The Origin of the Greek Tragic Form. A study of the early theater in Attica [1 ed.]

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The Origin of the Greek Tragic Form. A study of the early theater in Attica [1 ed.]

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THE O R I G I N G R E E K T R A G I C FORM A Study of the Early Theater in Attica BY

A U G U S T C . M A H R , Ph. D . The Ohio State University



P R E N T IC E -H A L L ^ 1938

IN C .

C o p y r ig h t,

19 3 8 ,



P R I N T E D I N T H E U N I T E D S T A T E S O»' A M E R I C A











Preface '" p H I S B O O K deals with the one aspect of the G reek theater and drama that, so far, has been sadly neglected although it is indispensable for an intelligent study of this important branch of Hellenic art, nam ely, the origin and development of the tragic form as a whole. Since all previous books on G reek tragedy or the G reek theater, without an exception, have been written by spe­ cialists in classical literature, philology, or archaeology, the fact has been overlooked that the field of tragic presenta­ tion is, to a very considerable extent, the concern of the student in the field of form analysis of the plastic arts. T h e author, therefore, has applied to this study the ana­ lytic methods o f art criticism that seemed best adapted to his purpose, since those of philology or archaeology or literary history do not afford a standpoint from which the com plex form of tragic presentation can be viewed in its totality. T h e methods of art criticism also promised more comprehensive results, because this study deals with an artistic activity o f a race whose form o f life was deter­ mined by a clear sense of the finite. Consequently, the G reeks arrived, in all arts, at form s that show a clearly defined structure and are tactual, as it were.

It is there­

fore no more than natural that in an analysis of the Greek tragic form the center of gravity should lie in a study of the development of the visible scene if the various strucvii



tural elements of that form as a whole are expected to ap­ pear in their characteristic relations to one another. It need not be mentioned that the results of research in philology, archaeology, literature, and in the plastic arts have found careful consideration.

Occasionally, when all

other sources failed, an inference was draw n on the basis of the inner logic of form . T h e scope and purpose of this study did not permit the author to discuss whether the specific space concept of the Hellenes was indigenous or acquired. N either did it seem necessary to give an account of the development of G reek ethics prior to Plato, since his w ritings seem to em body all that is essential in the practical reasoning of the fifth century B. C. T h e book is intended prim arily for any intelligent reader who wishes to acquaint him self w ith the basic form principles that underlie the origin and development of G reek tragedy and its theater. It m ay be profitably used in any courses in classical literature, history of fine arts, art criticism, or aesthetics, in which the instructor intends to present this particular art form under the aspect of organic grow th, regardless of whether such courses be offered in institutions of higher learning or in professional schools o f the dram a or schools of fine arts. T h e subject matter has been so organized that the book makes not too difficult reading, even without the guidance o f a teacher. A glossary of unfam iliar terms has been added, w hich, the author hopes, w ill meet all contingen­ cies.

T h e captions that accompany the numerous illus­

trations arc so worded that they sum m arize in brief what the illustrations are intended to demonstrate.




attention has been given to the table of contents and to the index, both of which w ill greatly facilitate a profitable use of the book. Thanks are due to the directors of the follow ing m u­ seums for their permission to reproduce photographs of art w orks in their collections: the British Museum, Lon ­ don; the Musee du Louvre, Paris; the Museo Nazionale, N aples; the Pergam on Museum, B erlin ; the Glyptothek, M unich; the N y Carlsberg Glyptothek, Copenhagen. Thanks are due to the University of Chicago Press for the permission to quote a lengthy passage from one of their publications; to V erlag F . Bruckm ann A .-G ., Munich, G erm any, for their permission to reproduce an illustra­ tion from one of their books; to Fratelli Alinari, publishers, Florence, Italy, for their permission to reprint two of their photographs; to Professor Bernard Ashm ole, University College, London, for his photograph of the Statue of

Kleobis, and for the permission to reproduce it; to my colleagues in the Ohio State University, Professors Richard S. Buck, Jr. (School of Architecture), Ralph S. Fan n in g (Departm ent of Fine A rts), John B. Titchencr (D epart­ ment of Classical Literature), for their invaluable assist­ ance, both theoretical and technical; to my colleague in the Department of History and Art Criticism at the U ni­ versity o f W isconsin, Professor Oskar H agen, for his price­ less criticism and suggestions; and, last but not least, to Professor E d gar Nelson Transcau and to his daughter, m y dear wife, Elizabeth Transeau M ahr, for their criti­ cism and untiring aid in the revision and preparation of the manuscript. A u g u st


M ah r

Contents F

u n d a m en ta ls

Spacc and tim e as prerequisites o f artistic effect, i ; D ram atic space and dram atic tim e, 2 ; D ram atic spacc and theatrical spacc not iden tical, 3 ; F o rm o f nation's d ram a determ ined by its basic concepts of spacc and tim e, 3.

PART 1 O r ig in


F o rm D

evelo pm en t of th e



r a g ic

o cale



O u t l in e

of th e



C h a r a c t e r ...............

G ree k form of life and its relation to space and tim e, 9 ; P ro b ­ lem o f in finity, 9 ; G ree k ethics and tragic conflicts, 1 0 ; D ra­ m atic action static and not d yn am ic, 1 2 ; C haracter d evelo p ­ m ent a co m p aratively late achievem ent, 12 .





B e g in n in g s nder



r a g ic

P r e s e n t a t io n

P is is t r a t u s ...................................................

Pisistratus' reorganization o f the D ionysian cult festival, 14 ; Introduction o f m ythological elem ents into choral lyrics, 1 5 ; T h e s p i s o f Icaria, 1 6 .


O r ig in

of th e


h eater




Account o f author's m ethods. 1 8 ; M eaning o f spacc as applied in these pages, 19 ; C ircu lar orchestra as structural nucleus of G raeco-R om an theater type, 19 : H istory o f term XOQO;, 19 ; Propensity of D orians tow ard bounded locale, 2 1 ; C haracter o f their choral art, 2 1 ; Inferences from fact that in Sparta m arket placc w as nam ed 7.0001;, 2 2 ; D oric architecture rests on sam e basic principle as docs choral art o f D orian s, 2 3 ; D ion ysian dithyram b and its circu lar orchestra. 2 4 ; D ram a not to be considered developm ental stage o f dithyram b , 2 4 ; C horus




O r ig in o f t h e T h e a t e r F o r m



that first actor m et in orchestra, a dram atic chorus by necessity, 2 5 : D ram a never attained eq u ality w ith d ith yram b as j>art o f ritual. 2 5 ; K in etic pattern of dithyram b , 2 7 ; A greem en t w ith W 01.1 h . i n ' s statem ent that, in developm ent o f artistic e x ­ pression. line u n iv ersally precedes plane. 3 0 ; C entripetal re­ lations also prevail in Parthenon. 3 2 ; C haracter and im portance o f oldest dram atic chorus, 3 4 ; Location o f first dram atic pres­ entations in A thens d ou btfu l, 3 6 ; F o rm o f oldest orchestra anil station o f first actor, 3 7 ; In n er, tragic, orchestra, 4 2 ; O rigin o f lon gitu din al axis of theater, 4 3 ; V ertical plane ch ar­ acter of actor's appearance, 4 6 ; Perceptual plane in archaic sculpture in the round, 48.

