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The Origin of the Greek Tragic Form: A Study of the Early Theater in Attica

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THE ORIGIN of the

GREEK TRAGIC FORM A

Study of the Early Theater in Attica

BY

AUGUST

C.

The Ohio

MAHR,

Ph. D.

State University

New York PRENTICE-HALL^ INC. 1938

Copyright, 1938, By

PRENTICE-HALL, INC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. NO PART OF THIS BOOK MAY BE REPRODUCEn IN ANY FORM, BY MIMEOGRAPH OR ANY OTHER MEANS, WITHOIT PERMISSION IN WRITING FROM THE PUBLISHERS.

PRINTED IN THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA

b

To JULIUS

SCHOENEMANN

CLASSICAL SCHOLAR IX GERMANY,

MY

BELOVED

TEACHER

AND

FRIEND OF A LIFETIME, THIS BOOK IS GRATEFULLY DEDICATED.

? J

K^

Preface 'T^HIS

BOOK deals with the one aspect of the Greek the-

-^ ater

and drama

although this

it

is

indispensable for an intelligent study of

important branch of Hellenic

and development of the Since theater, cialists

tragic

art,

form

namely, the origin

as a

whole.

previous books on Greek tragedy or the Greek

without an exception, have been written by spe-

in classical literature, philology, or archaeology, the

fact has

tion

all

been sadly neglected

that, so far, has

been overlooked that the

field of tragic presenta-

to a very considerable extent, the concern of the

is,

student in the field of form analysis of the plastic

The

methods of

lytic

arts.

author, therefore, has applied to this study the anaart criticism that

seemed best adapted

to his purpose, since those of philology or archaeology or literary history

do not afford

complex form of totality.

The methods

comprehensive

results,

artistic activity of

mined by a

of art criticism also promised

a race

whose form of

all arts, at

no more than natural

tragic

form the center

its

more

because this study deals with an life

was

deter-

Consequently, the

forms that show a clearly

defined structure and are tactual, as fore

can be viewed in

clear sense of the finite.

Greeks arrived, in

from which the

a standpoint

tragic presentation

were.

It is

there-

that in an analysis of the

Greek

it

of gravity should

the development of the visible scene

if

lie

in a study of

the various struc-

PREFACE

Vlll

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

in philology, archaeology, literature,

have found careful consideration.

results of research

and

in the plastic arts

Occasionally,

other sources failed, an inference was

drawn on

when

all

the basis

of the inner logic of form.

The

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. it

seem necessary

of

Greek

to

embody

to give

Neither did

an account of the development

ethics prior to Plato, since his writings all

that

seem

essential in the practical reasoning

is

of the fifth century B. C.

The book reader

form of

who

is

intended primarily for any intelligent

wishes to acquaint himself with the basic

principles that underlie the origin

Greek tragedy and

its

theater.

It

and development

may

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 growth, regardless of whether such courses be offered in institutions of higher learning or in professional

schools of the

The

drama

or schools of fine

arts.

subject matter has been so organized that the

makes not too of a teacher.

difficult

A

reading, even without the guidance

glossary of unfamiliar terms has been

added, which, the author hopes, will meet cies.

The

book

all

contingen-

accompany the numerous illusworded that they summarize in brief what

captions that

trations are so

the illustrations are intended to demonstrate.

Especial

PREFACE

IX

and

attention has been given to the table of contents

the index, both of

which

to

will greatly facilitate a profitable

use of the book.

Thanks seums for

works

art

are

due

mu-

to the directors of the following

their permission to reproduce

photographs of

in their collections: the British

Museum, Lon-

don; the Musee du Louvre, Paris; the Museo Nazionale, Naples; the Pergamon

Museum,

Berlin; the Glyptothek,

Munich; the

Ny

Carlsberg Glyptothek, Copenhagen.

Thanks

due

to the University of

are

Chicago Press for

the permission to quote a lengthy passage their publications; to Verlag F.

