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February 25, 2005

Frescos - Question 1

Using Roman Wall Paintings (frescos) as 'Evidence' for Traditions of Staging in Greece.
These Roman frescos from Pompei were preserved by the eruption of Vesuvius in 79 A.D. around 500 years after the plays of Aeschyus, Euripides and Sophocles were first staged in Athens. They depict myths that were the subject of 5th-century Athenian tragedy, and that continued to be represented on the Roman stage, both in revivals of Greek plays, and in later plays written in Latin.

1. Consider the depictions of mythological scenes:

i What are the main similarities and main differences between the way in which the death of Pentheus is depicted in this fresco and in Euripides' Bakkhai? (Use an online text of the Bakkhai if you do not have your copy to hand.)
ii. Compare and contrast the way in which the death of Iphigenia is depicted in this fresco with how it is recounted in Aeschylus' Agamemnon, and/or in Euripdes' play Iphigenia at Aulis.
iii. Why do you think the similarities and differences which you have identified may exist?
iv. On reviewing your responses to the above questions, how useful do you find these Roman frescos to be as evidence for traditions of tragic performance in 5th-century Athens?

October 22, 2004

Staging The Eumenides, Question 2

-The 4th century B.C.E. Phlyakes vases from the south of Italy show temporary wooden stages which we believe are similar or identical to those that would have been used for comic performance in the 5th century B.C.E. How adequate or appropriate would such a stage have been for the performance of tragedy in the 5th century B.C.E., in particular the Eumenides?

Due to the large chorus of Furies and the need for this group of actors to be expressive and powerful with commanding presence and ownership of the stage, I think the Phylakes stage would have been too restrictive and not allowed for the possible dramatic impact this chorus would have created. Also the sheer space that the actors in the chorus would have taken up would be too expansive for such a small stage. I don't think that the Furies should be resigned to the orchestra space due to the need for them to represent power and status, and in the orchestra they would have obviously been lower down than the other characters.

Not only is there the problem of space but I feel this stage form is not suitable for tragic plays in general. It is brightly decorated and would have been designed festively for the comic plays and I think this would have detracted some of the graveness and weight behind the tragedies if they had been performed here.

Lastly the Phylakes stage is quite plain in its form and for a play such as Eumenides where there are a few dramatically contrasting settings, this staging form would make it hard for the audience to imagine somewhere like Apollos temple and then see the same simple space repesenting Athens.

-Where could Klytemnestra, Apollo and Orestes have performed in the opening scene of the play?

It is important to portray Apollo's status as a god in the opening scene of the play, especially seeing as the action takes place in his own temple. Threfore I would position him upstage perhaps on a higher level above the main stage. Orestes, to signify his position as a mortal who has come to Apollo for help should be much lower down, nearer the audience, and so he could kneel amongst the orchestra looking up at Apollo. Klytemnestra could begin by standing downstage to indicate her position between god and man as a ghost.

-Where could the chorus have performed?

The chorus could have performed in the orchestra and I like the idea that they are closer to the audience as this proximity would make them more threatening and so rile the audience even more than usual. If the Furies are within close distance of the front row of audience members then it would have been likely to provoke a more receptive reaction from the crowd than if they were simply delivering their lines from the stage. As well as this, it shows their low status below that of men and gods, but also their capability of punishing the everyday man – the fact they are near men in the audience who would have been scared of the Furies vengeance.

The Vases

You know what, I've actually already done the first question about the vase pictures and had it on my blog for a week so I'm not going to do it again. Wasn't exactly ground-breaking stuff anyway. On with question 2…


I just deleted all previous work I had on my blog, oh joy, i just love computers.

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