Theatre History Timeline

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Dates / Period 600BC-600AD CLASSICAL Key Styles Greek Theatre Development of the classical genres of Comedy and Tragedy. The philosopher Aristotle established the classical rules of tragedy (unities of time, place and action). Aristotle identified the central purpose of theatre ± to arouse strong emotions in its audience (catharsis). Greek Tragedies were often based on explorations of conflict between the protagonist and the antagonist. Masks were used for characters. A group of narrators called the Chorus would tell the story, comment on the actions taken by the protagonist as well as engage in dialogue. Tragedies were in five acts. Plays were written within a closed structure. Aristotle considered Comedy to be inferior to Tragedy; comedies were bawdy, frivolous, based on chance, fantasy & comic errors. Provided an escape from the realities of life. The Greeks also developed Satyr Plays ±more informal, often crude, with phallic imagery. The plays satirised or were parodies of myths, legends, historical figures & tragedies. They combined songs, dances & sketches and laid the basis for the later development of Burlesque & Farce. Roman Theatre Particularly influenced by the Satyr plays. The Romans developed new forms of theatre including Mime, Farce, and Spectacles (including gladiator contests.) A model for Roman Tragedy was developed by the theorist Seneca. 600-1500 MEDIEVAL Liturgical Drama Certain parts of the Catholic mass were enacted in church, particularly in the Easter liturgy. These enactments were developed in the monasteries and later spread to other churches. The µplays¶ were performed by the community. Three principal forms of drama developed from this: Mystery Plays based on episodes from the Bible. Miracle Plays based on the lives of saints & martyrs Morality Plays in which virtues like goodness & truth and vices like greed & sloth became characters in simple µgood triumphs over evil¶ stories. These became increasingly political & appealed to the socially oppressed peasant class. 1500-1650 RENAISSANCE Revenge Tragedy Plots involved murder, death, revenge. Plays often included nightmare visions of ghosts. Complicated subplots. Unrequited or unacceptable love. Gruesome actions. Sword fights. Poisons and potions. Madness. Key Playwrights

Aeschylus: The Oresteia Euripides: The Trojan Women, Medea Sophocles: Oedipus, Antigone Aristophanes: Lysistrata, The Frogs

Plautus Homer: The Odyssey Ovid: Metamorphoses Anon: Everyman Anon: The Mystery Cycles

Shakespeare: Hamlet, Titus


Tourneur: The Revenger¶s Tragedy Middleton/Rowley: The Changeling Marlowe: Doctor Faustus Ford: Tis Pity She¶s a Whore Webster:The Duchess of Malfi

RENAISSANCE continued«

Elizabethan & Jacobean Comedy Shakespeare¶s comedies mix elements of farce, comedy of manners, romantic comedy and black comedy. Jonson¶s comedies were more Satirical, exposing the follies and vices of society through the use of biting humour.

Shakespeare: MSND, Much Ado, 12th


Jonson: Volpone

Commedia Dell¶Arte Began in C16th Italy. Used caricature half-masks for middle-class and servant characters. Hero and Heroine were unmasked. Stock Characters were placed in stock situations (scenarios). Ensemble playing allowed for free improvisation around the roles & situations. Depicted clashes between Masters & Servants. Used physical humour known as Slapstick or Lazzi as well as acrobatic & juggling skills to amuse the audience. Street Theatre. 1650-1700 RESTORATION Comedy of Manners Examined rules of the society of the time from a satirical standpoint. Portrayed and commented upon the affectations of the upper classes. Based on the wit & banter of the aristocratic class. Thrived in time of material prosperity and moral laxity. Satirised the affected wit and self-importance of the minor aristocracy and a world where everyone thought that to better oneself was merely a question of speaking the right...
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