IV .


B a s ic F o r m




r a g ic

P r e s e n t a t io n


K inetic pattern of cpeisodion exclu sive basis fo r the d ram ati­ zation o f plot situations, 5 4 ; Subsequent m odifications o f kinetic pattern, 5 5 : T m i s p i s and E piphany o f Dionysus, 56.





C h aracter



t t ic


raged y

B efo re 62

esch ylu s

Increased concern w ith ethical problem s, 6 2 ; C om pletion o f traditional form pattern o f traged y before 50 0 B .C ., 6 2 ; Su blim ation o f D ion ysian ecstasy, 6 2 ; D ialo gu e g ra d u a lly a c­ quires equ al rank w ith choral parts, 6 2 : P h r y n i c h u s and his developm ent. 6 3.

V I.


esch ylu s




evelo pm en t


th e

C l a s s ic F o r m


Introduction o f the second actor w iden s ran ge o f action, 6 5 : It m akes vertical plane an essential integrant o f theater, 6 5 ; Id eal vertical plane o f in ner contact, 6 6 ; V isib le vertical plane — first erection o f b ackground structures, 6 6 ; Aesthetic s ig ­ nificance of oxi|v»|, 6 9 ; V ertical plane o f d ialogu e contrasts w ith horizontal plane o f chorus, 6 9 ; Stratified perceptual plane as .111 aesthetic characteristic o f G reek sculptural fo rm . 7 0 ; o f architecture. 7 1 : o f unengaged statues in the round. 72;

p r im i t i v e


c la s s ic

p la n e s

a c c o rd in g


VVo l f k l i n ,

7 2 ; F ig u re o f first actor has p rim itive plane character, 7 6 ; Structural prem ises o f tw o-actor scene, 7 7 ; Sculptural reliefs as stratified planes, 7 7 ; D evelopm ent o f visible tragic scene from prim itive to classic stratified plane. 8 2 ; A m plification o f stratified scene plane by m eans o f decorative pain tin g, 8 7 ;





V I.

A e s c h y lu s a n d t h e D e v e lo p m e n t o f t h e C l a s s i c F o r m ( C o n t .) Parasccnia and proscenium and their aesthetic significance, 9 0 : U n iform penetration o f all its strata m ain characteristic of classic plane o f scene. 9 8 ; A n alo gy to classic relief sculpture, 9 8 ; E ccyclem a, 1 0 1 ; Aesthetic significance o f cccyclcm a, 10 4.



is t o r ic a l the






e s t h e t ic a l


u tlo o k


10 5

evelo pm en t

Capacity fo r illusion, 1 0 5 ; D ifficulty fo r m odern m an to co m ­ prehend com pletely form o f Attic traged y. 10 6 ; C ontinuity o f dram atic action and function o f chorus, 1 0 7 ; D evelopm ent o f dram atic action and function o f chorus. 1 0 7 ; D evelopm ent fo rm . 10 8 ; D ion ysian charactcr of tragic experience, 10 8 : Stead ily decreasing im portance o f chorus, 1 0 9 ; P seudo-A ris­ totelian un ity o f place and its o rigin , 1 1 1 ; In A ttic traged y, such un ity o f place, o r tim e, non-existent as an aesthetic p rin ­ ciple, 1 1 2 ; Perceptual stratified plane o f scene constitutes an acsthctic un ity o f place, 1 1 2 : R elativity o f artistic effects. 1 1 3 ; lo n g e v it y o f m istaken notions held by Italian hum anists, 1 1 4 .






e l l e n is t ic


of t h e


io n y s u s

h eater

N cccssary m odification o f m ethods applied, 1 1 5 ; C o m p ari­ son of foundations o f H ellenistic structure w ith those o f Lycu rgu s theater, 1 1 8 : C h an ge in aesthetic outlook o f H e lle n ­ istic era, 1 1 9 ; Loosening of plane precedes its dissolution. 1 2 0 ; A n alogou s observation in statuary o f period. 1 2 1 ; P rob ­ lem o f elevated stage, 1 2 2 ; Statem ents o f V i t r u v i u s , 1 2 3 : N o elevated stage in A thens, 1 2 4 : H ellenistic proscenium and its part in conquest o f spatial depth. 1 2 6 ; H ellenistic space co n ­ cept illustrated: Altar o f Z eu s at Pergamon, 1 2 7 ; In H ellenistic art there exist planes o f departure fo r purpose of establishing depth relations o f com position. 1 3 3 ; Fun ction al analysis o f structural elem ents o f H ellenistic D ionysus theater, 13 6 : A p p ro xim ate idea o f presentation character of proscenium panels m ay be gained from certain m urals at Boscoreale, i *8: A n im portant statem ent o f V i t r u v i u s , 14 0 ; H ellenistic cpiscenium presum ably served as theologium but not as elevated stage fo r entire action. 1 4 1 : H ellenistic D ion ysu s theater repre­ sents com pletion o f developm ent o f Attic theater fo rm , 1 4 1 ; F rom here, road starts tow ard actual penetration o f depths of scenic b ackground , 1 42.




ch a p te r

IX .





R om an

Stru ctu re




io n y s u s

14 4

h eater

C h ron ology o f m ain steps o f functional developm ent o f D io ­ nysus theater, 1 4 4 ; Reconstruction of R om an D ion ysu s theater, 1 4 6; Projecting stage p latfo rm , together w ith w id e openings o f doors and w in d o w s, encouraged orientation in direction of depth dim en sion, 1 49; R om an structure no longer served serious d ram a, 1 49; D u rin g Italian Renaissance, R om an theater type becam e germ cell o f European perspective stage, 15 0 .



E p e is o d io n A


F orm D

as t h e t t ic


II F o r m a t iv e A

g en t of

raged y

evelo pm en t of th e

E p e is o d io n


B rief su m m ary o f C h ap ter IV , " T h e Basic F orm o f T ra g ic Presentation," w ith w hich this chapter connects, 1 5 3 ; In ­ troduction o f a second actor did not at once dep rive chorus o f its function as dram atic opponent to protagonist, 1 5 5 ; En forced fo rm al restraint led to resourcefulness, 1 5 5 ; In a d ­ dition to being a stranger opposing native gro u p , in dividu al w as presented as being w eak and im potent, 1 5 6 ; Increased dram atic possibilities through m odifications of o rigin al kinetic pattern, 1 5 7 ; W h at is called tragic in m odern sense resulted from such m odification, 1 5 7 ; T h is particular concept o f tra g ­ edy w as achieved sim u ltaneously w ith com pletion o f classic scene plane, 1 5 9 ; A t sam e tim e, tragic conflicts betw een in ­ d ivid u als w ere discovered to be d ram atically m ore fru itfu l than conflicts betw een in d ivid u al and gro u p . 1 5 9 ; T h is d e ­ velopm en t o f tragic fo rm has m any characteristics o f organic g ro w th , 1 6 1 ; In spite o f incessant in d ivid u al interference, line o f developm ent show s unbroken continuity, 1 6 1 ; S im ila r fo rm s arc bound to develop on basis o f sim ilar prem ises, 1 6 1 : P a r­ allel developm ent o f Italian opera and Attic trag ed y, 1 6 1 .

