Mixed Messages In Greek Theatr


e: an Examination of Vases and Written Histories
No one fully understands the nature of ancient Greek theatre. The barriers that
stand between the scholars of the Twentieth Century and the truth of the
theatrical practices of 5th and 4th centuries B.C. Athens are: 2,500 years of
divergent cultures, incomplete collections of plays, vases, figurines, and
theatre spaces, and a lack of the proper tools with which the evidence can be
examined. Yet, hypotheses can be formulated, conclusions drawn, and
understanding strengthened by undertaking a thorough and painstaking analysis of
all the available data. A limited understanding of the Greek theatre is the
ultimate promise of this ...

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visual aids for textbooks and lectures. We can, with care, use them
in that way as aids to a modern imagination" (Green 1995, p.13). Green's
statement brings to light the importance of cautious research into this area of
history, especially keeping in mind the context in which the vases were made and
used. Certainly, vases exist which are, as Green explains it, "inescapably"
linked to the theatre. A sample of these well-understood vases is examined
below.
Historians often agree on the subject matter of certain Greek vases because of
one or more distinguishing qualities like the presence of masks, staging,
inscriptions of the names of characters, and elaborate costuming. A neck-amphora
by the Ixion Painter (c.350 B.C., Kiel, private collection) "represents an actor
with the satyr mask he has been wearing drawn up on top of his head" (Trendall
1989, p. 161). An Apulian bell-krater by the Tarporley Painter (400-380 B.C.,
Sydney 47.05) depicts "three ...

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Looking at the actual vases offers a far more vivid perspective
than any high quality photograph can capture. The detail of the rich costumes is
often lost, evidence of sometimes-fraudulent restorations is made clear, and the
elements accentuated with color are given their due attention by the observer.
The vases themselves, after all, are the true sources of all subsequent
discussion.
An Attic red-figured bell-krater by Lykaon Painter (440 B.C., Boston 00.346),
according to Trendall 1971 p.62, is a scene in Aeschylus' Toxotides. On it,
Actaion is being attacked by dogs. The presence of Zeus and Lyssa is evidence
relating the vase to the play. The other data used for ...

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Added: 3/24/2004 06:27:38 PM
Category: Miscellaneous
Type: Premium Paper
Words: 2466
Pages: 9

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