Actors probably wore little or no makeup. Instead, they carried masks with exaggerated facial expressions. They also wore cothornos, or buskins, which were leather boots laced up to the knees. There was little or no scenery. Initially, most of the action took place in the orchestra. Later, as the importance shifted from the chorus to the characters, the action moved to the stage.
The Romans built theatres anywhere, even on flat plains, by raising the whole structure off the ground. As a result, the whole structure was more integrated and entrances/exits could be built into the cavea, as is done in large theatres and sports arenas today.
A different aspect is the orchestra which is circular or “dancing area” for the chorus to sing and dance in the Greek theatre, while the Roman theater has a much smaller orchestra, being half a circle. This is partially due to the fact that Roman dramas did not use choruses. The stage is also larger and there are three entrante in the back wall.
The function of theatre
The function of the theatre also changes from Greeks to Romans:
- The function of Greek theater is to purify the spectator. The term 'catharsis' means precisely purification or calming of passions produced by poetry and especially by tragedy.
- The Roman theatre didn’t have a salvific and purifying value like the Greek one. In fact Romans used to go there to have fun
Historical Background of the Greek chorus
- The Greek theatre evolved from ritual and dance with a strong choral focus to greater emphasis upon dramatic action.
- The first function of the chorus: narrator (telling the story, provide information)
- It assumed a role as soon as the first actor stepped out and assumed a role as well.
- The chorus could work as a character, or as an impartial commentator.
- It was the ideal spectator.
- Number of members: originally 50, but it will be reduced: in the fifth century it will number 12-15 members.
- Members: chosen from the population, they were unpaid volunteers who ''were doing their civic duty''.
- Rehearsal period: four months or more, they did not rehearse in public.
Greek theatres in Sicily
Sicily functioned as a crossroads of the civilizations of the Mediterranean, the Greeks included, who built a stone theatre here whenever they founded a city. For the Greeks, attending the theatre was a key part of life, almost a sacred ritual. Still today, these places come to life to offer unforgettable hours – perhaps bathed in the light of sunset – of theatrical shows and events that exploit the evocative Hellenic architecture, dug out of the rock like shells opening up onto the sea.
● In Rome, theatrical performances were held during games and parties, on the occasion of religious ceremonies, military triumphs and funerals of public figures.
● Unlike the Greek theatre, the civil or ritual connotation gives way the entertainment character. For the Roman public, the participation is motivated by fun rather than religious or political tension.
As the Medieval Plays grew in popularity, performances inside churches became more and more difficult because of the increasing size of the audience; the plays left the precincts of the Church and began to be performed out of the doors, first in the church yard, then in other open spaces of the town.
The show was played on the pageants wagons in the squares. The pageant wagons were movable stages or wagons used to accommodate the Mystery and the Miracle plays. There were many floats in the same square where different scenes were played.
The main character
features of the medieval drama
There are three kinds of Medieval plays:
- Mystery plays: about Christ or from the Old Testament; usually done in cycles
- Miracle plays: lives of saints, historical and legendary
- Morality plays: didactic allegories, often of common man’s struggle for salvation
The mystery plays and morality plays of the 15th and 16th centuries were very different from modern drama. They were performed in public spaces by ordinary people, and organised and funded by guilds of craftsmen and merchants. Guilds were associations of craftsmen or merchants, who were in charge of regulating and teaching their trade; they were often wealthy and wielded considerable power.
Characteristics in common:
- Aimed to teach or reinforce Church doctrine
- Melodramatic: good rewarded, evil punished
- God and his plan were the driving forces, not the characters
First actors moving from one city to another to perform their plays, stopped in taverns or inn, where they had to negotiate with the owner. At a certain point they thought that they could perform in the cobblestone yards into the taverns where people left their horses. So the inn-yard which was surrounded by balconies became an amazing stage.
Structure of the theatres
The stages were surrounded by three walls , between them there were three tiers of roofed galleries and the yard or pit, where the poorer stood.
Over the stage there was a thatched roof which protected the player. There was also an inner stage, which was used for discoveries and concealments and an upper stage hidden by a curtain and a balcony. Moreover there was a trap door used for devilish apparitions and disappearances.
Finally at the back of the stage there was the actors' tiring house.
Natural and Universal Lighting
Elizabethan Theater made use of natural and universal lighting. Shows were performed in the afternoon in open-air theaters or grounds. Those shows that were performed indoors were done to candlelight where audience and actors shared the same lighting. Modern-day companies that recreate Elizabethan theater leave the house lights up and forgo the use of spots or hanging lights.
The progress of a Shakespearean play is usually linked to the gradual clarification of things which are left mysterious at the beginning. Themes are hinted at, but their real meaning becomes apparent much later. There is also a frequent contrast between scenes with many characters and scenes with few, scenes in public and in private, those full of action and those devoted to reflections. Shakespeare sometimes leaves some questions open so that we continue to think about the answer to the puzzle after the play is over.
The structure of the play was flexible. Shakespeare did not give great importance to the division between the acts. In the Elizabethan theatre there was no curtain fall between the acts and the plays were performed without an interval.
Shakespeare took his characters from all the social class, both from the rich class and the poor class (rustics, servants…). The family ties are one of the most important theme of Shakespeare. Moreover there are symmetrical correspondences between the characters, for example three lords and three ladies.
Variety of Style
Shakespeare used different levels of speech and action to portray his characters from different angles. As a matter of fact a character may change from everyday prose to solemn verse. He use also allegorical scenes and songs
Shakespeare use a wide variety of rhetorical figures, for example similes and metaphors. Moreover his plays have characteristic image motifs. Shakespeare also invented new words and used obscure and archaic words.
Creato con un’immagine di Alexis Subias - "untitled image"