X I.



E p e is o d io n F o r m

e d ie s o f


in t h e

E x i s t in g T


e s c h y l u s ...................................................

C h ro n o lo gy o f seven tragedies in question, 1 64 ; A n alysis o f in d ivid u al plays, 1 6 5 ; ( 1 ) Suppliants, 1 6 5 ; F o rm al reasons for static intensity o f action, 1 6 5 ; R eversal o f norm al scene prototype: fo reign grou p — native in d ivid u al, 16 6 ; A n alysis of action, 16 8 ; F o rm and function o f successive epcisodia and





X I.

T h e E p e is o d io n F o r m in t h e E x i s t i n g T r a g ­ e d ie s c h o ra l

o f

A e s c h y lu s

(C ofit.)

p a rts, 1 6 8 ; M e sse n g e r scen e as e p e iso d io n w ith se c ­

o n d a ry , n o n tr a g ic , fu n c tio n , 1 7 0 ; B a c k g r o u n d stru c tu re c o n ­ stitu tes p r im itiv e p la n e , 1 7 0 ; D r a m a tic tim e o f p la y , 1 7 1 ; ( 2 ) Persians, 1 7 1 ; M a y b e b rie fly c h a ra c te riz e d as m u sic o d ra m a tic n a rr a tiv e fo r c h o ru s a n d so li, 1 7 1 ; E p c is o d ia w ith o u t d r a m a tic fu n c tio n , 1 7 1 ; Persians' p lace a n d fu n c tio n in th e tr ilo g y o f w h ic h it w a s p a rt, 1 7 2 ; F o r m a n d fu n c tio n o f e p c i­ so d ia in Persians, 1 7 3 ; S p e c ia l te c h n iq u e o f su s ta in in g sp ec­ ta to rs’ in terest, 1 7 5 ; E ffe c t h a r d ly D io n y s ia n in s u b lim e st sense, 17 5 ; A

esc h ylu s’

effo rts to p u r ify th at e ffe c t, 1 7 5 ; P r im itiv e

c h a r a c te r o f scen ic p la n e , 1 7 6 ; ( 3 ) Prometheus Bound, 1 7 6 ; R e a so n s w h y Prometheus Hound, in spite o f its d o u b tfu l a u ­ th e n tic ity , is b e in g d iscu ssed in th is c h ro n o lo g ic a l o rd e r, 1 7 6 ; F o r a n a ly sis o f fo r m o f p resen tatio n , q u e stio n o f a u th e n tic ity is in s ig n ific a n t, 1 7 7 ; P r o lo g u e in d ia lo g u e fo r m re q u ire s s e p a ra te c o n sid e ra tio n , 1 7 7 ; It see m s to be later a d d itio n , 1 7 7 ; P ro m e th e u s p ro b a b ly n o t rep rese n ted b y d u m m y , 1 8 0 ; H is a ssu m e d p o stu re , 1 8 0 ; F o r m

an d fu n c tio n o f e p c iso d ia o f

Prometheus Bound, 1 8 1 ; H e rm e s scen e is ep e iso d io n w ith se c o n d a ry , n o n tra g ic , fu n c tio n , 1 8 3 ; W h a t a p p e a rs to b e c a ta s­ tro p h e is n o t r e a lly a c a ta stro p h e , 1 8 4 ; P r im itiv e c h a ra c te r o f v is ib le scen e p la n e , 1 8 4 ; T i m e a n d p 'a c e c o n d itio n s o f Prom e­

theus B ound, 1 8 4 ; ( 4 ) Seven Against Thebes, 1 8 5 ; P la y w a s p re c ed e d in tr ilo g y b y L a i us a n d Oedipus. 1 8 5 ; P re su m a b le in flu e n c e o f S o p h o c l e s o n fo r m o f p r o lo g u e , 1 8 6 ; In Seven Against Thebes little is le ft o f o u te r c h a ra cte ristic s o f o rig in a l e p e iso d io n p a tte rn , 1 8 6 ; A n a ly s is o f a c tio n s h o w s th at o rig in a l fu n ctio n o f e p eiso d io n

h as been

p re se rv e d ,

18 7 ;

F o rm


tra g ic c o n flic t c a n e a s ily b e traced to k in e tic p a tte rn o f e p e i­ so d io n , 1 8 9 ; P re s u m a b le in flu e n c e o f S o p h o c i . e s o n v is ib le scen e fo r m , 1 8 9 ; U se o f p a ra sc e n ia m u s t be p o stu lated fo r this p la y , 1 9 0 ; C la ssic c h a ra c te r o f scen e p la n e , 1 9 0 ; T i m e relatio n s o f p la y s h o w u n iq u e a rtistic tre a tm e n t, 1 9 1 ; It is in p erfect c o n g r u ity w ith static ten sio n c h a r a c te r iz in g e n tire fo r m o f e x ­ p re ssio n , 1 9 1 ; P e rfe c t a rtistic p resen tatio n o f a m o m e n t, 1 9 2 ; ( 5 - 7 ) Orestean Trilogy. 1 9 3 ; T r a g ic g u ilt o f h e ro , 1 9 3 ; In flu ­ e n c e o f S o p h o c i . e s o n fo r m o f tra g ic co n flic t, 1 9 3 ; A c tio n m o re e v e n t fu l th an in a n y o th e r k n o w n p la y o f A e s c h y l u s , 1 9 3 ; D ia lo g u e ta k e s p lace p r e fe r a b ly b e tw e e n c h o ru s a n d o n e actor, 1 9 3 ; T h e s e d ia lo g u e s fr e q u e n tly a re a c to rs ’ m o n o lo g u e s w ith c h o ru s a c tin g as re fle c tin g a g e n t, 1 9 4 ; Orestean T rilo gy h o ld s m e d ia n p o sitio n b etw e e n o ld e r c h o ru s-p ro ta g o n is t ty p e o f tr a g e d y a n d la te r acto rs’ tr a g e d y , 1 9 4 ; F o r m an d fu n ctio n o f c p e iso d ia v a rie s w ith in tr ilo g y as w e ll as in in d iv id u a l p la y s , 1 9 4 ; S o lu tio n o f tra g ic co n flic t, 1 9 6 ; P se u d o -a rc h a ic c h a ra c te r



X I.