Germany, tion

Bruckmann

from one of Munich,

A.-G.,

for their permission to reproduce an illustra-

from one

of their books; to Fratelli Alinari, publishers,

two

Florence, Italy, for their permission to reprint

of their

photographs; to Professor Bernard Ashmole, University College,

London,

Kleobis,

and

Buck,

Jr.

photograph of the Statue of

for the permission to reproduce

colleagues in the S.

for his

Ohio

(School of Architecture), Ralph

(Department of Fine Arts), John

ment

S.

to

my

Richard

Fanning

B. Titchener (Depart-

of Classical Literature), for their invaluable assist-

ance, both theoretical

the

it;

State University, Professors

Department

and technical;

of History

to

my

colleague in

and Art Criticism

versity of Wisconsin, Professor

at the

Oskar Hagen, for

Uni-

his price-

and suggestions; and, last but not least, to Nelson Transeau and to his daughter, Edgar Professor my dear wife, Elizabeth Transeau Mahr, for their criticism and untiring aid in the revision and preparation of less criticism

the manuscript.

August

C.

Mahr

Contents PAGE

Fundamentals

i

Space and time as prerequisites of artistic effect, i Dramatic space and dramatic time, 2; Dramatic space and theatrical space not identical, 3; Form of nation's drama determined by ;

its

basic concepts of space

and time,

PART Origin and

3.

I

Form Development

of the

Tragic Locale CHAPTER I.

Outline of the Greek Character

9

Greek form of life and its relation to space and time, 9; Problem of infinity, 9; Greek ethics and tragic conflicts, 10; Dramatic action static and not dynamic, 12; Character develop-

ment 11.

The

a comparatively late achievement, 12.

Beginnings of Tragic Presentation

Under

Pisistratus

Pisistratus' reorganization of the

14 Dionysian cult

festival,

Introduction of mythological elements into choral

Thespis of

III.

Icaria,

lyrics,

14; 15;

16.

Origin of the Theater

Form

Account of author's methods, 18; Meaning of space

i8 as applied

in these pages, 19; Circular orchestra as structural nucleus of Graeco-Roman theater type, 19; History of term yiOQOq, 19;

Propensity of Dorians toward bounded locale, 21; Character of their choral art, 21; Inferences from fact that in Sparta

market place was named XOQog, 22; Doric architecture rests on same basic principle as does choral art of Dorians, 23; Dionysian dithyramb and its circular orchestra, 24; Drama not to be considered developmental stage of dithyramb, 24; Chorus

CONTENTS

Xll CHAPTER III.

Origin of the Theater that

first

sity,

25;

met

actor

Drama

Form

{Cont.)

in orchestra, a dramatic chorus

Agreement

Kinetic pattern of dithyramb, 27;

of ritual, 25;

by neces-

never attained equality with dithyramb as part

with Wolfflin's statement

that, in

development of

artistic ex-

pression, line universally precedes plane, 30; Centripetal relations also prevail in Parthenon, 32; Character

of oldest dramatic chorus, 34; Location of

entations in Athens doubtful, 36;

and

station

of

actor,

first

Form

and importance

first

dramatic pres-

of oldest orchestra

37; Inner, tragic, orchestra, 42;

Origin of longitudinal axis of theater, 43; Vertical plane character of actor's appearance, 46; Perceptual plane in archaic sculpture in the round, 48.

IV.

The

Form

Basic

of Tragic Presentation

53

Kinetic pattern of epeisodion exclusive basis for the dramati-

V.

zation of plot

situations,

kinetic pattern,

55: Thfspis

The Character

Subsequent modifications of and Epiphany oj Dionysus, 56.

54;

of Attic Tragedy Before

Aeschylus

62

Increased concern with ethical problems, 62; Completion of traditional form pattern of tragedy before 500 B.C., 62; Sublimation of Dionysian ecstasy, 62; Dialogue gradually acquires equal rank with choral parts, 62; Phrynichus and his

VI.

development, 63.

Aeschylus and the Development of the Classic

Form

65

Introduction of the second actor widens range of action, 65; It makes vertical plane an essential integrant of theater, 65; Ideal vertical plane of inner contact, 66; Visible vertical plane



first

erection of

background

structures, 66;

Aesthetic sig-

nificance of ox)iv)'i, 69; Vertical plane of dialogue contrasts

with horizontal

plane of chorus,

69;

Stratified

perceptual

plane as an aesthetic characteristic of Greek sculptural form, 70; of architecture, 71; of unengaged statues in the round,

Wolfflin,

primitive

and

classic

72; Figure of

first

actor has primitive plane character, 76;

72;

according

planes

to

Structural premises of two-actor scene, 77; Sculptural reliefs as stratified planes,

from primitive

to

77;

Development

classic

of stratified scene plane by

stratified

means

of visible tragic scene

plane,

82;

Amplification

of decorative painting, 87;

CONTENTS

Xlll PAGE

CHAPTER

VI.

