Throughout this time period, 500B.C-300A.D, the growth of Theatre started evolving and became the stepping-stones of how Theatre is today. Greece offered theatre and a primary perspective of how the foundations for what we see everywhere today in film, theater and television occurred while advanced the spectrum of how theatre came about. Moreover, the form of theatre developed from performing acts for religious ceremonies to branching into different methods of entertainment like creating the first use of “actors”.
In the beginning of Greek Theatre, it began as a dithrambous; which meant that there were no actors to act out different roles. Instead, the Greeks used the form of maintaining a “chorus”. The chorus was one of the most important components of the play because it narrated and reflected on the action (as well as purpose) of the play. The chorus consisted of 12 members, of which they provided the overview and background information of the play. This was an important factor in Greek plays because without them, the plays would be confusing into delivering its message to the audience. In addition, the “chorus” was referred to different names for each kind of play, reflecting different emotions. In tragedy, it was referred to as “emmelia”, in comedy it was called “codrax”, and in drama it was called “sicinnis.”
The main purpose of the chorus was to sing basic information because they were the narrators of the play. Also, the chorus acted out as crowds which danced in the orchestra to show what was occurring in the scene. The chorus became the extras within the play.
In Greek tradition, Thespis was known to be the inventor of tragedy. Thespis was most likely born in Attica, and most likely lived through the 6th century BC. Within the ‘City Dionysia’, a festival of entertainment that was held in honor of the god Dionysus, the god of wine, agriculture, and fertility of nature, who is also the patron god of the Greek stage. Moreover, throughout the festival, music, singing, dance, and poetry were featured competitions – the most remarkable of all the winners in ‘City Dionysia’ was a man named Thespis. In 534 or 535 BC, Thespis became the world’s first actor by surprising audiences in the form of reciting poetry as if he was the characters whose lines he was reading. Furthermore, it is from him that we were given the word Thespian, which means actor or “one who performs on stage”.
Thespis had supposedly modified the dithyramb, which created the exchange between the leader and the chorus, by introducing an actor separate from the chorus. Moreover, this was classified as a hyprocrite or “responder.” A spoken dialogue was developed from this idea. Thespis left a firm input into creation of Greek Theatre and an impacting impression within new acting world.
Along with Thespis, Aeschylus also left an imprint in theatre. Born in 525 BC in a place called Eleusina and died in Gela in the year 456 BC, Aeschylus added a second actor into Greek Theatre. By adding the second actor into plays, it allowed for greater dramatic variety while the chorus continued to play a less important role. Although a playwright, Aeschylus may have performed in his plays due to the fact of how an attempt of murder was made to Aeschylus while he was on stage because it was quite possible that revealed a secret of the Eleusinian Mysteries. The Eleusinian Mysteries consisted of ceremonies that were held every year for the cult of Demeter and Persephone based at Eleusis in ancient Greece. The cult was created and responded in secret because it was believed that people who actively participated in the cult would be given a reward in the afterlife.
Aristotle, born on 384 BC in Stagira, Chalcidice and died in Euboea in 322 BC, was a student of Plato and the teacher of Alexander the Great. He found certain ways to construct plays in a physiological manner. His writings consisted of and covered numerous subjects including ethics, government, politics, zoology, theatre, and many other subjects. Not only a Greek philosopher and polymath, Aristotle was an actor around 384-322 BC who starred in plays such as “The Insincere Man”, “The Flatterer”, “The Garrulous Man”, “The Boor”, “The Penny Pincher”, “The Absent-Minded Man”, “The Man of Petty Ambition”, and “The Lover of Bad Company.” Thus, Aristotle is one of the most important figures in Western philosophy history due to his active participation in such field.
Actually, Roman Theatre branched out from Greek Theatre. After the decline of Greek government and society, the rise of the Roman Republic and empire sprouted. The world able to have inherited much from the influence of the Roman Theatre, including the word “play” itself, which derives from a literal translation of the Latin word ludus, which means recreation or play. Moreover, many of the Roman playwrights grasps many of the different concepts given out by Greek plays.
Quintus Roscius Gallus, also known as Roscius (Died 62 BC) was a Roman comic actor. He was a successful actor for his name became an honorary epithet. Roscius was born into slavery at Solonium, however, he gained so much fame from his performances on stage that he was freed by his dictator, Sulla. Moreover, Roscius was granted a golden ring that symbolized his equestrian rank. Also, he was also paid very well for his talent because he was known for his gift of improvisation. He is said to have instructed Cicero in elocution.
Another Roman actor that has also left his mark on modern theatre is Clodius Aespous. He was the most eminent Roman tragedian who flourished during the time of Cicero. However, the dates of his birth and death are not known. Cicero was on friendly terms along with Aespous and Roscius. It was reported by Plutarch, that, while representing Atreus showing how he should revenge himself on Thyestes, Aesopus forgot himself on stage because of how deep he was when playing his role that he struck and killed one of the servants crossing the stage. His last appearance was recorded in 55 B.C, and, although he lived an adrenaline-filled stage life, he left a large fortune to his son, who did his best to use it as soon as he could.
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Mnester was a Roman pantomime actor who grew in popularity during the reigns of Roman Emperors Caligula (47 to 41 AD) and Claudius (41 to 54 AD). He was the favorite and was admired by the Emperors so much that…”[Caligula] used to kiss the pantomime actor Mnester even in the middle of the games. And if, when Mnester was performing, anyone made the slightest noise, he had him dragged from his seat and flogged him himself.” A bronze statue was created by one of Mnester’s lovers Empress Messlina. However, Messalina also had an interest in Gaius Silius, who became her favorite, Mnester was apart of a plot to assassinate Cladius in order to make Silius the new emperor. Unfortunately, Mnester’s plot of foiled and he was executed for his involvement in 48 AD.
Lucius Ambivius Turpio, simply known as “Turpio”, was another famed actor during Roman Theatre. He was an actor, stage manager, patron, promoter, and entrepreneur in ancient Rome around the time of the playwright Terence (2nd century BC). Turpio was involved with the playwright Caecilus Statius while being known as a promoter of contemporary comic writers; moved on to serve as a producer and lead actor in most of Terence’s plays. Moreover, he was often gave the prologue to Terence’s comedies; Turpio showed the desires of spectators to the best of his ability and made it possible for is members of his company to “honor the arts of the stage”.
Greek Theatre has impacted the entire world of acting along with Roman Theatre who extended the arm of the development of theatre. It began and now represents itself through all the forms of theatrical media; without its beginnings, acting and the role of how theatre is played today would not be able equally achieve its greatness and impact.