T h e E p e is o d io n F o r m e d ie s o f A e s c h y l u s

in t h e E x is t in g T r a g ­

(C ofit-)

o f Etim enides, 19 6 ; Presentation in Orestean T rilo gy o f d r a ­ m atic tim c-spacc, 1 9 7 : V isib le scene possesses all characteristics o f com plete classic plane, 19 7 ; H ouse front as background structure, « 9 7; P illared proscenium w ith exch an geab le painted panels, 19 8 ; E ccvclcm a, 19 8 ; T im e and place relations in trilo g y , 19 8 .



o n c l u s io n


o tes


lo ssa ry



an d


ib l io g r a p h y


205 2 i9


Illustrations PAGE


D ia g r a m o f th e ce n trip e tal d y n a m ic s o f the d ith y ra m b


L in e a r p resen tatio n of the cen tral relatio n o f the P a r th e ­


non c o lu m n s to the im a g e o f th e g o d d e ss


3 - O r ig in o f the p rin c ip a l a x is o f th e tra g ic th eater



C ro ss section o f th e o rch cstra-terrace o f the oldest th eater o f D io n y su s


5 * F o rm o f p resen tatio n o f th e earliest ty p e o f e p eiso d io n : 46

ch o ru s-p ro ta go n ist 6.

S ta tu e o f K le o b is o r B ito n ( D e lp h i)



A p o llo o f P io m b in o



Id eal p lan e o f the tw o -acto r scene


P la n o f the e a rly A e sc h y le a n th eater



F o rm o f p resen tatio n o f e a rly A e sc h y le a n tra g e d y



D ia g r a m o f m u ltip le p lan e stra tifica tio n in G r e e k a rc h i­


tectu re


12 .

D ia g r a m o f the stra tified p lan e in a statue


«3 -

D ia g ra m o f the p rim itiv e fo re g ro u n d plan e


14 .

D ia g r a m

o f the m e d ia n

p lan e ot referen ce in classic



*5 -

S tatu e tte o f a tra g ic acto r


16 .

P e d im e n t fig u re s w ith p lan e o f referen ce


>7 -

L o w re lie f w ith p lan e o f re fe ren ce









18 .

P e d im e n t fig u re s o f th e T e m p le o f A p h a ia at A e g in a


19 .

D e a th o f A c g is th u s ..............................................................................



W est p e d im e n t o f the T e m p le o f Z e u s at O ly m p ia


2 1.

S ec tio n th ro u g h a scu lp tu ral frie z e a n d its a rch itectu ral


E a r ly classic, w o o d e n stru ctu re o f the D io n y s u s th eater


G r o u n d p lan o f th e L y c u r g e a n th eater o f D io n y su s at

fra m e

A th e n s






L y c u r g e a n stru ctu re o f th e D io n y s u s th ea ter at A th e n s



P e ria c ti



O rp h e u s S tele



E c c y c le m a ( a ) ro llin g ty p e , ( b ) r e v o lv in g ty p e ...

10 2


T h e H e lle n is tic th e a te r o f D i o n y s u s .........................................



G r o u n d p la n o f th e H e lle n is tic stru ctu re o f th e D io n y s u s t h e a t e r .....................................................................................................



S ta n d in g D is c u s T h r o w e r , A th le te D r o p p in g O il

12 2

3 1.

T h e A lt a r o f Z e u s at P e rg a m o n ...................................................

12 8


T h e A lt a r o f Z e u s a t P e rg a m o n , p a rtia l v ie w

12 9


S la b s fro m the L a r g e F r ie z e o f th e P e rg a m o n A lta r

13 0


T h e F a rn e se B u ll

13 5


M u ra ls in th e V illa o f B o sco rea le

13 9


G r o u n d p lan o f th e N e ro n ia n stru ctu re o f th e D io n y su s th eater



T h e N e ro n ia n stru ctu re o f th e D io n y su s th eater

14 6 14 7


Fundamentals * I fH E E F F E C T of any kind of art rests upon indispensable prerequisites.

Painting, sculpture, and architec­

ture presuppose illum inated space w hich is more or less defined according to the character of the individual w ork. A part from their style of execution, the most essential feature of the creations in these arts is the material which the artist chooses for the definite and enduring expression of his ideas.1 D ifferent conditions prevail in the arts that appeal to the sense of hearing.

Here the author’s composition must

be reproduced whenever an audience wishes to perceive the effect o f it; the means of reproduction arc recitation for poetry, and instrumental or vocal execution for works of music.

F o r their effectiveness, these arts likewise pre­

suppose bounded space as a container o f sound-conducting air. T h eir material is sound in time-conditioned se­ quences. Poetry, in addition, employs words and their m eaning as vehicles of emotion and thought.

In their

choice o f tempo, musicians and readers presuppose in their audiences a time sense commensurate with their own. Thus the time pattern acquires the character of form ative m aterial; or, in other words, the tempo is o f such signifi­ cance that it cannot be changed without, at the same time, changing the innermost character of the work. In view of the fact that little disagreement seems to



exist concerning the aesthetic fundam entals of music and poetry, it is surprising to find that the aesthetics of dra­ matic art are not nearly as well clarified. Although ethical relations constitute the principal concern of the .

dram a, its students must not confine their efforts to the analysis of its literary form s and ethical content.

T he

written words of the author, on the contrary, arc to be regarded as no more than an accessory to the production of the play. O nly the perform ance in the theater dis­ plays all the possibilities of artistic expression. * V T h e dramatists o f all civilizations, therefore, have con­ ceived and shaped their w orks with a view to a definite form of theater which had grow n out of the fundam ental space concept of their race.

T h e fact that other civiliza-

“ tions adopted such w orks and perform ed them in theaters which reflected a different space concept, docs in no w ay im pair the validity of our statem ent/ In fact, it cannot be sufficiently emphasized that any attempt to transfer a dram a to a theater o f a different type than the one for which it has been created, by necessity changes its entire character.^ W hat has been said about the time pattern in music must be extended, in the dram a, to space and time, since it combines the qualities o f both the visible and the au­ dible arts.

Spatial stasis, perceived by the eye, and time

dynam ics, perceived by the ear, form a new aesthetic unity in the dram a. If, therefore, it has been said that in music the time pattern acquires the character of form a­ tive material, the same can be said for the dram a with regard to space and time.

