Aristotle, Theatre Spaces Theatre 100 Dr. Blood week 2 of class Definitions Theatre Spaces

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Aristotle, Theatre Spaces

  • Theatre 100 -- Dr. Blood
  • week 2 of class

Definitions - Theatre Spaces

  • Theatre must have a live performer and a live audience. That’s it.
  • Proscenium stage
  • Thrust stage
  • Arena stage
  • Found spaces
  • Environmental staging


  • Forms a collective identity
  • Cyclic interchange with performers
  • Different behaviors expected in different times, performance styles
  • Critic as privileged audience member
    • Peer reviewers for grants
    • Academic critics

Aristotle’s Poetics

  • C. 350 BCE

Aristotle’s Poetics

  • C. 350 BCE; 1st extant work of literary or artistic criticism
  • Focus on tragedy; did he also write ones on comedy and epic poetry?
  • Imitation is the basis of art (from Plato); drama is imitation of action
  • Definition of tragedy

Six Elements of Drama

  • In order of importance to Aristotle:
  • Plot
  • Character
  • Thought (theme)
  • Diction (artistic use of language)
  • Song/Music
  • Spectacle

Plot Elements

  • Beginning, middle, end structure
  • Unity and probability
  • A complex vs. a simple plot is preferred; this includes peripety (reversal) and anagnorisis (recognition)
  • Single vs. double (no subplots)
  • Goal (telos) is catharsis - gives drama a social function in the polis

Character elements

  • Characters should also be probable or necessary
  • Hero
  • Hamartia (tragic flaw): meaning much debated

Structure of Tragic Plot

Old Comedy

  • 5th century BCE
  • Part of City Dionysia from 487 BCE
  • Political and social satire
  • Personal attacks, author’s POV
  • Aristophanes (c.448-380 BCE) bridges old and middle comedy; Lysistrata (411 BCE) is old comedy

Structure of Old Comedy

  • “Happy idea:” absurd but clear relevance to contemporary issue
  • Prologue
  • Chorus enters and debates the happy idea (agon) with each other and characters
  • Parabasis choral section in the middle, direct address to audience,
  • Scenes of adopting the happy idea
  • Komos - reconciliation, often exiting to feast or revels

Peloponnesian War 431-404 BCE

  • Background of Aristophanes’ play: 20 years into the war
  • Athens (Delian League) vs. Sparta (Peloponnesian League)
  • 1st phase (10 yrs) Athens’ navy raids coasts, Sparta repeatedly invades Attica
  • Peace of Nicias, 421
  • 2nd: Athens launches attack on Syracuse in 415, whole force destroyed 413
  • Persian joins Sparta, they chip away at Athens’ allies
  • Destroy navy at Aegospotami, 405

Results of Peloponnesian War

  • Massive human cost
  • Tremendous economic cost; Athens never regains prosperity
  • Democracy vs. oligarchy
  • Warfare broke prior rules: devastation of whole cities, crops and countryside, broken religious and cultural taboos
  • Historians: Thucydides, Xenophon
  • How are these real costs lampooned by Aristophanes?

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