Old Comedy, of which Aristophanes was the chief exponent, was highly satirical. It was characterized by wildly imaginative material (in which the chorus might represent birds, frogs, wasps, or clouds) that was blended with a grotesque, vulgar, and witty tone, which could still accommodate poetry of great lyrical beauty. The bawdiness of the plays was emphasized by the actors' costumes, which featured jerkins with padded stomachs and large phalli. As in tragedy, masks were worn, though they are exaggerated for comic effect. With the decline of tragedy after Euripides' death in 406 bce and the defeat of Athens in 404 bce, comedy increased in popularity. It began to evolve through the transitional Middle comedy to the style known as New Comedy, established about 320 bce, during the time of Alexander the Great. Only fragments by one writer, menander, survive from this period, but they indicate a swing away from mythological subjects toward a comedy of manners, concentrating as they do on the erotic adventures of young Athenians and centring on urban family life. Gone were the boisterousness, the religious influence, and the long choruses of the earlier drama.
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The masks also helped to make the portrayal of female characters by male actors more plausible, as well as to make the facial features clearly discernible by the large audience. The principal occasion for william Athenian drama was the Great dionysia (or City dionysia a spring festival devoted mainly to tragedy. The archon, a city official, chose the poets who were allowed to compete, most and for each of them there was a choregos, a wealthy man who as part of his civic duties would pay for and organize the production. The actors were paid by the state. Each poet was required to offer three tragedies and a satyr play (a bawdy comic comment on the main theme of the tragedies). The tragedies could be separate plays on a linked theme or a trilogy on one theme. The only surviving complete trilogy is Aeschylus's Oresteia. The poet directed his plays, composed the music, and arranged the dances. In the early tragedies, he was also the main actor. Comedy (from Greek kōmos, meaning revel) was presented competitively in Athens from 486 bce at the lenaea winter festival, though it fused much earlier traditions of popular entertainment, mime, phallic rites, and revelry in honour of dionysus. Ancient shamanistic ceremonies also may have influenced its development.
Sometimes the chorus would have a particular point of view (as in Bacchae, where it represents the followers of Bacchus while at other times it could be the mouthpiece of the poet. Long speeches and songs made up much of the plays, though these were made more dramatic by the dancing of the chorus and by the stichomythia (rapid alternating of lines between protagonists). The visual aspect of Greek tragedy was very important, a fact that is easily forgotten, as only the words survive. The conventions Aeschylus developed were refined by sophocles, who brought the chorus up to and 15 and added a third actor. More actors meant a larger number of characters could be played; still more characters were possible when individual actors played multiple roles (known as doubling). Euripides, in his turn, brought greater realism to characterization and strengthened dramatic action by reducing the role of the chorus. The dramatic unities of time, place, and action were usually observed in Greek tragedy by attempting to make the action complete in itself, without superfluities, within a single circuit of the sun, and in one location. The lack of scene change and the limited number of actors available meant that much of the action, particularly murders and other deaths, took place offstage. In time, the masks worn by the actors and chorus became more expressive, and their conventionalized representation of character types (old king, young king, old nurse, etc.) meant that each character was instantly recognizable upon entry.
Adding a second actor and reducing the women chorus from 50 to 12, aeschylus laid the foundation for an aesthetics of drama that was to influence subsequent plays for well over 2,000 years. Tragedy, it was considered, should deal with illustrious figures and significant events. The plays, which were based on legends or remote history (though given the appearance of truth were interpreted so as to convey some religious, moral, or political meaning. The entire cosmos was depicted in the drama, represented on a vertical set: above was the seat of the gods, below was the place of exile and punishment, and in the middle was the flat circle of the earth, represented by the circular orchestra, where. The universal scale of Greek drama was reflected in one of its most characteristic features, the interaction between chorus and protagonist. The function of the chorus was to generalize the particular events by critically travel observing and interpreting the action of the play. It provided, as it were, the social background, which in turn gave resonance to the actions of the main characters.