For not only do the audible

impressions follow one another in a certain tempo but



also the visual impressions in space appear under a rule of time continuity, and differ therein from the arts of painting, sculpture, and architecture. T his makes time and space equally significant for the d ram a; in fact, makes

Dramatic space presupposes for its existence the time continuity of dra­ matic action: it is time-space. T h e spectator, on the other them essential functions of each other.

hand, lives in the time-space of his everyday reality to which he relates the time-space of the play. T h e more he is able and w illin g to submit to illusion, the more com­ pletely w ill he succeed in regarding this paradoxical sit­ uation as artistically justified. A fter what has been said, it need hardly be mentioned that theatrical space is not identical with dramatic space. T h e form er is merely the occasional and topical realiza­ tion of the latter. T h e relation between dramatic space and theatrical space has an analogy, in the art of painting, in the relation between the picture and the canvas on which it is painted. * Theatrical space is, to the spectator, * the fusion of two spheres of reality; that of everyday life, and that of art. • Prim arily both have sprung from the same basic time and space concepts which are responsible for the structural uniform ity of all cultural manifestations of every race. In every kind of civilization, the form of dramatic ex­ pression, even in its most prim itive beginnings, owes its specific character to the preference which the particular nation gives to either spatial stasis or to dynam ic suc­ cession in time. It is of importance to note that in the primitive stage which invariably precedes the completion of cultural development, the thoughts and actions of a



people are prim arily governed b y the dynam ics of one­ dimensional progression in time as w ell as in space.


consider a nation’s cultural development completed as soon as there is evidence of a uniform structural pattern which appears in every expression of that nation’s life. Its form character m ay be determined by the exclusive recognition o f time continuity, or by the prevalence of stasis, or by a valuation o f both tim e and space.


T h e course which the dram atic art o f a nation is des­ tined to follow can, as a rule, be traced in the form s o f its prehistory.

T h e fundam ental form of any particular type

o f theater originates, by necessity, sim ultaneously w ith the advent o f a dram atic form o f expression, no matter how primitive. In a civilization such as that o f the Greeks, where spatial * stasis reigns supreme, quite naturally a clear-cut place of action can be traced at a much earlier stage of develop­ ment than in a civilization whose nature is determined by the sole valuation of time dynam ics, such as w e find during the G othic period o f European cultural history. Medieval m an was so exclusively concerned w ith the progression in time and, consequently, with the succes­ sion o f events, that in presenting them he gave little heed to considerations of place.

T h u s it happens that theater

buildings of a clearly defined structural character arc only found in domains o f culture which are exclusively, or at least in part, founded on the principle of spatial stasis. In those, however, which are time-conditioned, such thea­ ter structures are nonexistent. T h e same holds true for dram atic space and time. T heir study in a space-conditioned dom ain o f culture w ill nat-



urally have for its object time-spacc which finds a form al expression in a dramatic action characterized by stasis, and, in its collateral in space, a clearly defined theatrical structure.

T h e time element, in spite of its indispensable

function as a dimension of time-space, carries little aes­ thetic w eight.

On the other hand, within a time-condi­

tioned dom ain of culture, the student is concerned with space-time. Its form al expression is a dramatic action which is characterized by the dynam ics o f successive situ­ ations. Consequently, in this kind of dram a it is the ele­ ment of space, as m aterialized in the place o f action, which is of m inor aesthetic significance, although its dimensions cannot be dispensed with for the definition o f space-time.

PART I O r ig in

a n d

Fo rm

D ev e lo pm en t

T r a g ic

L o ca le

o f

t h e


Outline of the Greek Character / /T 1H E G R E E K form of life, as evidenced in the nonterritorial unit of the city-state, in Euclidian geometry, in the works of historians, poets and dramatists, and, with especial clarity, in Greek sculpture, architecture, and painting, is characterized by lack of dynamics./ Space, as such, has little significance; it is the empty cavity be­ tween bounding planes. T h eir particular concept of space seems to have led the Greeks not much beyond the con­ fines of tangible localities; consequently, spatial extension, for them, seems to have been limited to the distances be­ tween points within a plane and to the interlying area, j In analogy to this concept of space, their time consisted of intervals between events. T heir sense of the past and the future, moreover, was not forceful enough to deter­ mine their form of life.2 T his, however, does not im ply that the Greeks lacked a sense of the infinite. M on do lfo ,” on the contrary, has proved that an awareness of infinity can be traced even in early G reek poetry. Moreover, he has demonstrated that, before and after S o c r a tes , the philosophers at various points of the Greek world were concerned with problems such as infinite time, motion, number, boundless space, and the eternity of God and the individual soul. 9







T h ere seems to be a discrepancy between the interest of the philosophers in these problems and the insignifi­ cant share of both space and time in the determ ining of the G reek form o f life.

These problems m ay have

been the concern of a small m inority of creative thinkers within a com m unity which possessed a limited concept o f space and time and, therefore, an urge to express itself in bounded form s; and it is possible that the antithetic urge caused these philosophers to raise the problem of infinity.

On the other hand, the awareness o f infinity

m ay have been a com m on possession of all, and fear m ay have im pelled them to take refuge in the secure confines o f hum an measurements.

T h e G reek

attitude differs

from that of the occidental nations in that the fear of infinite space and time caused the G reek to escape from it, whereas the western European attempted to overcome that fear by a creative imitation of the infinite. These indigenous concepts of space and time which shape a nation’s entire view of the world also condition the particular type of tragic conflict which prevails in the dram a of A ttica; and, moreover, they m ay even be con­ sidered the roots of the ethical principles which direct the conduct of the dram atic characters in such conflict. ^

According to the Attic concept of ethics, as represented by P l a t o ’ s w ritings,3 the ultimate goal of hum an life is the attainment of beatitude.

W ithin the boundaries of

his self-determination, therefore, m an’s endeavor should aim at that which is good, since only that which is good assures such condition of felicity.

A ll true endeavor,

therefore, is solely directed toward that which is go o d / x T h e tem porary satisfaction of im pulsive desires, on the







other hand, can never be the object of true endeavor.

Moderation is the most indispensable of all virtues since nothing can be the object of endeavor which interferes w ith the attainment of beatitude by others. H o w can a man achieve a state of felicity so long as he is conscious of having harm ed his fellow man ?

It is better, therefore,

to suffer injustice than to do it to others.

T his, however,

does not im ply that one should accept injustice without resisting it. / A moral code of this basic nature, in connection with that particularly G reek piety which recognizes Necessity ( ’Avdyx.ti) and Destiny (T v/^ ) as the directing forces of human life, pervades all tragic creations of the land of Attica.

He who is truly pious resigns him self with m ag­

nanim ity to the inevitable decrees of D estiny; with digni­ fied composure he suffers misfortune even if it befalls him through no fault of his own.

W henever he finds

him self in a dilem m a between divine and hum an com­ mandments he decides in favor of the Deity;/not even the imminence of death will make him falter, as is shown in


In his own heart he finds a sense of what is righ t; to him there is but one possible way S o ph o cles’

of acting, no matter how m enacingly Necessity stands against him . Necessity is the supreme power and even Zeus, the guardian of law and order, no less than all other gods, is subject to her rule.

T h e immortals know her

decrees, but are powerless against them.

