Ancient Greek Theater

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Plays were written for a yearly festival, in honor of the god Dionysus, and were either Comedies or Tragedies. All the actors were male, and they all played multiple roles, so a mask was used to show the change in character or mood. Therefore the two masks are now used as the symbol for theatre. The Greeks invented the epic and lyric forms and used them skillfully. They also invented drama and produced masterpieces that are still deemed as dramas crowning achievement. Attendance at the festival performances was regarded as an act of worship. Performances were held in the great open-air theater of Dionysus in Athens. All of the greatest poets competed for the prizes offered for the best plays. Of the hundreds of dramas written and performed during the classical age, only a limited number of plays by three authors have survived: Aeschylus, Sophocles, and Euripides. The earliest of the three was Aeschylus, who was born in 525 BC. He wrote between 70 and 90 plays, of which only seven remain. Many of his dramas were arranged as trilogies, groups of three plays on a single theme. The `Oresteia' (story of Orestes)-consisting of `Agamemnon', `Choephoroi' (Libation-bearers), and `Eumenides' (Furies) -is the only surviving trilogy. The `Persai' is a song of triumph for the defeat of the Persians. For about 16 years, between 484 and 468 BC, Aeschylus carried off prize after prize. But in 468 his place was taken by a new favorite, Sophocles of Colonus (496- 406). Sophocles' life covered nearly the whole period of Athens' "golden age." He won more than 20 victories at the Dionysian festivals and produced more than 100 plays, only seven of which remain. His drama `Antigone' is typical of his work: its heroine is a model of womanly self-sacrifice. He is probably better known, though, for `Oedipus Rex' and its sequel, `Oedipus at Colonus'. The third of the great tragic writers was Euripides (484-406). He wrote at least 92 plays. Sixty-seven of these are known in the...
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