Aeschylus and the Development of the Classic

Form

(Cont.)

Parascenia and proscenium and their aesthetic significance, 90;

Uniform penetration

of all

its

strata

main

characteristic of

plane of scene, 98; Analogy to classic relief sculpture, 98; Eccyclema, loi; Aesthetic significance of eccyclema, 104. classic

VII.

Historical and Aesthetical Outlook on

the Future Development Capacity for illusion, 105; Difficulty for

105 modern man

to

com-

prehend completely form of Attic tragedy, 106; Continuity of dramatic action and function of chorus, 107; Development of dramatic action and function of chorus, 107; Development form, 108; Dionysian character of tragic experience, 108: Steadily decreasing importance of chorus, 109; Pseudo- Aristotelian unity of place and its origin, iii; In Attic tragedy, such unity of place, or time, non-existent as an aesthetic principle, 112; Perceptual stratified plane of scene constitutes an aesthetic unity of place, 112; Relativity of artistic effects, 113;

Longevity of mistaken notions held by Italian humanists, 114.

VIII.

The

Hellenistic Structure of the Dionysus

Theater

115

Necessary modification of methods applied, 115; Comparison of foundations of Hellenistic structure with those of

Lycurgus istic

era,

theater, 118;

Change

in aesthetic outlook of Hellen-

119; Loosening of plane precedes

its

dissolution.

120; Analogous observation in statuary of period, 121; Prob-

lem of elevated

stage, 122; Statements of

Vitruvius, 123;

elevated stage in Athens, 124; Hellenistic proscenium and

No its

part in conquest of spatial depth, 126; Hellenistic space concept illustrated: Altar of Zeus at Pergamoii, 127; In Hellenistic art there exist planes of departure for inirposc of establishing

depth relations of composition. 133; Functional analysis of structural elements of Hellenistic Dionysus theater, 136; Approximate idea of presentation character of proscenium

may be gained from certain murals at Boscoreale, 138: important statement of Vitruvius, 140; Hellenistic cpiscenium presumably served as theologium but not as elevated panels

An

stage for entire action. 141; Hellenistic Dionysus theater represents completion of

From .scenic

development

of Attic theater form,

141;

here, road starts toward .ictual penetration of depths of

background, 142.

CONTENTS

XIV CHAPTER

PAGE

The Roman Structure

IX.

of the Dionysus

Theater

144

Chronology of main

development of Dionysus theater, 144; Reconstruction of Roman Dionysus theater, 146; Projecting stage platform, together with wide openings of doors and windows, encouraged orientation in direction of depth dimension, 149; Roman structure no longer served serious drama, 149; During Italian Renaissance, Roman theater type became germ cell of European perspective stage, 150. steps of functional

PART The

II

Epeisodion as the Formative

Agent of

Attic Tragedy

Form Development

X.

Brief

summary

of the Epeisodion

of Chapter IV,

"The

Basic

Form

153

of Tragic

with which this chapter connects, 153; Introduction of a second actor did not at once deprive chorus

Presentation,"

of its function as dramatic opponent to protagonist, 155; Enforced formal restraint led to resourcefulness, 155; In addition to being a stranger opposing native group, individual

was presented dramatic

What

pattern, 157;

weak and impotent,

as being

156; Increased

through modifications of original kinetic

possibilities

is

called tragic in

modern

sense resulted

from such modification, 157; This particular concept of tragedy was achieved simultaneously with completion of classic scene plane, 159; At same time, tragic conflicts between individuals were discovered to be dramatically more fruitful than conflicts between individual and group, 159; This development of tragic form has many characteristics of organic growth, 161; In "*

XI.

spite of incessant individual interference, line

of development

shows unbroken continuity, 161; Similar forms are bound to develop on basis of similar premises, 161; Parallel development of Italian opera and Attic tragedy, 161.

