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600BC 600AD Classical

Greek Theatre
Development of the classical genres of Comedy and Tragedy. The philosopher Aristotle
established the classical rules of tragedy (unities of time, place and action). Aristotle
identified the central purpose of theatre to arouse strong emotions in
its audience(catharsis). Greek Tragedies were often based on explorations of conflict between
the protagonist and the antagonist. Masks wereused for characters. A group of
narrators called the Chorus would tell the story, comment on the actions taken by the protagonist
aswell as engage in dialogue. Tragedies were in five acts. Playswere written within a closed
structure. Aristotle considered Comedy to be inferior to Tragedy; comedieswere bawdy,
frivolous, based on chance, fantasy & comic errors.Provided an escape from the realities
of life.The Greeks also developed Satyr Plays more informal, oftencrude, with phallic imagery.
The plays satirised or were parodiesof myths, legends, historical figures & tragedies. They
combined songs, dances & sketches and laid the basis for the later development of Burlesque &
Aeschylus: The Oresteia
Euripides: The Trojan Women, Medea
Sophocles: Oedipus, Antigone
Aristophanes: Lysistrata, The Frogs

Roman Theatre
Particularly influenced by the Satyr plays. The Romans developed new forms of theatre including
Mime, Farce, and Spectacles (including gladiator contests.) A model for Roman Tragedy
was developed by the theorist Seneca
Plautus Homer: The Odyssey
Ovid: Metamorphoses

600-1500 Medieval
Liturgical Drama
Certain parts of the Catholic mass were enacted in church, particularly in the Easter
liturgy. These enactments were developed in the monasteries and later spread to other
churches. The plays were performed by the community. Three principal forms of drama
developed from this:
Mystery Plays
based on episodes from the Bible.
Miracle Plays
based on the lives of saints & martyrs
Morality Plays
in which virtues like goodness & truth and vices like greed & sloth became characters in simple
good triumphs over evil stories. These became increasingly political &appealed to the socially
oppressed peasant class.
Anon: Everyman
Anon: The Mystery Cycles

1500-1650 Renaissance
Revenge Tragedy
Plots involved murder, death, revenge. Plays often included nightmare visions of ghosts. Complicated
subplots. Unrequited or unacceptable love. Gruesome actions. Sword fights. Poisons
and potions.Madness.
Shakespeare: Hamlet, Titus Andronicus
Tourneur: The Revengers Tragedy
Middleton/Rowley: The Changeling
Marlowe: Doctor Faustus
Ford: Tis Pity Shes a Whore
Webster: The Duchess of Malfi
Elizabethan & Jacobean Comedy
Shakespeares comedies mix elements of farce, comedy of manners, romantic comedy and black
comedy. Jonsons comedies were more Satirical, exposing the follies and vices of society through
the use of biting humor.
Shakespeare: MSND, Much Ado, 12thNight
Jonson: Volpone

Commedia DellArte
Began in C16th Italy. Used caricature half-masks for middle-class and servant characters. Hero
and Heroine were unmasked. Stock Characters were placed in stock situations (scenarios).
Ensemble playing allowed for free improvisation around the roles &situations. Depicted clashes
between Masters & Servants. Used physical humor known as Slapstick or Lazzi as well as
acrobatic & juggling skills to amuse the audience. Street theatre.
A Servant to Two Masters