This was a form of choral song ( choral music ) chanted at festivals in honour of dionysus, the god of wine, fruitfulness, and vegetation. Originally, it celebrated his rejuvenation of the earth; later, it drew on Homeric legends for its subject matter. According to Greek tradition, the actor and playwright Thespis invented the drama when he augmented the chorus of the dithyramb with a single actor who wore masks to portray several different characters. With the possibility of dialogue between the actor and the chorus, more complex themes and modes of storytelling could be developed. In 534 bce at Athens's first dramatic festival, one of Thespis's tragedies won the prize. (Derived from the Greek tragos, meaning goat, the term tragedy may have referred to a goat as the prize or as an animal sacrifice made at the festival.) Thereafter, tragedies were performed annually as part of the festival of dionysus and of other yearly celebrations. The earliest surviving texts of plays are seven tragedies by aeschylus dating from the first half of the 5th century bce.
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The figure of Osiris, symbolically represented in the play, is then torn to pieces by seth, after which his remains are gathered by his wife Isis and son Horus, who subsequently restore him to life. The play thus follows the pattern of birth, death, and resurrection, and it also echoes the cycle of the seasons. Ritual dramas like this were performed to ensure the fertility of women, cattle, and crops and to invest the spirit of the community and its leaders with vitality for the new year. Myths relating to Osiris and Horus were especially important because the pharaoh, while alive, was believed to be an incarnation of Horus, and, after his death, he was believed to be Osiris. By the time the Greek historian Herodotus saw the Abydos passion play on a visit to Egypt in 450 bce, he could record that there was also a tradition of popular drama that used comic elements (e.g., horus, born as a baby but growing.
During the 19th century, investigators discovered another text preserved on papyrus scrolls. Known as the book of the dead (from about 1800 bce it reads very much like an oratorio. Although there is no evidence that it was actually performed, the ritual is full of theatrical elements. It describes the journey of a soul, brought after death by the jackal-headed god resume Anubis into the hall of Truth, where the dead man's heart is weighed against a feather. If the heart, made light by goodness, does not outweigh the feather, then the soul is brought before Osiris and granted immortality. Ancient Greece Dramatic genres The first time theatre truly freed itself from religious ritual to become an art form was in Greece in the 6th century bce when the dithyramb was developed.
Shamanism, on the other hand, is not an imitation but a direct manifestation. In cultures where the ritual elements of theatre have remained intact—in south India (. South Asian arts ) and Bali, for example—the performances of plays and dance dramas have acquired an aura of deep respect and almost awesome power over their audience. However, where the ritual has continued in empty form long after the full significance of its content has been lost, as in modern performances of mumming plays or the padstow Horse, it becomes little more than a quaint entertainment. The development of Western theatre lies between these two extremes and polarizes into its two primary types of experience—tragedy and comedy.
Ancient Egypt ( art and architecture, egyptian in ancient Egypt, religious ritual moved toward a more explicitly theatrical enactment. The pantheon of animal-headed gods and the stories of the soul's journey after death into the other world provided rich material for ceremonies and rituals. Priests were thought to have impersonated the deities by wearing stylized masks and reciting hymns and prayers; carvings depicting masked dancers, dated at 3500 bce, have been found in Egypt. The so-called, pyramid Texts have been assembled from fragments of prayers found carved on the walls of royal tombs of the Old Kingdom (. The most important of these involved the god Osiris. He was the subject of what was known as the Abydos passion play, a yearly ritual performed from the period of the Old Kingdom until about 400. The Abydos passion play depicts the slaying of Osiris and his followers by his brother Seth, the enactment of which apparently resulted in many real deaths.