The

Epeisodion

edies OF

Form

in

the Existing Trag-

Aeschylus

chronology of seven tragedies individual plays, 165;

164 in question,

(i) Suppliants,

164; Analysis of

165; Formal reasons

for static intensity of action, 165; Reversal of



prototype: foreign group action,

168;

Form and

normal scene

native individual, 166; Analysis of

function of successive epeisodia and

CONTENTS

XV

The Epeisodion Form in the Existing Trag-

XI.

Aeschylus (Cont.)

edies OF choral

i68; Messenger scene as epeisodion with sec-

parts,

ondary, nontragic, function, 170; Background structure constitutes primitive plane, 170; Dramatic time of play, 171; (2) Persians, 171; May be briefly characterized as musicodra-

matic narrative for chorus and

soli,

171; Epeisodia without

dramatic function, 171; Persians' place and function in the trilogy of

which

it

was

part, 172;

Form and

function of epei-

sodia in Persians, 173; Special technique of sustaining spec-

175; Effect hardly Dionysian in sublimest sense, 175; Aeschylus' efforts to purify that effect, 175; Primitive character of scenic plane, 176; (3) Prometheus Bound, 176; Reasons why Prometheus Bound, in spite of its doubtful autators' interest,

thenticity,

is

For analysis is

being discussed in this chronological order, 176; of

insignificant,

form 177;

of presentation, question of authenticity

Prologue

separate consideration, 177;

It

in

seems

dialogue

form requires

to be later addition, 177;

Prometheus probably not represented by dummy, 180; His assumed posture, 180; Form and function of epeisodia of Prometheus Bound, 181; Hermes scene is epeisodion with secondary, nontragic, function, 183;

trophe

is

What

appears to be catas-

not really a catastrophe, 184; Primitive character of

visible scene plane, 184; Time and p'ace conditions of Prometheus Bound, 184; (4) Seven Against Thebes, 185; Play was preceded in trilogy by Laius and Oedipus, 185; Presumable influence of Sophocles on form of prologue, 186; In Seven

Against Thebes

little is left

of outer characteristics of original

epeisodion pattern, 186; Analysis of action shows that original function of epeisodion has been preserved, tragic conflict

187;

Form

of

can easily be traced to kinetic pattern of epei-

sodion, 189; Presumable influence of Sophocles on visible scene form, 189; Use of parascenia must be postulated for this play, 190; Classic character of scene plane, 190; Time relations of play

show unique

congruity with

artistic

static tension

treatment, 191; It

is

in perfect

characterizing entire form of ex-

pression, 191; Perfect artistic presentation of a moment, 192; (5-7) Orestean Trilogy, 193; Tragic guilt of hero, 193; Influ-

ence of Sophocles on form of tragic eventful than in any other

known

193; Action more play of Aeschylus, 193;

conflict,

Dialogue takes place preferably between chorus and one actor, 193; These dialogues frequently are actors' monologues with chorus acting as reflecting agent, 194; Orestean Trilogy holds median position between older chorus-protagonist type of tragedy and later actors' tragedy, 194; Form and function of epeisodia varies within trilogy as well as in individual plays, 194; Solution of tragic conflict, 196; Pseudo-archaic character

CONTENTS

XVI CHAPTER

XI,

The Epeisodion Form in the Existing Tragedies OF

Aeschylus {Cont-)

of Eiimenides, 196; Presentation in Orestean Trilogy of dra-

matic time-space, 197; Visible scene possesses all characteristics of complete classic plane, 197; House front as background structure, 197; Pillared

panels,

198;

trilogy,

198.

proscenium with exchangeable painted 198; Time and place relations in

Eccyclcma,

Conclusion

201

Notes and Bibliography

205

Glossary

219

Index

231

Illustrations

PAGE

FIGURE 1.

Diagram

2.

Linear presentation of the central relation of the Parthe-

of the centripetal

non columns

to the

dynamics of the dithyramb

image of the goddess

32

3.

Origin of the principal axis of the tragic theater

4.

Cross section of the orchestra-terrace of the oldest theater of

5.

Form

28

39

Dionysus

43

of presentation of the earliest type of epeisodion:

chorus-protagonist

46

6.

Statue of Kleobis or Biton (Delphi)

49

7.

Apollo of Piombino

50

8.

Ideal plane of the two-actor scene

67

9.

