The Origins of Theatre - The First Plays (continued)

The Origins of Theatre - The First Plays (continued) The Theatre at Athens, from The Greeks documentary


The first plays were performed with just one actor (called a protagonist) and a chorus of people who helped him to tell the story. However, throughout the 5th century BC playwrights continued to innovate.

The playwright Aeschylus added a second speaking role, called the antagonist, and reduced the chorus from 50 to 12. His play 'The Persians', first performed in 472 BC, is the oldest surviving of all Greek plays.

His pupil, Sophocles went on to add a third actor, while Euripides added both a prologue, introducing the subject of the play, and the deus ex machina, a divine figure who wrapped up any loose ends at the close.

Wealthy citizens would sponsor plays by paying a tax called the choregia. And just like Pisistratus, the tyrant who established the 'City Dionysia' to enhance his own popularity, many of these wealthy patrons hoped the success of the play they sponsored would provide them with a way into politics.

The first plays were performed in the Theatre of Dionysus, built in the shadow of the Acropolis in Athens at the beginning of the 5th century, but theatres proved to be so popular they soon spread all over Greece.

Drama was classified according to three different types or genres: comedy, tragedy and satyr plays.




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