trade, social class or age of a character; and to provide visual and
audio aids for audience members in the rear of the theater.
Poem sung in a play or a festival.
Comedy: a genre of plays in Greece of the Fifth Century, B.C. Old comedy
displayed great imagination and used cutthroat satire, caricature, and
sometimes vulgar dialogue to ridicule people, ideas, trends, and institutions.
The Clouds, by Aristophanes,
is an example of old comedy.
Headdress worn by some Greek actors to increase their height and, thus,
visibility to theater audiences.
See Theater, Greek.
Parabasis: an ode
in which the chorus addresses the audience to express opinions of the author,
including his views on politics, social trends, and other topics. In The
Clouds, a comedy by Aristophanes, the chorus scolds the audience
for its lukewarm reception of an earlier production of the play.
See Theater, Greek.
or Parode See chorus.
Prism having surfaces painted with pictures. When it revolved, it could
change the scenery on a stage.
In a tragedy, sudden reversal of fortune from good to bad.
Important work by Aristotle written about 335 B.C. It analyzes Greek theater
and outlines its origin and development. One of its theses is that literature
and other forms of art imitate the activity of humans. Tragedy is the higher
form of the playwright's craft, Aristotle says, because it imitates the
action of noble persons and depicts lofty events. Comedy, on the other
hand, focuses on ordinary humans and events.
that begins the play with dialogue indicating the focus or theme of the
See Theater, Greek.
Main character in an ancient Greek play who usually interacts with the
chorus. In a tragedy, the protagonist is traditionally a person of exalted
status—such as a king, a queen, a political leader, or a military hero—who
has a character flaw (inordinate pride, for example). This character flaw
causes the protagonist to make an error of judgment. Additionally, the
typical protagonist experiences a moment of truth in which he or she recognizes
and acknowledges his or her mistakes, failures, or sins.
See Theater, Greek.
In Greek literature, a play or a passage in a play that pokes fun at public
figures, institutions, ideas or the gods. An example of a satire is The
Clouds, a comedy by Aristophanes.
play Play that pokes fun at a serious subject involving gods and myths;
a parody of stories about gods or myths. Fragments of Sophocles'
satyr play Ichneutae (Trackers) survive along with his seven
Four plays (three tragedies and one satyr
play) staged by a playwright during the drama competition each spring
in honor of Dionysus.
Greek Open-air structure in which plays were performed. The stage faced
the afternoon sunlight to illuminate a performance while allowing the audience
to view the action without squinting. A Greek theater consisted of the
Building behind the stage. First used as a dressing area for actors (and
sometimes an .....entrance
or exit area for actors), the skene eventually became a background showing
appropriate scenery. .....Paraskenia:
Extensions or annexes on the sides of the skene. .....Proscenium:
Acting area, or stage, in front of the skene. .....Orchestra:
Ground-level area where the chorus performed. It
was in front of the proscenium. .....Parados:
Passage on the left or right through which the chorus
entered the orchestra. .....Thymele:
Altar in the center of the orchestra used to make sacrifices to Dionysus. .....Theatron:
Tiered seating area built into a hillside in the shape of a horseshoe. .....Machine:
Armlike device on the skene that could lower a "god" onto the stage from
the heavens. . Theatron
Tiered seating area built into a hillside in the shape of a horseshoe. Thespian
Noun meaning actor or actress; adjective referring to any
person or thing pertaining to Greek drama or drama in general. The word
is derived from Thespis, the name of a Greek of the 6th Century
B.C. who was said to have been the first actor on the Greek stage. See
also dithyramb. Thymele
See Theater, Greek. Tragedy
Verse drama written in elevated language in which a noble protagonist
falls to ruin during a struggle caused by a flaw (hamartia)
in his character or an error in his rulings or judgments. Following are
the characteristics of a Sophocles tragedy: (1) It is based on events that
already took place and with which the audience is familiar. (2) The protagonist
is a person of noble stature. (3) The protagonist has a weakness and, because
of it, becomes isolated and suffers a downfall. (4) Because the protagonist's
fall is not entirely his or her own fault, the audience may end up pitying
him or her. (5) The fallen protagonist gains self-knowledge. He has a deeper
insight into himself and understands his weakness. (6) The audience undergoes
a purging of emotions, after experiencing pity, fear, shock and other strong
feelings. The people go away feeling better. (7) The drama usually unfolds
in one place in a short period of time, usually about a day. Trilogy
Group of three plays on a related subject or theme. Zeus
King of the Olympian gods. .
Greek theater was an open-air stone structure with tiered seating, a stage,
and a ground-level orchestra. It was an outgrowth of festivals honoring
the god Dionysus. In these festivals, called Dioniyia, the Greeks
danced and sang hymns called dithyrambs that sometimes told stories. One
day, Thespis, a choral director in Athens, used spoken words, or dialogue,
to accompany the singing and dancing in imitation of poets who had done
so before. Soon, the dialogues of Thespis became plays, and he began staging
them in a theater. ......."A
contest of plays in 535 [BC] arose when Pisistratus, the ‘tyrant' whom
the common people of Athens invested with power, brought a rustic festival
into the city [Athens]," drama critic John Gassner writes in Masters
of Drama. Such contests became regular features of the festivals,
and the theaters in which they were held were specially built to accommodate
them. . Major Sections of the
tiered, horshoe-shaped seating area called a theatron. The theatron
faced the east to allow the audience to view plays—usually
staged later in the day—without squinting. .....(2)
stage called a proscenium. The staged faced the west to allow the midday
sun to illuminate the faces of the actors. .....(3)
orchestra in front of the proscenium to accommodate the chorus. . Other Theater Sections . .....Skene:
Building behind the stage. First used as a dressing area for actors (and
sometimes an entrance or exit area for actors), the skene eventually became
a background showing appropriate scenery. .....Paraskenia:
Extensions or annexes on the sides of the skene. .....Parados:
Passage on the left or right through which the chorus entered the orchestra. .....Thymele:
Altar in the center of the orchestra used to make sacrifices to Dionysus. .....Machine:
Armlike device on the skene that could lower a "god" onto the stage from