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Flashcards in Greek theater and Trifles Deck (42)
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What envirnmental and cultural factors shape the characters?

Job Title or Work Experiences/Skills/Knowledge

Marital Status


The Traditional Detective Drama Plot: Linear and Climactic

1. Exposition: We learn the circumstances of the case or crime.

2. Rising Action: Evidence is discovered, conflicts tend to arise between characters.

3. Climax: Through empirical observation and deduction, detectives reveal truth, solving crime.

4. Falling Action & Resolution: tying up of loose ends (how the crime is solved, why the criminal did it, punishment to be meted out). However, Glaspell leaves Trifles open ended. Why?


Trifles as Feminist Drama

•Barely passes the Bechdel Test (two women with names talk about something besides men to each other)

•Makes gender bias transparent

•Asks audience to identify with female characters


What is the Trifle’s Central Symbol?

The central symbol of a play, poem, or novel often reveals the deeper meaning of what is being conveyed.

•Think of it also as a metaphor: a thing regarded as representative of something or someone.

•Is there something in Glaspell’s play which symbolically communicates the never-seen Mrs. Wright to us?


“A Jury of Her Peers,” (1917)

•Glaspell writes of the actual murder case as a journalist in Des Moines, IA, in 1900. Margaret Hossack was tried for killing her husband, John, and was found guilty in the first trial by the jury.

•The case haunted Glaspell.


How are we defining Theatre and Drama in this course?

•Based on a predetermined script  of words and/or actions (Dramatic Literature)


•Almost always there is a clear delineation between actors and audience, though this will be challenged throughout theatre history (and this semester).


The Advent of Theatre:

•Many points of origin

•A universal human trait

•Storytelling and Ritual, especially as religious rites.

•Greek theatre left  extensive physical record, influenced   later theatre practices, especially in Europe


VOCABULARY (λεξιλόγιο):

•Dionysus - is the god of the grape-harvest, winemaking and wine, of fertility, ritual madness, religious ecstasy, and theatre in ancient Greek religion and myth.

•Dithyramb - a wild choral hymn of ancient Greece, especially one dedicated to Dionysus. A passionate or inflated speech, poem, or other writing.

•Tragedy - a play dealing with tragic events and having an unhappy ending, especially one concerning the downfall of the main character.

•Chorus - a group of singers or dancers performing together in a supporting role in a stage musical or opera.

•Theatron - has the same meanings as theatre

•Orchestra - the part of a theater where the orchestra plays, typically in front of the stage and on a lower level than the audience.

•Skēnē - the skene was the structure at the back of a theatre stage.The word skene means "tent" or "hut," and it is thought that the original structure for these purposes was a tent or light building of wood, and was a temporary structure.

•Parodos -  is an entrance affording access either to the stage (for actors) or to the orchestra (for the chorus) of the ancient Greek theater. The parodoi are distinguished from the entrances to the stage from the skene, or stage building.

•Ekkyklēma - also called Exostra, in classical Greek theatre, stage mechanism consisting of a low platform that rolled on wheels or revolved on an axis and could be pushed onstage to reveal an interior or some offstage scene such as a tableau.

•Mechane - or machine was a crane used in Greek theatre, especially in the 5th and 4th centuries BC. Made of wooden beams and pulley systems, the device was used to lift an actor into the air, usually representing flight.

•The City Dionysia - Great Dionysia, also called City Dionysia, ancient dramatic festival in which tragedy, comedy, and satyric drama originated; it was held in Athens in March in honour of Dionysus, the god of wine.


A Celebration of the God Dionysus (Διόνυσος)

•Who was Dionysus?

•Son of the principal god (Zeus) and a mortal woman (Semele).


•A resurrection god, along with Osiris, Baal, and Tammuz.

•A foreign god, perhaps from Thrace, perhaps from Ethiopia.

•Also called Bacchus, the name adopted by the Romans.

•Hymns to Dionysus known as dithyrambs.


Athens in the 5th Century BCE

•A Greek Polis, or City-State

•A Major Naval Power

•A Center of Cultural and Intellectual Activity


Who Were the Athenians?

•300,000 persons lived in Athens

•30,000 were “citizens” (free, adult males) Other 90% were slaves, women, children, foreigners

•The intellectual center of the West

•Loved the idea of the agon (competition, contest, debate)


The City Dionysia: Theatre as/emergent from Ritual

Lasted 5 days; the theatre was only one part of the festival:

•Procession and Revels

•3 Days Performances with a competition between 3 tragic playwrights with three plays and a satyr play.


•Publicly funded with subsidized tickets


Who Acted in the Plays?

• Men wearing masks and robes. No women actors; men played male and female roles (this will also be true in Zeami’s Japan and Shakespeare’s England. Roman women during the Imperial Age in Rome could be actors).

