October 22, 2004

Visual Resources – Staging the Eumenides

1i. Is it possible to determine whether the ancient vase paintings are depictions of theatrical performances, or of the myths upon which the plays are also based?

i) It is difficult to determine, whether the vase paintings were based on theatrical performances, or whether both come from the same main source, i.e; Greek Myths. It is very likely that the majority of the vase paintings, like the plays being written and performed at the time, were depitcions of the ancient myths. Mythology was a very central point to Greek culture, much emphasis was put on the gods, pleasing them and learning about the ancient stories. With this in mind it is more probable that the vase paintings, like the plays were based on the Greek myths.

ii. In the light of your response to i. above, how significant may ancient vase paintings be as evidence for ancient theatre practice?

ii) The depictions on the vases, give us very clear ideas about the type of clothes, i.e. costumes that would have been worn. They also give evidence on the way Greeks liked certain gods or characters to be characterised, for example the vases show Dionysos often with a Thyrus (garland on his head) and his Satyr (follower) by his side. In this way the vases give evidence about how characters might have been shown on stage. In some cases the vase painting can give us very clear evidence about theatrical performances, for example the Promonos Vase a commemerative vase which depicts two actors in elabroate costumes holding masks at the end of the Dionysos.
However many vases show women and animals, and we know that neither of this would have been seen on a Greek stage. So although they may give clues they cannot be relied upon as evidence for ancient Greek theatre practice.

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