Greek Comedy vs. Tragedy Essay Example

Pages: 4 (1522 words) Published: August 25, 2012
Comedy versus Tragedy
“I regard the theatre as the greatest of all art forms, the most immediate way in which a human being can share with another the sense of what it is to be a human being.” This is Oscar Wilde’s definition of the theater. But how did theater start? There are so many different genres and types of drama. How did it all come to be? Two of the biggest genres of theater were originated in ancient Greece. They are comedy and tragedy. How do these two styles differ? The main difference defining Greek comedy and tragedy is the tone of the entire play, and how the audience can relate to it.

Greek Comedy was always meant to be funny and riotous, with characters less noble and complicated than those in tragedy or even real life. Aristophanes' eleven known comedies, dating between 425 and 388BCE, are fantastical works that celebrate the city's political life, while mocking specific individuals and institutions. Comedy was developed at various Greek states, including Syracuse and other cities of Sicily, before being instituted most grandly at Athens. (Sacks) Comedy employed a chorus of 24 members; tragedy used 12 at first, later 15. Comic choruses tended to be more important to the play's action and message than were their tragic counterparts. All Athenian actors and stage choruses were male, although the roles might be female. To contrast with the large number of chorus members, there were usually only around 3 main speaking actors. Since plays usually had more than 3 speaking parts, actors would have to play more than one part. This worked out, since the actors used dramatic masks with very lifelike features and hair. Masks for comedy and satyr plays often had humorous or grotesque touches such as highly arched eyebrows or grinning mouths. Comedy varied more than tragedy in its subject matter and content. Comic poets sometimes put a humorous spin on mythological figures or events, but in the fifth century BCE the Athenian comic poets also poked fun...
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