Intro to Theatre
Ms. Elizabeth Taheri
October 10, 2000
Theatre as a Religious Ceremony
"The drama in Greece was inextricably bound up with religious feeling and religious observance." (Cheney 33) The citizens of the Greek states were the first European communities to raise dramatic performances to the level of an art. Furthermore, the Greek playwrights still exercise a potent creative force, and many modern dramatists find strong relationships between these legendary themes and modern conditions. The Greek's religion is wholly responsible for the creation of all facets of early Greek theatre; whether it is the content of the plays, or the immense size of the theaters required to accommodate the attendance of the city's men.
Although much is speculated about the origins of early Greek theater, it may be stated that the "source of tragedy is to be found in choric dithyrambs sung in honor of the god Dionysus" (Nicoll 9). The performance took place in an open-air theater. The word tragedy is derived from the term "tragedia" or "goat-song", named for the goat skins the chorus wore in the performance. Originally these songs were improvised and rhapsodical as time passed by they were "poetized or rendered literary" (Nicoll 9). The word "chorus" meant "dance or "dancing ground", which was how dance evolved into the drama. Members of the chorus were characters in the play that commented on the action. They drew the audience into the play and reflected the audience's reactions. The change from freelance song to theatre was obtained at the hands of a Greek named Thespis. He turned what was originally a song leader, or priest, into an actor whose words were answered by a chanting chorus. Thespis also "changed the subject matter of theatre events, expanding them to deal not solely on stories of Dionysus" (Nicoll 9). In the sixth century B.C., drama had been born in Greece and with the introduction of a second actor and later a third, this art... [continues]
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