H ow much

more so is Man in the frailty of his mortal flesh! Thus, it appears almost as a matter of course that the action of Attic tragedy does not constitute a dynam ic succession of causally connected volitional acts of its hero,






in the course of which his character unfolds itself. It presents, on the contrary, the catastrophal predicament in which a m orally conscious person finds him self because o f his destiny.4 'A ttic tragedy is characterized by a static condition o f suffering rather than by dynam ic action. •' T h e tragic hero is shown in a series o f situations which re­ flect his reactions to moral conflicts and not until E u r ip id e s does he become a clearly defined character.8 / T here is a tendency, nevertheless, in some w orks of S o p h o c l e s and traces o f it even in some o f A

esc h ylu s,

toward granting the hero an opportunity to avoid the catastrophe by means o f a volitional act.

T h e discipline

o f his ethics, however, bars this w ay of escape, and the tragic effect o f his final dow nfall is all the more pathetic. '

Rut it remained for E u r ip id e s to devise tragic conflicts which arose from , and found their solution in, a succes­ sion of volitional actions, i H ere we find character devel­ opment based on a dynam ic succession o f situations.'’ E u r ip id e s shows the force o f T ych e in a state of disinte­

gration which amounts almost to irony, for he, like his contemporaries, has definitely abandoned the belief in the inevitable rule of Destiny and the absolute validity of ethical standards.

T o him and his age m an’s destiny lies

in his character, which reveals itself in his volitional re­ sponse when he is confronted by the active m anifesta­ tions o f other characters.

Even E u r ip id e s ’ gods,7 such as

Artem is and Aphrodite in Hippolytus, are m erely per­ sonified hum an impulses. T o the modern dram atic critic it m ay seem that their introduction into the prologues and the concluding parts of certain plays has been prompted by sophisticated routine rather than by dramatic necessity.






In the follow in g pages an attempt is made to reveal the inner causes to which the specific form of G reek drama owes its origin, and, furtherm ore, the laws which underlie the development o f this form .


The Beginnings of Tragic Presentation Under Pisistratus T N S P E A K I N G of the G reek dram a we have in mind •^•particularly Attic tragedy, that unique dramatic form that was cultivated in Athens after the first h alf of the sixth century B. C.

Its most striking external character­

istics are its presentation under an open sky, and the re­ peated alternation of lyrical parts rendered by a chorus and of dramatic parts perform ed by actors.

It is reasonably

certain that credit for this fruitful combination of indi­ vidual and group efforts into a new artistic unity goes to the Athenian autocrat Pisistratus (5 6 1-5 2 8 B. C .).


integral part o f his social and religious reform s for the benefit of his people was a comprehensive reorganization of the cults o f the gods in general and that of Dionysus in particular for which he found a new and more spiritual form .

“ Pisistratus," says S c h m id ,' “ not sim ply trans­

ferred to the city the customary Dionysian cult of the Attic peasants and, in the process, added splendor to its *04101— in which case he would have become the originator of com edy—but he introduced a new, foreign cult o f the god from the Boeotian settlement Eleutherae. “ H is idea m ay have been that the spirit of this Eleuthe>4





raean cult readily lent itself to the serious character which he desired to give to the festival; it was the cult of Dionysus Melanaegis. T o beautify the ritual he added to the age-old dithyram b the ‘dram a’ ; the presentation of an action, not by persons detached from the action such as a narrating poet or chorus, but by its very characters, prim ary and secondary, who were impersonated by play­ ers. T h is dramatic action was not a requirement of the ritual but an original contribution made by the organizer of the festival. Its coherence with the ritual of the cult was no more rigid than that of the rhapsodic hymns or o f any other w ith the ritual of their related festivals.

W ith the ancient Dionysian rites it has perhaps

no more in com m on than the use of m asks; w ith the dithyram b of A r io n , no more than that its plots were taken






heroes. . . . T he

process of introducing the mythological element into the lyrical poetry has its analogy in the plastic arts, and had been started, as far as the dithyram b is concerned, by A r io n (SSt, II, 407^). T h is connection with the myths o f ancient heroes autom atically invested the dithyram b with austere dignity. From now on the people were to perceive with their eyes and ears in the most vivid and tangible mode of presentation what heretofore, at the Panathenaean festival, had been offered to the ear alone by means of recitation; namely, selections from the myths of the ancient heroes. From the very beginning, choral singing was the property of tragedy,' as is indicated by its very nam e, ToayoiSia.

It m ay be mentioned that ac­

tors do not appear in singing parts until a much later period of dramatic development.




“ T h e decisive step towards a clear differentiation of the dram a was the addition o f the actor w ho expressed him ­ self in lyrical form s and iambic meters.

It is possible

that rhapsodic recitation had taken an early turn toward m im ic expression


r is t o t l e ,

Poetics 26, 1462, a 7 ),

and had thereby provided a prerequisite for the heroic dram a, such as we find in the dram a of ancient India (A . B. K 29ff.). A

r io n ,

e it h ,

The Sanscrit Drama, O xford, 1924, pages

There is another possibility that, beginning with the presentation of choral lyrics had taken a turn

in this direction; and it is probable that som ewhere in the land o f Attica, most likely at Icaria, some tim e before Pisistratus, experim ents with serious dram a had been made, and that Pisistratus availed him self of their results.” W hatever m ay have been the motives of Pisistratus when he instituted the city Dionysia, tradition has con­ nected with their initial celebration (in 534 B. C .) the nam e of T

h e s p is ,

son of T hem on, of Icaria in Attica,

where Dionysus had been worshiped throughout the ages and is even remembered in the m odern nam e of the place, D ionyso.11

T h e nam e of T

h e s p is

is like a little spark

which flashes for just a brief moment in the night of uncertainty.

T h e tradition o f the ancients has it that he

was the first to present an actor opposite the chorus. Pisistratus, it is said, invited him to organize the cult plays in honor o f the Eleutheriean Dionysus and thereby laid the foundations for the tragic dram a.12


h e s p is ,


must have enjoyed at that time an established reputation as an actor, a dramatist, or both. A s is not unlikely with





a native of Icaria he m ay even have been connected with Dionysian plays. W hatever the truth of the matter may be, we know nothing definite about his life and the char­ acter o f his presentations. A t best our information must rest on circumstantial evidence.


Origin of the Theater Form T N T H E follow in g chapters, it is not our intention to -^till the patient soil once more with the conventional tools o f philology, literary criticism , and archaeology; but rather to apply the methods o f art criticism and aesthetics to define the fundam ental time-space pattern of the Dionysian cult play in A ttica; and, subsequently, to dem ­ onstrate how the tragic dram a and its theater have derived their characteristics from it through a natural process of development. In the fine arts, form analysis considers no data outside the realm o f the visible.

H ow ever, anyone w ho attempts

to analyze dramatic and theatrical form s does not deal w ith visual data such as are supplied to the art critic un­ less the dramatic works are presented to his physical eye in their original style, and this naturally can be achieved only in contemporary dram a.

