Theatre Trivia - Greek Theatre

Important Facts About the Greek Theater and Greek Drama

Greek Tragedy

  1. Tragedy revolves around a tragic hero who suffers misfortune.
  2. In his Poetics, Aristotle wrote about the qualities of tragedy, which include a catharsis or cleansing: Aristotle's Tragedy Terminology.
  3. Greek tragedy was performed as part of an estimated 5-day Athenian religious festival, which may have been instituted by Peisistratus.
  4. The Great Dionysia, the name of this festival, was held in the Attic month of Elaphebolion, from the end of March to mid-April.
  5. Three tragic playwrights competed during the festival for the prize for the best series of three tragedies and a satyr play.
  6. The first competition is thought to have been held in 535 B.C. at which time Thespis won.
  7. There were rarely more than a chorus and 3 actors, regardless of how many roles were played. Actors changed their appearance in the skene.

Greek Comedy

  1. Greek Comedy is divided into Old and New.
  2. Since the only Greek comedy comes from Attica -- the country around Athens -- it is often called Attic Comedy.

  3. Old Comedy tended to examine political and allegorical topics while New Comedy looked at personal and domestic themes.
  4. Euripides (one of the 3 great writers of tragedy) is considered an important influence on the development of New Comedy.
  5. The primary writer of Old Comedy is Aristophanes; the primary figure for New Comedy is Menander.
  6. The Roman comedy writers followed Greek New Comedy.
  7. The relatively modern "Comedy of Manner" can be traced to Greek New Comedy.

General Information on the Greek Theatre

  • Men played the role of women.
  • Actors wore masks.
  • Performances were outdoors often on hillsides.
  • The word "theater" comes from the word theatron which was the viewing area for the Greek audience.