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The demon play is still performed in various guises in parts of Asia. An interesting component, which also occurs in later Western theatre, is the blood use of clowns ( clown )—often deformed—to parody the more serious figures. Shamanism emphasizes the special skills that actors have traditionally developed and that set them apart from the rest of society. It also shows the way the actor's techniques can help to transport the audience's imagination beyond the actual space where the performance takes place. The nature worship theory expresses the idea that disguise is one of the fundamental aspects of the actor's art. Indeed, when an individual addressing a gathering modifies the manner, voice, or appearance of an expression, the event becomes theatrical rather than actual. This also conforms to Aristotle's definition of theatre as an imitation of an action;. E., not the action itself.
In this case the shaman, as actor/priest, was able to fall into a trance and become a medium with the other world. The shaman was believed to travel in the spirit world or to actually be possessed by spirits. One of the main activities of shamanism, which is still practiced today, is the exorcism of evil spirits; this can often involve trance dances in which the shaman performs acrobatics, juggling, or vigorous dancing for long periods, demanding a facility and stamina that summary seemingly would. Fire-walking, fire-eating, and other acts of apparent self-torture, performed while in a trance, are taken as further demonstrations of the supernatural. They represent the opposite pole from illusionism, in which such acts are achieved by trickery. Sometimes puppets are used by shamans as manifestations of supernatural forces in the giving of divinations or oracles. Masks also are an important part of shamanism: it is believed that by putting on a mask the dancer becomes possessed by the spirit represented and takes on the functions of that spirit. The use of body paint and elaborate costumes helps further in the personification of the spirit or demon. These ritual elements gave rise to an archetypal genre known as the demon play, a primitive dance drama in which the force of good exorcises the force of evil.
course of nature—to bring rain, to facilitate a good harvest or a hunt, and to drive out evil. But one of the most important patterns was the enactment of the cycle of the seasons, dramatized by a battle in which winter gave way to spring. This ceremony involved a year-king figure who was ritually killed and supplanted by a new king. At first this was probably a human sacrifice of propitiation; later the killing was mimed. In a further development of this theme, as part of other rituals, the two kings were reduced to a single figure who underwent a process of repeated death and resurrection. This interpretation is used to explain the mock battles in such folk traditions as the european mumming plays ( mumming play ) or the multiple deaths and rebirths of such figures as the padstow Horse in Cornwall, Eng. Shamanism, a second theory proposes that theatre evolved from shamanistic ( shamanism ) rituals that manifested a supernatural presence to the audience, as opposed to giving a symbolic representation.
It is difficult to decide at which point ritual became theatre. Important clues as to the nature of theatre in prehistoric times can, however, be found by examining the many patterns of drama and ritual that exist throughout the world today. Nature worship, the most widely held theory about the origins of theatre is that it evolved from rituals created to act out natural events symbolically, thereby bringing them down to human scale and making the unknown more easily accessible. Individuals would express themselves through rhythmic movement using some kind of adornment to enhance the expressive range of the body. The earliest known evidence of this is in the cave paintings and engravings at Les Trois Frères (. Trois Frères ) in southern France. Dating from the late paleolithic Period (about 40,00010,000 bce these ancient manifestations of art depict half-human, half-animal figures in animated poses. The figures appear to be dancers wearing the heads and skins of animals, suggesting the early use of mask and costume. Certainly the mask has been one of the most potent means of transcending one's own being or of representing ilahi other planes of existence, and in many parts of the world it holds great power and fascination to this day.
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Art, introduction history of the western theatre from its origins in pre-Classical antiquity letter to the present. For a discussion of drama as a literary form, see dramatic literature and the articles on individual national literatures. For detailed information on the arts of theatrical performance and stagecraft, see theatre, directing, acting, and theatrical production. The origins of Western theatre, pre-Classical antiquity. Notwithstanding its great diversity of styles, forms, themes, and functions, the theatre of today has its roots in a basic impulse to embody expression mimetically. Theatre is a social art based on explorations of the cycles of nature, the progression from birth to death, and the forces that compel our behaviour. The lack of documentary evidence makes it impossible to determine exactly how theatre began, though it is generally believed to have evolved from religious rituals.