By: Christine Boldt
The Greek invented the idea, or concept, of theater in the 6th century B.C. The first known formal theater was built in Athens between 550 and 534 B.C., although the oldest theater in the world is in the palace at Knossos in the northern Crete. The Ancient Greek’s way of theater and its many accomplishments greatly influenced the modern day theater and entertainment. Staring with the evolution of theater and how it evolved from religious groups in ancient Greece. There were also many great playwrights, such as Aeschylus, Sophocles, and Euripides, who opened the doors to a world of art. Even the construction of a play and the major types of plays, such as tragedy and comedy, are still used to this day. The way the characters or actors and costume evolved from such a simple plan to a extremely difficult and complicated design. Finally the influence Greek theater has had on the modern day and how it continues to influence the way of the modern theater. These are all important factors that still, to this day, influence theater and the way theater is presented. Twenty-five hundred years ago, Western theatre was born in Athens, Greece. Between 600 and 200 BC, the ancient Athenians created a theatre culture whose form, technique and terminology have lasted two millennia, and they created plays that are still considered among the greatest works of world drama. (Nardo 10) Their achievement is truly remarkable when one considers that there have been only two other periods in the history of theatre that could be said to approach the greatness of ancient Athens - Elizabethan England and, perhaps the Twentieth Century. The greatest playwright of Elizabethan England was Shakespeare, but Athens produced at least five equally great playwrights. The Twentieth Century produced thousands of fine plays and films, but their form and often their content are based on the innovations of the ancient Athenians. The theatre of Ancient Greece evolved from religious rites which date back to at least 1200 BC. At that time, Greece was run by tribes. In northern Greece, in an area called Thrace, a cult arose that worshipped Dionysus, the god of fertility and procreation. This Cult of Dionysus, which probably originated in Asia Minor, practiced ritual celebrations which may have included alcoholic intoxication, orgies, human and animal sacrifices, and perhaps even hysterical rampages by women called maenads. The cult's most controversial practice involved, it is believed, and uninhibited dancing and emotional displays that created an altered mental state. This altered state was known as 'ecstasies', from which the word ecstasy is derived. (Nardo 203) Ecstasy was an important religious concept to the Greeks, who would come to see theatre as a way of releasing powerful emotions through its ritual power. Though it met with resistance, the cult spread south through the tribes of Greece over the ensuing six centuries. During this time, the rites of Dionysus became mainstream and more formalized and symbolic. The death of a tragic hero was offered up to god and man rather than the sacrifice of say, a goat. (Oates xvii) By 600 BC these ceremonies were practiced in spring throughout much of Greece. An essential part of the rites of Dionysus was the dithyramb. The word means 'choric hymn'. This chant or hymn was probably introduced into Greece early accompanied by mimic gestures and, probably, music. It began as a part of a purely religious ceremony, like a hymn in the middle of a mass describing the adventures of Dionysus. In its earliest form it was lead off by the leader of a band of revelers, a group of dancers, probably dressed as satyrs dancing around an altar. It was probably performed by a chorus of about fifty men dressed as satyrs -- mythological half-human, half- goat servants of Dionysus. They may have played drums, lyres and flutes, and chanted as they danced around an effigy of Dionysus. Some accounts say they also wore...
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