All entries for October 2004

October 29, 2004


Writing about an entry you don't have permission to view

A nice little piece of analysis ; but I am not exactly sure why the facial hair in the Greek depiction of the mask would really obstruct the voice. It is much more likely that the Roman fresco is attempting to assert more realism and humanity in their mask, The Romans in all their self-declared genius would have wanted to present themselves as even more refined and dignified than the Greeks, thus creating a true human mask. The problem is of course that this misses the point; the Greeks wanted masks that showed a chractiture rather than human likeness(if not then you might as well use simply the human face rather than a inferior mask), the Romans in their arogance really 'shot themselves in the foot'!

October 22, 2004


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?

There are a number of similarities and differences between the depiction of Pentheus'es murder in the Roman Fresco and the description in The Bakkhai ; both show the physical and mental Spryagnos (split) that Pentheus suffered at the hands of the possessed woman.

The Roan Frescp is a little too romantic ; it does show how Pentheus is going to be pulled apart but negelcts to include the derenged, mand and possessed position of the woman. Nor does the Fresco depict the tree form which Pentheus was pulled down or the presence of the power of Dionysos.

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.

The fresco shows Iphigenia being taken for sacrifice so Agamemnon (her father) can placate the Gods and allow safe passage across the sea to troy.

The Fresco unlike Aeschylus text does not show Iphigenia being pulled up to the alter with a gag in her mouth, nor does it show Clytemnsetra singing to her daughter or making libations, rather she looks rather pathetic and unsupporrtive at the sides.

iii. Why do you think the similarities and differences which you have identified may exist?

I think the differences are apparent due to artistic licence ; the Romas would want romantic and melo-dramatic scens as opposed to bloody, violent depictions. Thus Pentheus does not look hurt or in distressed not does his mother look mas and she is not foaming at the mouth. Similarily you do not see Iphigenia being rougly handled !

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?

I would see the Frescos and as a very good medium to help people access the Grekk tragedy stories and superficailly they do give you the basic facts ; there lacking of blood and gore would be very suitable for younger children and those with a weak disposition. Yet as evidence of a good translation of the text I would say that the Frescos are not really very useful.

2. Examine this mosaic from the House of the Tragic Poet in Pompei.

i. What different types of masks can you see?

The fresco shows some masks that are self-supported (i.e around the head) others have to be held up by a stick. I expect this would be a good way to quickly change chracter by simply holding up another mask.

The masks are alrge and inlcude beards and hairl ; this is good evidence of how the masks were more like military helmets.

ii. What do you think is going on in this scene?

I find the scene quite hard to make-out but I would definitely recognise Dionysos sominating the centre surrounded by Satyrs . However apart form that there is not much more to say?

. Look at the masks in these frescos depicting actors, and those in the Pronomos Vase.

i. What differences can you discern between the 'tragic' masks depicted in the frescos and the vase?

Vase masks

Fresco masks

The masks in the vases are very sterotypica and more expressive than those in the Frescos ; the vase maks show a chracter with a personlity and the fresco looks like it is trying to depict a mask as human as possible ; this would not have been conducive to a large-scale tragedy!

ii. Why might the masks be different?

I would say that the maks are different simply becuase the Roman fresco is attempting to show a realism which the Greek Vase masls dont have.

iii. Why do you think the ancient artists (and viewers) might have been so interested in depictions of actors and masks?

The interest would have been due to the need for an undertsnading of how ancient theatre would have been presented ; how did the actors convey the stories? What did the masks look like? How did they work? could we compare ancient acting techniques with todays or are they just too different?

4. Consider this painting from the Villa of the Mysteries, Pompeii.

i. Is it similar or different in subject to the vases considered in Q.3 above?

This depiction is different in subject to those in the other maks and frescos we have looked at. This depiction id very cose-up and really wmphaises the chracter and emotions that the individual maks were attemting to invoke and relay to the audience.

ii. What do you think the purpose of such paintings might have been?

The purpose of such vases and frescos was to be a chronical of ancient theatre and techniques ; however as I have already spoken about this evidence has to be looked at with caution because the Romans could and would have distorted and changed things to suit the needs of their time .

Good, But not finished

Writing about No Purple, but lots of Greeks…..TOGA!!! from ..Speed of Brain to Mouth : Minimal..

This evaluation and analysis is good and well-rounded in the points that it addresses ; Richard and Kate (do we see a future couple?) have approached the qurstions on Ancient Greek Theatre depiction with rigour and Richard especially gave a good narrative on how the Phalyx stage can be suitable for both Comedy and Tragedy. Despite Richards good points I would still disagree that the phaylyx is an apporpriate performing space for Tragedy ; it is not of a size or significance to accomadate a chorus. Moreover tragedy is a genre that uses magnificent gestures, large masks and explicit and overt acting techniques ; Just as in some art you loose its message when to close-up the same can be said to be true with performing tragedy!

October 15, 2004

Visual Resources – Staging the Eumenides

6. Taking into account your findings in the above explorations, suggest one or more ways in which the voting scene, and the final hymn by the Women of Athens have been staged in the Eumenides.

