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November 01, 2004

Gethin (AKA the WelshJesus) – Week 4 Qs

Gethin is a lovely man
He has funny facial hair and a broken picture board. He likes saying "thanks very much" and shrugging.

His responses are not too bad either.
They answer the question concisely and fairly effectively, though his answers seem very similar to some of the other scholars' answers (p'raps cos they are all right?)
My favourite part was when he said "raw, animal savageness"

This is, in general, a good response to the task.
In fact, i would say "Thanks very much"

Gethins blog? Brilliant…
Nazis? Rubbish…

Essay notes – Good Books

Useful books:

Bieber – History of Greek and Roman Theatre
Bury and Meigg
JK Davies
PE Easterling (especially sociology chapter)
Joint association of classical teachers
Podlecki – The Political Background of Aesychlean Tragedy
O Taplin – Greek Tragedy in Action
J-P Vernant – The Greeks

JM Walton - The Greek Sense of Theatre

D Wiles - Greek Theatre Performance: An Introduction

& Tragedy in Athens: Performance space and theatrical meaning

The Poetics

ESSAY: Balance between play-specific and general arguements

October 28, 2004

Week4 – SST1

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?

In Euripide's text Agave describes "slaughtering" her son, helped by Kadmos' daughters on the hill, "killed in a stunning way".

With her bare limbs she "tore his limbs off", leaving Pentheus "insanely butchered". It paints a picture of a vicious and horrid "hunt", carried out mainly by Agave, aided by the women also on the hill.

I think that the fresco manages to get across some of the ruthlessness and violence within the women, with Pentheus looking helpless in the middle of the painting. It is also obvious that there is a leader in the pack of women. However, the depiction of the women killing Pentheus with arrows and rocks is incongruous with Agave's statement that "clanging weapons are for cowards". It also fails to convey the sense of 'posession' or delirium in Agave.

*Another detail missed is the disguise that Pentheus was wearing in the scene; a disguise he rips off in an attempt to reveal his identity to his mother.*

Of course the violence in the play happens off-stage, and is in fact described by the chorus, and characters around...therefore we only have accounts of other people as to what actually happened.

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.

This Fresco manages to convey the sense of despair that was felt at this sacrifice with the sadness shown on the men on the outshirts, as well as accurately following the details of Agamemnon (ie the two men lifting up Iphigenia, her robe falling to the floor). However, the picture doesnt appear to show an altar or gag, which are notable in the play, as well as Clytemnestra making libations. We also get a sense of divinity and an ordained act with the God-like figures appearing in the background of the picture.

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

The differences in the two artistic forms could be there for several reasons. The artists in the Roman Frescos appear to be going for a romanticised view of these events (ie vulnerable, helpless death for Pentheus, rahter than a gory one/spiritual sacrifice, rather than Iphigenia being roughly handled)

The artists themselves may also be working off the myths of these events, rather than the exact text itself, and are likely to be projecting their own interpretation and imagination in their pictures.

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 think these Frescos are very useful tools, both as a way fo bringing the myths and text to life, giving us a reference point as to how staging or clothing may have looked at the the time, and also as evidence of the importance and popularity of the myths at the time, both in Greece, and later in Rome. It enables us to see how the Romans would have interpreted and enjoyed the Greek tragedies.

2. Examine this mosaic:

The House of the Tragic Poet in Pompei.

i. What different types of masks can you see?

These masks are full head masks, and very large.

*Some are held on sticks (which could be usefull to quickly portray one character for a moment) and some also capable of attaching to the face.*
They have hair and beards on the masks, and show old and young men (perhaps both depictions of Dionysus)

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

This scene could be a scene of Dionysus and his followers, partaking in wine and debauchery.

3. Masks

Frescos - depicting actors

Pronomos Vase

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

The masks depicted in the vases look generally more theatrical and character based than those in the frescos. The vase masks convey more emotion and appear in actual play situations, where they look very effective.

ii. Why might the masks be different?

Te Greek vases would be drawing exactly what they know the masks to look like (ie exaggerated face, theatrical), where as the Roman Frescos are drawing their interpretation of Greek masks and, it appears, have made them look more realistic than they actually were.

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

The artists would have been interested because of their fascination with Greek culture and art, and because they would have been interested to know how the masks would have conveyed story and emotion, and in what way they'd have been used.

*The masks also allow the artist to use an amount of artistic licence and imagination that simple stage drawings may not have allowed.*

4. Consider this painting:

The Villa of the Mysteries, Pompeii.


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

The detail of this picture allows us to see the emotion and exxagerated expression in the mask (which would have been necessary for such a huge theatron). It is similar in style to the ones we have seen previously, and also similar in the way that it is being held up by the actor.

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

The purpose of these drawings was to pay homage to the great event that took place in the theatron, and also to depict the myth that the play dealed with.

*It is a chronicle of theatrical performances, but we must treat the paintings with caution as the detail may have been distorted via artistic licence, or simply a lack of knowledge as to the exact form of theatre and the masks at the time.*

October 22, 2004

Spatial ideas in Greek Drama

Writing about Visual Resources – Staging the Eumenides from The Green Flower Gang


Writing about Visual Resources – Staging the Eumenides from The Green Flower Gang

4th century BC Theatrons

Writing about Visual Resources – Staging the Eumenides from The Green Flower Gang

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