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Early Greek Theater Vs Elizabethan Era Theater

1204 words - 5 pages

Antigone and The Tragedy of Julius Caesar are two tragic masterpieces written by playwrights Sophocles and Shakespeare in two completely different time periods, but more importantly, in two completely different cultures. In light of this one must wonder to what degree culture influenced Antigone and The Tragedy of Julius Caesar. These tragedies are just as equally a creation of Greek and Elizabethan culture as they are of Sophocles and Shakespeare. Greek and Elizabethan culture both greatly influenced drama and theater as we know it today, but the two periods were very different.
Part of understanding Greek culture's influence on drama is understanding why the Greek audiences of ...view middle of the document...

All that was required for a Greek theater was a circular dancing area for the chorus at the base of a gently sloping hill, on which spectators could sit and watch. A formal seating area consisting of wooden benches on the slope, which had been hollowed out, probably took place some time toward the middle of the fifth century. On the other side of the orchestra there probably stood a tent in which the actors could change their costumes (one actor would play more than one part). This was no doubt the form of the theater in which the later plays of Sophocles were presented.
Most of Shakespeare’s plays in the Elizabethan era were performed in the Globe Theater. No one knows for sure what the Globe looked like, but Shakespeare leads us to believe that it was round or octagonal. It was open to the sky and held 2,500 to 3,000 people. The stage was a platform that extended to a pit. Actors entered and left the stage from doors located behind the platform. The portion behind the stage was used as dressing and storage rooms. There was no scenery, but like in Greek theater, settings were indicated by references in the dialogue.
In Greek theater, women were not allowed to take part in dramatic productions, so male actors had to play female roles. The playing of multiple roles, both male and female, was made possible by the use of masks. The masks with subtle variations also helped the audience identify the sex, age, and social rank of the characters. The fact that the chorus remained in the orchestra throughout the play and sang and danced choral songs between the episodes allowed the actors to exit after an episode in order to change mask and costume and assume a new role in the next episode without any illusion-destroying interruption in the play.
Elizabethan society had a strict forbiddance of women acting in plays, leaving their roles to be acted by young boys. Boys aged eleven, twelve, or thirteen—before their voices changed—were best for female roles. These young actors were viewed as not capable for long dramatic performances, therefore, the women in the plays had relatively small parts.
The messages of both Greek and Elizabethan subject matter were very similar. Antigone, written by Sophocles, is a story filled with airs of superiority, greed for power, and fatal consequences. Shakespeare, on the other hand, wrote The Tragedy of Julius Caesar, centuries later, and it too is a tragedy filled with greed for power, rashness, and fatal consequences. Many characters in both plays make errors in judgement that...

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