Gleanings on Greek Theatre
In our spasmodically written pieces on Greek Theatre primarily meant
for young readers offering western classical culture for their
respective examinations we touched on the early Greek Theatre.
We add some more details that might help them. First of all we must
remember these features:
The appeal of the Greek Theatre was to the ear and not to the eye.
There was no lighting, no costume, and no facial expression. (The
players wore masks, plays were staged in daylight, players used mouth
pieces, theatres were acoustically constructed- they had vessels all
over). Gruesome events were not shown on the stage. Legends and myths
were used to profess a philosophy.
As the ancient Greek theatre developed the playwright functioned as a
sort of a priest, one may say. Gradually the rites assumed greater
complexity, dance rhythms, subtler symbolization, and more dynamic
presentation could be seen.
Man danced out his desires until the pantomime dance became the most
finished early form of drama and the first dramatist became a
choreographer.” a critic informs.
I shall summaries what the critic John Gassner says about the
development in his own erudite style.
The playwright is at once a priest, a scientist, a philosopher and a
specialist. “This dramatist is a comprehensive personality than a stage
carpenter” He becomes a guiding intellect.
He is no mere mechanic, but a priest who gives he act its content or
meaning and teaches man the uses of prayer. He is a poet by virtue of
the imaginativeness that enables him to animate nature or personify its
forces as spirits; and he became simultaneously a scientist since he is
a miracle worker.
Please read John Gassner for his elaborate elucidation.
The first ingredients of the early plays were action and imitation.
As we know the dynamic purpose of drama is ‘conflict’. Myth became the
matter of drama. Structure began to evolve.
We also know that the Drama first attained maturity in the west in
the classic age of Greece and Rome. Evidently there was smooth
transition from ritual to art. Characterization and human content
entered the Drama.
“The theatre finally becomes a synthesis of the arts such as it has
been since the 5th c B.C. Poetry and dramatic action, supplemented by
all the arts from music to painting produces a portent organ for
expression of human experience and thought. The first masters of the
drama are in sense masters of life.
Let’s conclude with this quote from John Gassner:
“When Thespis, director of Choruses stood on a table and addressed
the leader of the Chorus, dialogue was born in Greece.
With his inspired step, Thespis also created the classic actor as
distinct from the dancer.”
We must get ourselves acquainted with the structure, devices and
qualities of Greek Theatre to understand modern and contemporary drama.
We shall explore together in future columns too intermittently.