I would stage the voting scene with the furies to stage-left of the central skene doors and orestes stage right ; Athena would stand central to the skene doors and the judges would sit in the orchestra.
When each persona makes their case they come to the front of the stage. The final hymn could involve everyone filling down to the orchestra and slowly orbiting it befroe exiting.

Visual Resources – Staging the Eumenides

iii. Read the short note on Greek Audiences, and the longer text by Csapo and Slater. How might a style, or styles, of performance have evolved in response to the scale and sight-lines of the theatre, and the nature of the spatial and emotional relationship between Athenian spectators and performers?

"If someone beside you sobbed or shuddered or trembled, you would feel it directly, and a wave of physical reaction could pass like an electric shock through all your neighbours . . mass emotionalism flourishes in compact crowds of that kind."Greek Tragedy and the Emotions, W.B. Stanford .

The relationship betwwn the Athenian spectator and performer evolved as the Thetare Dionysos became more prestigious, more grand quickly becoming only second to the olympics. The whole of Athens became united, and the performance provoke fever pitch excitement coupled with patrioarchy and nationalism.

iv. Might different parts of the theatre have demanded different styles of performance? When one was in the centre of either the orchestra or infornt of the Skene doors they would be required to perform at a higher level, with the greatest chanelling of emotion. However when perfroming as stage right, stage left the perfomance could be toned down a little – still with might projection and stron movement but with a more human side.

v. How might the style of choral performance have differed from that of the character actors?

A chracter actor will need to find and present their chracter whereas a chorul actor needs to find and present a certain mood, emotopn or psychological process . Thus the character actor will need to employ a more naturalistic perfromance, yet the chorus can use symbolism and expressionism more to their advantage.

Visual Resources – Staging the Eumenides

ii. Do these differences suggest a fundamentally, or merely superficially different theatrical experience?

I would argue that these differences would suggest a fundamental as opposed to superfically different theatrical experince ;

The Athenian audience saw theatre as a huge part of culture, society and the underlying fabric of their civalisation . This consequently led to huge productions for literally the whole of Athens and this would have significantly altered their theatrical expereince from our own.

Visual Resources – Staging the Eumenides

5. Where are the best and worst seats in the 4th century theatron? Why?

i. How did the physical conditions of spectatorship for ancient Athenian audiences differ from the usual conditions of spectatorship in a conventional theatre building today?

An athenian audience would have sat in different seat according to their status (which we would find outrageous today, although in a conventional thetare there is still sometimes the Royal Box, and better seats to cost abit extra). Alos the Athenian audience would have sat in the open air( we have very few open air theatres in Britain). Finally the size of the Athenian audience (15,000 – 17.000) would surpass our conventional thearre audience (300–600) significantly.

Visual Resources – Staging the Eumenides

ii.How might different spatial relationships have affected the meaning of the scene, or the characterisation and status of the characters and chorus

In the binding scene if the chorus had been situated infornt of the main doors of the skene then the spectator would have dound it harder to draw comparison with what was happening on stage and what was happeing in their lives . However with the scene in the orchestra the spectator would have had a much more personal experience . Moreover the furies are very earth raw creatures and thus in the orchestra this would have been represented . Furthuremore with Orestes in the middle of them we would see a symbolisation of how in his in the furies midst due to his blood-kin murder of his mother.

Visual Resources – Staging the Eumenides

4. Traditionally, it has been assumed that the theatrically 'strongest' position for an actor was directly in front of the central doors of the skene. Recently, however, in Tragedy in Athens, David Wiles has argued that, for Athenians, the most symbolically potent position was the centre of the orchestra. Explore both of these theories by considering the 'binding scene' in the Eumenides:

i. What kinds of spatial and choreographic relationships between theatre, spectators, actors and chorus, could have been established in each case?

'down, down, down I dive from a great height and fall on him with all my weight' ( the 'binding scene' part three of Aeschylus 'The oresteia')

The binding scene is a very physical scene which invokes great passion form the Furies(chorus). If it were perfromed infornt on the central doors of the skene then I think that alot of the movement, and emotion would be lost as it would be too distant form the audience. However in the centre of the orchestra that spectator would be able to do laot more action with the knowledge that the audience could see it. Moreover the orchestra is at the centre of the whole theatre and those in teered seating would more naturally have their sight drawn down to the orchestar as opposed to the skene!

Visual Resources – Staging the Eumenides

ii.The action of the Eumenides is set in three locations. What are they?-

The temple of Apllo at Delphi

The inner shrine revealed


iii.How might these scene changes have been staged?

The scene changes could have occured by having three seperate locations on the stage ; or the chorus could have quickly changed certain props or scenery in their monologues.

October 2004

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  • Quick question. Where can I find mention of facial hair being of religious significance to Pagans? by Jay B on this entry
  • Being the master of beard that i am i can tell you that beards DO have an effect on voice…observe … by on this entry
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