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The Theatricality of Greek Tragedy

Playing Space and Chorus

Ancient Greek tragedy has been an inspiration to Western culture, but the way it was first performed has long remained in question. In The Theatricality of Greek Tragedy, Graham Ley provides an illuminating discussion of key issues relating to the use of the playing space and the nature of the chorus, offering a distinctive impression of the performance of Greek tragedy in the fifth century BCE. 

Drawing on evidence from the surviving texts of tragedies by Aeschylus, Sophocles, and Euripides, Ley explains how scenes with actors were played in the open ground of the orchestra, often considered as exclusively the dancing place of the chorus. In reviewing what is known of the music and dance of Greek antiquity, Ley goes on to show that in the original productions the experience of the chorus—expressed in song and dance and in interaction with the characters—remained a vital characteristic in the performance of tragedy.
Combining detailed analysis with broader reflections about the nature of ancient Greek tragedy as an art form, this volume—supplemented with a series of illustrative drawings and diagrams—will be a necessary addition to the bookshelf of anyone interested in literature, theater, or classical studies.

240 pages | 5 halftones, 14 line drawings | 6 x 9 | © 2006

Ancient Studies

Table of Contents

            Scope of the Book
            Rationale for the Diagrams and Drawings
            Further Comments and Acknowledgments
1          the playing space
            The Scripts and the Playing Space
            The Surviving Tragedies of Aeschylus and Early Tragic Performance
            Choros, Actors/Characters, and Playing Space in the Earlier Tragedies of Aeschylus
                        Seven against Thebes
            Composition for the Playing Space in Aeschylus’s Oresteia
                        Libation Bearers
            Realizing the Tragic Playing Space after Aeschylus
            Altars and Tombs in the Playing Space after Aeschylus
            Performers and Vehicles in the Playing Space
            Three Kinds of Vocal Delivery in Tragedy
            Movement and Dancing in the Playing Space
            Actors/Characters and Choros: Chanting, Singing and Dancing in the Playing Space
            Appendix A: Chronology of the Surviving Plays
2          the chorus
            The Choros in Epic
            Composition for the Choros
            Music: Meter or Measure, Melody, and Mode
                        Meter                        Melody and Modes
            Strophe, Antistrophe, and Choreia
            The Theatrical Choroi: Definitions and Distinctions
            Appendix B: Time Line for Chapter Two

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