• 2-3 Actors often playing multiple roles.

• Musicians

• Also a Chorus. More on this following……


Location of the Production: Where Euripides 'media premiered?

Theatre of Dionysus built into side of The Acropolis.    
 The Neighborhood where Euripides’ Medea premiered


Main Parts of the Stage

•An Amphitheatre

•The Theatron (“seeing place”).

•The Orchestra (“dancing place”)

Parodos: entrance/exit for Chorus, Messengers, actors who needed to appear to be coming to/from somewhere else

• Then there is the Skēnē



Skēnē…from canvas or fabric to stone.

•Skēnē… (Greek)

•Scaena… (Latin)


• Scene…(English)

Tent = Tent (Xerxes’ Tent Captured after the Battle of Salamis)


Stage Technology: The Mechane

•The Mechane was used to lower characters, particularly gods, onto the stage, as if they were descending from the sky. This was possibly used at the end of Medea with the flying chariot. Euripides became infamous for using the mechane.

•The device is better known in English in its Latin form: Deus ex Machina, The God from the Machine.

• It will also be used in Shakespeare’s theatres


Stage Technology: The Ekkyklēma

•A cart that would be wheeled out to reveal some terrible or horrific tableau.

•The Greeks did not allow for violent acts on the stage. All violence took place off stage. We do not see Medea murder her sons. We do not see Oedipus stab out his eyes

•Folk Etymology: Obscene from the Latin ob scaena, or “off scene.” A nice try, but a handy mnemonic prompt.


Constraints and Customs:

•Performed in daylight: no curtain or lights to hide scene changes. Similar to the public theatres later in Shakespeare’s London

•Mostly mythic stories everyone knew

•Only 3 actors maximum!



•Agon = “struggle”

•The Chorus interacts with actors/comments on action


Three Types of Plays, All with Choruses:

•Tragedy – plays that address the human experience in ways that evoke pity and fear in the audience. Chorus first of 15 (reduced from 50) then to 12.

•Comedy – humorous plays, often satirical, tended to imagine happy outcomes. Chorus of 24.

•Satyr –  bawdy plays that touched upon the tragic themes of the plays shown earlier in the day. Chorus of 12. Only one play survives: Euripides’ Cyclops.


Tragedy (Tragōidia) Means?

“Goat Song”: Why?


Greek tragedies were known as goat-songs because the prize in Athenian play competitions was a live goat. The contests were part of worship to Dionysus, involving chants and dances in his honour.


      The Library of Alexandra:

circa 280 bce to ?


                Of the Playwrights That Have Survived:

•Aeschylus: 6 of Almost 80 Plays

•Sophocles: 7 of 120 Plays

•Euripides: 19 of 90 Plays

•Aristophanes: 11 of 40 Plays

•Menander: 1 of 96 Plays

•Seneca: 8/ Terence: 6/ Plautus: 20 out of 120/ Pacuvius: 0/ Accius: 0


According to the Library of Congress, what % of the films made during the Silent Era are Lost:

75 %


Timeline: BCE


                 VOCABULARY (λεξιλόγιο):

•Catharsis - the process of releasing, and thereby providing relief from, strong or repressed emotions.


•Peripeteia - a sudden reversal of fortune or change in circumstances, especially in reference to fictional narrative.


•Hamartia - a fatal flaw leading to the downfall of a tragic hero or heroine.

•Anagnorisis - is a moment in a plot or story, specifically a tragedy, wherein the main character either recognizes or identifies his/her true nature, recognizes the other character's true identity, discovers the true nature of his situation, or that of the others – leading to the resolution of the story.

•The Six Elements - plot, character, thought, diction, music, and spectacle.

•Pathos - a quality that evokes pity or sadness.

"the actor injects his customary humor and pathos into the role"


Thespis and the Development of Theatre

•A lone actor turns and addresses the Chorus.

•Thespis creates one of the ancient world’s most important mash-ups: Epic Poetry with Lyric Poetry:

•     Epic Poetry: Narrative (think

        of Homer and The Iliad).

        Lyric Poetry: The hymns to Dionysus (the dithyrambs)


Theatre and the School of Athens: Philosophical Inquiry



•Student of Socrates

•Poetry and Drama offer representations of the world and stand in the way of the pursuit of truth (think of the illusionary shadows in Plato’s Cave).

•In his Republic, his ideal state would ban poets.

•Yet his work is dialogic. Socrates always appears as the main Protagonist.



•Student of Plato.

•Disagreed with his mentor, believing that drama served a vital purpose for society.

•Wrote the first treatise on Western Drama, the Poetics, which remains one of the most important texts on how Tragedy functions.