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Hey there. I'm Mike Rugnetta,\nthis is Crash Course Theater
and today we're traveling to ancient Greece to uncover the origins
He's... He's still hung over.\n
If we believe the ritualism theory from last episode
then eons of religious or quasi-religious rituals eventually
Well, it has to do a bunch with\n
By the 6th century BCE, Dionysus had become\n
According to some maybe true, maybe not reports, women
where they'd run through the countryside,\n
And if you want to know more about it, you can check out "The
Whether or not that happened, we do have good evidence that in the
some less wild rituals celebrating Dionysus\n
One of the most popular involved\n
where worshipers lofted a giant phallus and sang songs called
And one theory about those dithyrambs actually\n
when singers started acting out the action\n
Aristotle and his followers think that sooner or later,\n
and started acting out individual characters.
This actor was called Thespis.\n
and that\'s where we get the noun "thespian".
Thespis learned to switch between characters, and to enhance the
This was Greek tragedy in its earliest form.\n
It still sounded a lot like a dithyrambs or like a bard reciting a
but the direct impersonation of a song's\n
adding actors and architectural elements \nfor about 150 years.
Tragedy, by the way, derives from\n
which may have had to do with animal sacrifices\n
Or it may just be another reference to satyr.
Theater eventually gets institutionalized in Athens.
Late in the sixth century BCE, pre-democracy Athens was ruled by a
Peisistratus came to power through violence
but once he was in charge, he wanted\n
He decided that festivals, particularly those in praise of
So in the 530s BCE, he expanded\n
and turned Athens into city Dionysia\n
Now, this festival wasn't only about theater
it was also about reaffirming Athens\n
It lasted five or six days and included a lot of events: military
tribute from cities of the Athenian Empire\n
Names of men who greatly\nbenefitted Athens were read out.
Children of soldiers who had died in war and had now reached
There were also dithyramb contests.
The theater competition took place\nin an outdoor amphitheater
in front of a crowd of about 14,000 spectators.
That likely included the whole range of Athenian society, even
But of course, only male citizens could perform\n
The contest was between three different playwrights each had to
The first three parts were linked tragedies \n
which was lewd and usually\ninvolved a lot of prop penises.
In 486 BCE, a comedy competition was added.
Once competing playwrights were chosen ,they were matched with a
who would bankroll the production.
Our big spender was called the choregos, and it was his job to
and buy the masks or any other set furniture,\n
The playwright usually did the jobs that we now associate with
Sometimes they even acted in their own work,\n
There may have been up to three actors \n
Unfortunately, none of the music from these shows remains, but
that suggests what productions may have looked like.
Fun fact, the chorus would sometimes dance.
I wonder how hard it is to high kick in a toga.
For a look at the theater structure itself, \n
The theater of dionysus was an outdoor amphitheater built into the
You can still visit the ruins today. Its first incarnation might
But eventually, they were added\nwood first and then stone.
The seated section was known\nas the Theatron or seeing place.
The chorus performed on a flat part \ncalled the Orchestra
and in the center of the Orchestra\nwas the Thymele or Altar.
At some point, a dressing hut\ncalled a Skene was also built
so that actors could change masks.
With only two or three actors playing every role,\n
There were several ways on and off stage\n
so big Choruses could march on and off when needed.
There was also a place on top of the Skene, where an actor playing
which was called the God in the machine\nor The Deus Ex Machina
Maybe you're wondering why might a playwright\n
Well sometimes, you write your way into a situation\n
So it's pretty helpful to have Zeus or Apollo\n
All of the actors wore masks made of linen\nwith hair attached.
So they probably looked pretty frightening, especially,\n
Tragic actors also wore robes\n
So just imagine a lot of big sweeping gestures,\n
Thing is no less terrifying from the inside either.
So during the dithyramb contest,\n
a group of 10 randomly chosen citizens \nwould select the winner
who was honored with an ivy wreath, \n
The Athenians took this contest very seriously. And if any funny
Tragedy hits golden age in the 15th century Athens:
first, with the works of Aeschylus,\n
because papyrus disintegrates\n
We don't have the plays that they wrote.
Aeschylus wrote as many as 90 plays,\nbut we have only seven.
Sophocles wrote 120, but we have only seven.
Of the 92, Euripides wrote more than seven,\n
Those thirty odd plays have had a huge impact though, they're
They matter to us now because they provide a template for most
But let's look for a second at how they mattered then.
It's a huge deal to have 14,000 of your most prominent citizens
watching plays when they could\nbe doing their civic duty.
But as it turns out they were doing their civic duty.
The leading citizens of Athens decided\n
that actively questioned\nthe values and structures of the state.
These plays are exploring what it means\n
and what to do when divided loyalties creates conflict.
They can teach you to be a better person \nand a better citizen
by encouraging you to ask through the dramatic action what a good
Tragedy does something else too,\n
He wrote the poetics, one of the world's\n
And he had a theory about what made tragedy\n
which literally means Purgation.
Aristotle writes that tragedy through pity and fear affects the
Now, a lot of scholars have spilled a lot of ink\n
So, it's unlikely we are gonna\n
but let me quickly offer one interpretation of catharsis.
Let's try out the idea that tragedy\n
becomes an outlet for those emotions.
If we believe that pity and fear,\n
then we can argue that it's better to feel these things\n
and then just get that stuff out of our systems\n
Like imagine how productive all those people\n
or people who've seen thousands of episodes\n
Next time, we're gonna look more closely at Aristotle's theories
the only complete tragic trilogy we have,\n
Thanks for watching and Curtain.
Crash Course Theatre is produced\n
Crash course Theatre is filmed in the chad and stacey emigholz
And is produced with the help of\nall of these very nice people.
Our animation team is Thought Cafe.
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