.. This was called “deus ex machina”, which means god from the machine, and was a technical device that used a metal crane on top of the skene building, which contained the dressing rooms, from which a dummy was suspended to represent a god. This device was first employed by Euripides to give a miraculous conclusion to a tragedy. In later romantic literature, this device was no longer used and the miracles supplied by it were replace by the sudden appearance of a rich uncle, the discovery or new wills, or of infants changed at birth. Many proprieties of the Greek plays were attached to violence. Therefore, it was a rule that acts of violence must take place off stage. This carried through to the Elizabethan theater which avoided the horrors of men being flayed alive or Glouster’s eyes being put out in full view of an audience (King Lear).
When Medea went inside the house to murder her children, the chorus was left outside, chanting in anguish, to represent the feelings the chorus had and could not act upon, because of their metaphysical existence. The use of music in the theater began very simply consisting of a single flute player that accompanied the chorus. Toward the close of the century, more complicated solo singing was developed by Euripides. There could-then be large-scale spectacular events, with stage crowds and chariots, particularly in plays by Aeschylus. Greek comedy was derived from two different sources, the more known being the choral element which included ceremonies to stimulate fertility at the festival of Dionysus or in ribald drunken revel in his honor. The term comedy is actually drawn from “komos”, meaning song of revelry.
The second source of Greek comedy was that from the Sicilian “mimes”, who put on very rude performances where they would make satirical allusions to audience members as they ad-libbed their performances. In the beginning, comedy was frank, indecent and sexual. The plots were loosely and carelessly structured and included broad farce and buffoonery. The performers were coarse and obscene while using satire to depict important contemporary moral, social and political issues of Athenian life. The comedy included broad satire of well known persons of that time.
Throughout the comedic period in Greece, there were three distinctive eras of comedies as the genre progressed. Old comedy, which lasted from approximately 450 to 400 BCE, was performed at the festivals of Dionysus following the tragedies. There would be contests between three poets, each exhibiting one comedy. Each comedy troupe would consist of one or two actors and a chorus of twenty-four. The actors wore masks and “soccus”, or sandals, and the chorus often wore fantastic costumes. Comedies were constructed in five parts, the prologue, where the leading character conceived the “happy idea”, the parodos or entrance of the chorus, the agon, a dramatized debate between the proponent and opponent of the “happy idea” where the opposition was always defeated, the parabasis, the coming forth of the chorus where they directly addressed the audience and aired the poet’s views on most any matter the poet felt like having expressed, and the episodes, where the “happy idea” was put into practical application.
Aristotle highly criticized comedy, saying that it was just a ridiculous imitation of lower types of man with eminent faults emphasized for the audience’s pleasure, such as a mask worn to show deformity, or for the man to do something like slip and fall on a banana peel. Aristophanes, a comic poet of the old comedy period, wrote comedies which came to represent old comedy, as his style was widely copied by other poets. In his most famous works, he used dramatic satire on some of the most famous philosophers and poets of the era. In “The Frogs” he ridiculed Euripides, and in “The Clouds” he mocked Socrates. His works followed all the basic principles of old comedy, but he added a facet of cleverness and depth in feeling to his lyrics, in an attempt to appeal to both the emotions and intellect of the audience. Middle comedy, which dominated from 400 to 336 BCE, was very transitional, having aspects of both old comedy and new comedy.
It was more timid than old comedy, having many less sexual gestures and innuendoes. It was concerned less with people and politics, and more with myths and tragedies. The chorus began its fade into the background, becoming more of an interlude than the important component it used to be. Aristophanes wrote a few works in middle comedy, but the most famous writers of the time were Antiphanes of Athens and Alexis of Thurii, whose compositions have mostly been lost and only very few of their found works have been full extant plays. In new comedy which lasted from 336 to 250 BCE, satire is almost entirely replaced by social comedy involving the family and individual character development, and the themes of romantic love.
A closely knit plot in new comedy was based on intrigue, identities, relationships or a combination of these. A subplot was often utilized as well. The characters in new comedy are very similar in each work, possibly including a father who is very miser like, a son who is mistreated but deserving, and other people with stereotypical personas. The chief writer of new comedy was Menander, and as with the prominent writers of the middle comedic era, most of his works have been lost, but other dramatists of the time period, like Terence and Platus, had imitated and adapted his methods. Menander’s The Curmudgeon is the only complete extant play known by him to date, and it served as the basis for the later Latin writers to adapt.
Adventure, brilliance, invention, romance and scenic effect, together with delightful lyrics and wisdom, were the gifts of the Greek theater. These conventions strongly affected subsequent plays and playwrights, having put forth influence on theater throughout the centuries. — Bibliography 1. Lucas, F.L., Greek Tragedy and Comedy, New York: The Viking Press, 1967. 2.
McAvoy, William, Dramatic Tragedy, New York: McGraw-Hill Book Company, 1971. 3. Murray, Gilbert, Euripides and His Age, New York: Oxford University Press, 1955. 4. Reinhold, Meyer, Ph.D., Essentials of Greek and Roman Classics, New York: Barron’s Educational Series, Inc., 1960.
5. Trawick, Buckner B., World Literature, Volume I: Greek, Roman, Oriental and Medieval William McAvoy, Dramatic Tragedy, 1971, p. ix Ibid., p. x William McAvoy, Dramatic Tragedy, 1971, p. xi Ibid., p. vii Meyer Reinhold, Ph.D., Essentials of Greek and Roman Classics, 1960, p.60 F.L.
Lucas, Greek Tragedy and Comedy, 1968, p. 3 Ibid., p. 9 Ibid., p. 10 Ibid., p. 10 Gilbert Murray, Euripides and His Age, 1955, p.
145 F.L. Lucas, Greek Tragedy and Comedy, 1968, p. 12 Ibid., p.62 Gilbert Murray, Euripides and His Age, 1955, p.146 Gilbert Murray, Euripides and His Age, 1955, p. 153 F.L. Lucas, Greek Tragedy and Comedy, 1968, p. 12 Buckner B. Trawick, World Literature, Volume I: Greek, Roman, Oriental and Medieval Classics, 1958, p.
76 Meyer Reinhold, Ph.D., Essentials of Greek and Roman Classics, 1960, p. 114 Ibid., p. 238 Ibid., p. 253 Buckner B. Trawick, World Literature, Volume I: Greek, Roman, Oriental and Medieval Classics, 1958, p. 76 Meyer Reinhold, Ph.D., Essentials of Greek and Roman Classics, 1960, p.