In any other case he must

try to reconstruct before his m ind’s eye the ensemble of a play from all available sources. If he succeeds in gain ­ ing a sufficiently clear view o f such an ensemble he w ill be able to discover its form ative principle with the same degree o f certainty as if his observations were based on the physically visible creations of architecture, sculpture, or painting.







A t this point, the author wishes to forestall a misun­ derstanding that m ight easily arise. In the follow ing pages much w ill be said about space. By this is not meant physical space as it concerns the astronomer, but rather aesthetic space as it conditions a dramatic entity. T h e analysis of occidental dram a reveals that depth, the third dimension of physical space, is most essential for that kind of dram a.

F or G reek dram a physical space is not

essential. In the G reek dram a and theater, space is tanta­ mount to an unmeasurable, undeterminable something, enclosed by only two confining planes; it is an empty cavity, xevdv, whose minute aesthetic significance rests upon the fact that it contains air and conducts sound. T h e study of the entity of Attic tragedy is facilitated by the fact that from its beginnings the place of action has been definitely fixed in space anti that it never lost this basic characteristic, which, in the last analysis, is respon­ sible for the erection of the permanent theater buildings whose ruins are found in every part of the Greek w orld .13 N o matter to what extent their original outlines have been obliterated by Hellenistic and even Rom an additions, all of them possess a uniform structural nucleus: a circular

orchestra, the dancing place of the chorus. T h e history o f the word chorus, discloses the very principle on which G reek form is based.


sively, we mark the follow ing semantic steps:

T h e latest

m eaning is dramatic chorus, that is, a group of choreutae, and—simultaneous to it— chorus means choral part of the play (as opposed to dialogue parts). T h is is preceded by

choral dancing and singing, dance m eaning, first, group datice; then dancing place, and finally enclosed place.






T h e original m eaning of its basic stem, yeo-, seems to have been enclosing, embracing, confining (also in G reek x e‘9

a hand); with /-augmentation it appears in *X°Q"T-(^ ; Latin hor-t-us, a garden; G othic gar-d-s, a house (G e r­ manic *gar-ct-az). (See C u r t i u s , Griechische Etymologie, page 1 99.) It is significant for the history of G reek form in gen­ eral, and for that of the dram atic entity in particular, that as early as H om eric epics, 7000; appears in the differen­ tiated m eanings, dancing place and dance ( H o m e r , Iliad, X V III, 590; Odyssey, V III, 260, 264; X II, 4 ; X II, 3 18 ). T h e oldest m eaning, enclosed place, is hypothetical and un­ supported by literature.

From H o m e r ’ s use of the word

the inference can be draw n that the early Ionians con­ sidered a confined dancing place a prerequisite for group d ancing; that, in other words, there existed already in H om eric times that fundam ental propensity tow ard the clearly defined locale that in the course of time was to become the essential feature of G reek culture and art. A t no tim e, however, have the Ionians regarded group dancing in a confined area as a matter o f sufficient im ­ portance to m ake it the m edium o f their highest artistic expression, for it is know n that their greatest achieve­ ments lie in the field of individual lyrics." Xooog, both as a word and a ritual, seems to have achieved its essential significance with the D orians of the Peloponnesus.

T o them the measured floor and the elab­

orate form s of group dancing and singing which they practiced on it became the concrete symbols o f their reli­ gious and artistic longings.

A t the time that this choral

art of the Peloponnesus had reached the zenith of its ex-






prcssivcness it was mated, on the soil of Attica, with the actors’ dialogue. T his latter is readily identified as a product of the Ionian spirit since its mode of presentation shows a m arked affinity to that of Ionian epic poetry; and since its execution, also true to Ionian style, was left to individual performers.

D uring the process of am alga­

mation, the lyrical chorus of the Dorians was transformed into a dramatic chorus.

A s an integral part of a new

artistic unity, Attic tragedy, the dramatic chorus under­ went, in the course of time, most rem arkable modifications o f both its form and its functions. It cannot be sufficiently em phasized that without that age-old propensity toward the bounded locale the choral art o f the D orians could never have originated. A n d we shall readily see that Attic tragedy and its theater would never have attained their specific form without the pre­ vious existence o f the measured dancing floor, to which the circular orchestra is merely incidental. There are other indications that the Dorians possessed an indigenous inclination toward the bounded locale.


their attitude toward the world and the Deity, there pre­ vails a centripetal tendency, that is they fled, as it were, from the m enacing expanse o f the universe into the safe confines o f hum an measurements. T h e terrible and mys­ terious gods were conjured by means o f their images and tied to the spot where their blessings were needed. T h e idol, the center of an enclosed place (yooo;), was appeased by the m agic of the imitative group dances and the chants of its worshipers. In the course of time, lyricized versions o f the ancient myths of local gods and heroes replaced the prim itive m agic cult, in part or en-







Every form al phase of the cult, such as the lyrical

meters, the musical phraseology, and last but not least, the figures of the dance, was carefully cultivated and adapted to the changing dem ands of the tim es; and not infrequently was the group assisted in its efforts by the guidance and participation o f rankin g poet-composers, such as A l c m a n and A r io n . But w hatever changes took place, the yoooz, the enclosed dancing place, preserved its original character as the inviolable nucleus of the gen­ eral form . In his guidebook for travelers in Greece, which was written in the first h alf o f the second century B. C., P a u s a n ia s (III, II, 9 ) relates that in Sparta the m arket

place is called X °W -

F o r the origin of this name there

exist two possible explanations: either it was derived from the use o f the area as a dancing place; or the Spartans had preserved in the name o f their m arket place the archaic m eaning o f X°q6c, nam ely enclosed place. A plausible inference can be draw n from each o f these hypotheses.

T h e form er m ight serve to indicate the im ­

portance of the choral dance and its dancing place in the public life o f the Spartan people.

Otherwise they would

have hardly chosen the nam e o f dancing place for the spot where all their other civic activities were also cen­ tered. T h e nam e dates back to the early Dorian period since it is most certainly as old as the place itself.

It is

know n also that in Athens, at an early time, there was a dancing place in the m arket.

T h e Athenians, however,

nam ed their m arket place (from aveipeoOai, to assemble).

a place of assembly T his, o f course, need

not indicate that the early Athenians considered state func­






tions more important than did the Spartans; but rather that dance performances in the market were not accorded by the Athenians a significance sufficient to justify the nam e o f dancing place for the center of their city. T h e other hypothesis, however, which sees in the name of the Spartan m arket place the only know n occurrence of the hypothetical m eaning, enclosed place, permits a double inference: first, that the word and its m eaning m ay have originated with the Dorians who alone preserved it; and secondly, that the Ionians m ay have acquired X°(?6g, both the word and the ritual, from the Dorians in its differen­ tiated m eaning o f dancing place.

A lthough this theory

cannot be confirm ed by the methods of philology, it finds support in the fact that the Dorians, more than any other Greek tribe, have displayed this same indigenous propen­ sity toward the confined locale in other fields than that of choral lyrics. T h e most ancient Hellenic architecture was designated as Doric by G reek authors w ho themselves were not Dorians.1-’ Its structural principles reveal the same attitude toward the w orld, and the same concept of form which underlie the choral creations of the Dorians. Its principles are the tectonic expression of that same urge to escape from the terrible indefiniteness of the universe into the security o f clearly defined earthly measurements. T h ey are the expression o f that very same urge w hich, in the religious cult, had led the Dorians into the confines of their choral dancing places. T h is analogy between the two arts w ill find a more detailed consideration below (see page 3 1 ) . T h e branch o f D orian choral art which became im m e­ diately instrumental in the m aking of Attic tragedy is




the Dionysian dithyramb.



It has been stated in a general

w ay that in the confines o f the choral dancing place the centripetal urge of the Dorian m ind has attained its con­ crete shape and that this shape has conditioned the form al pattern o f the choral group perform ance.

In a more

literal sense, that is, with regard to its geom etrical form and its dynam ics, the same holds true for the Dionysian dithyram b and its % o q o;. It is more than probable that the circular form m ay be presupposed for most D orian places of choral dancing, if not for all, since the circle appears to be the natural given form for a dancing place.10 T h e circular form , however, has been ascertained only for choral cult dances in honor of D em eter and Dionysus.17

It is true that they belonged

to that age-old type of round dance in which a group of chanting worshipers gyrated around the central im age or altar of the god.

In the Dionysian dithyram b, this an­

cient ritual principle was never abandoned, not even after that cult form had reached its acme of m ythologization and lyrical expressiveness. It has been stated above (page 15 ) , that the dram a is not to be considered a developmental stage o f the dithyram b but that the dram atic element, embodied in the actor, has been added to the dithyram b as som ething entirely new. T his statement is correct but docs not reach the heart of the p ro b le m .# T h e really important point is that the dithyram b possessed certain essentials which must be re­ garded as prerequisites for the origin o f that particular type o f chorus to which the actor entered.

These essen­

tials were the circular dancing place and the entire form tradition which had developed in it with regard to music,



poetry, and the dance.




In other words, without the pre­

vious existence of the dithyram b, the tragic chorus could never have originated. On the other hand, the approach of the actor to the dithyram b, as such, would never have initiated the drama. T h e s p is , or whoever m ay have been the first to introduce an actor to the chorus, must have realized from the very outset that the function of this chorus would have to be fundam entally different from the purely lyrical one of the dithyram bic chorus, if it would form a new artistic unity with the actor’s perfor­ mance.18 T h e introduction of the actor reveals a dra­ matic purpose which can only be achieved if there exists an opposing element.

Since the only available represent­

ative of such an element is the chorus, the function of the chorus is by necessity a dramatic one. Even after the actor has left the scene the chorus remains in contact with the dramatic action through the lyrical and orchestic interpretation of its religious significance. T he style of performance and expression of these purely choral parts leaves no doubt about the descent o f the dramatic chorus from that of the dithyram b. T h e dram a never did attain equality with the dithyram b as far as its significance as a Dionysian ritual is concerned, for at no time did it replace the dithyram b in the Eleutheraan cult.19 T h e festival period, on the contrary, was alw ays opened with the traditional dithyram b, and the dramatic presentations began on one of the follow ing days. T h e fundam entally different nature of the dithyram bic and the dramatic choruses can be best demonstrated by the analysis of their kinetic patterns.







T h e invariable premise o f the dithyram b w as the circu­ lar shape o f its dancing plane.

T h e orchestic perform ance

in it consisted of dance figures w hich w ere likew ise m od­ ifications o f circular lines with an altar of the god as their center.

T h e ritual as a whole was initiated by a proces­

sion o f all participants, its tempo being m arked by m arch­ ing songs.

Its kinetics can be defined by the form ula:

one-dimensional progression in time coincident with one­ dimensional progression in space. Superficially it is in no w ay different from the processions found in connection with the m edieval d ram a; in its function, however, it is fundam entally different.

In the m edieval dram a, the

procession was an end in itself; in Attic tragedy, it was a means to an end.

In other words, the procession did

not m erely initiate the m edieval plays, but the one-dimen­ sional progression in both time and space constituted the fundam ental principle on which the entire form with all its various phases was based.

If, on the other hand,

the procession of the G reeks is called a means to an end, it is because it served the sole purpose o f conveying all participants in the ritual, perform ers as w ell as spectators, into the measured confines o f the place o f action.


the god was considered the sacred guest of honor,'0 its im age, which had been carried in the procession, was then placed in the center or, as was done at a later period, in the close proxim ity o f the X°Q°S, and the spectators arranged themselves around the dancing place. T h is was soon facilitated by the erection o f an amphitheater with wooden bleachers (ixo ia). T h e action during the dithyram b and related choral rituals in the circular dancing place, henceforth in this






book called the orchestra, consisted of two parts, a dynam ic and a static one. T h e dynam ic part was a round dance about the cult symbol with the accompaniment of song and musical instrum ents; during the static part, the per­ form ers stood around it in a circle and invoked it in hym nal song. It is self-evident that, aesthetically speak­ ing, the circular plane, by means of its center, exerted an inescapable compulsion upon all present. It was the cult symbol which radially forced upon itself the eyes and voices of the perform ers and, at the same time, the atten­ tion o f the spectators; and it also determined the dance figures which, ow ing to the circular shape of the orchestra, were, by necessity, parts of concentric circles. T hrough their relation to the center of a circular plane they were no longer a one-dimensional progression, but aesthetically they became essential constituents of the two-dimension­ ality o f that plane as its variable functions. N aturally, this condition also possessed its specific dynam ics (Figure 1 ) . T h ey were, however, not of an additive nature as were those of one-dimensional progression, but they were characterized by a m ultiplicative relation of their integrants.

Such m ultiplicative dynamics are synonymous

with intensity in both a physical and an aesthetic sense. Intensity, in the latter m eaning, is the type of dynamics that governs lyric poetry w hich, figuratively speaking, re­ gards its object as a center and, therefore, moves around it, as it were, and by incessant radial approaches gains an accumulative insight into its very essence. Thus every single statement which lyric poetry makes about its object is the result of m ultiplicative, that is, intensified observa­ tion. T h e process is fundam entally different from that of






epic poetry which progresses in only the one dimension of tim e, and thereby constitutes a mere additive linking of one event with another. W hat has been said about lyric poetry in general applies, in particular, to the choral lyrics of the dithyram b. Speak­ ing of its m ythologization, consequently, does not im ply that an epical narration of m ythological incidents was introduced but rather that by lyrical means the signifi-

F ic . i . D i a g r a m o f t h e c e n t r i p e t a l d y n a m i c s o k t h e d i t h y r a m b . (Com pare page 2 7.) Dynamics of the dithyram b = .tQa- t: Pn = Anyone of a number of n performers; C = center of the dancing place; .1 = circular dance figure;