Plan of the early Aeschylean theater

68

10.

Form

11.

Diagram

of presentation of early Aeschylean tragedy of multiple plane stratification in

Greek

69 archi-

tecture

71

12.

Diagram

of the stratified plane in a statue

73

13.

Diagram

of the primitive foreground plane

74

14.

Diagram

of the

median plane

of

reference in classic

statues

75

15.

Statuette of a tragic actor

76

16.

Pediment

78

17.

Low

relief

figures with plane of reference

with plane of reference xvu

79

ILLUSTRATIONS

XVUl FIGURE 1

8.

PAGE

Pediment

figures of the

Temple

Aphaia

of

19.

Death

20.

West pediment

21.

Section through a sculptural frieze

22.

Early

23.

Ground plan

at

Aegina

8i

of Aegisthus

82

of the

Temple

of Zeus at

and

Olympia

its

83

architectural

frame classic,

wooden of the

structure of the Dionysus theater

Lycurgean theater of Dionysus

84 88

at

Athens

91

24.

Lycurgean structure of the Dionysus theater

at

Athens

.

92

25.

Periacti

26.

Orpheus

27.

Eccyclema (a) rolling type, (b) revolving type

102

28.

The

n6

29.

Ground plan

97 Stele

99

Hellenistic theater of Dionysus of the Hellenistic structure of the

Dionysus

theater

117

30.

Standing Discus Thrower, Athlete Dropping Oil

122

31.

The

Altar of Zeus at

128

32.

The

Altar of Zeus at Pergamon, partial view

33.

Slabs from the Large Frieze of the

Pergamon

Pergamon Altar

129 130

34.

The Farnese

Bull

135

35.

Murals in the Villa of Boscoreale

139

36.

Ground plan

37.

The Neronian

of the

Neronian structure of the Dionysus

theater

146 structure of the Dionysus theater

147

Fundamentals nr^HE EFFECT

of any kind of art rests

upon indispensable prerequisites. Painting, sculpture, and architecture presuppose illuminated space which is more or less -*-

defined according to the character of the individual work.

Apart from their

style of execution, the

feature of the creations in these arts

is

most

essential

the material

which

the artist chooses for the definite and enduring expression of his ideas.^

Different conditions prevail in the arts that appeal to

Here the

the sense of hearing.

author's composition

must

be reproduced whenever an audience wishes to perceive the effect of

it;

the

means

of reproduction are recitation

for poetry,

and instrumental or vocal execution for works

of music.

For

their effectiveness, these arts likewise pre-

suppose bounded space as a container of sound-conducting air.

Their material

quences.

meaning

is

sound

in

time-conditioned

se-

Poetry, in addition, employs words and their as vehicles of

emotion and thought.

In their

choice of tempo, musicians and readers presuppose in their

audiences a time sense commensurate with their own.

Thus the time

pattern acquires the character of formative

material; or, in other words, the

cance that

it

tempo

cannot be changed without,

is

at

of such signifi-

the same time,

changing the innermost character of the work. In view of the fact that

little

disagreement seems to

FUNDAMENTALS

2 exist

concerning the aesthetic fundamentals of music and

poetry,

surprising to find that the aesthetics of dra-

is

it

matic art are not nearly as well

Although

clarified.

ethical relations constitute the principal concern of the

drama,

i

its

analysis of

students must not confine their efforts to the its

literary

forms and ethical content.

The

written words of the author, on the contrary, are to be

regarded as no more than an accessory to the production of the play.

plays

\

all

The

Only

the performance in the theater dis-

the possibilities of artistic expression.

dramatists of

all civilizations,

*

therefore, have con-

ceived and shaped their works with a view to a definite

form of theater which had grown out of the fundamental space concept of their race. tions

The

fact that other civiliza-

adopted such works and performed them in theaters

which

no way

reflected a different space concept, does in

impair the validity of our statement./ In

fact,

it

cannot

be sufficiently emphasized that any attempt to transfer a

drama which

to a theater of a different type it

than the one for

has been created, by necessity changes

its

entire

character.^

What

has been said about the time pattern in music

must be extended, it

combines the

dible arts.

in the

drama, to space and time, since

qualities of

dynamics, perceived by the unity in the drama. in

both the

If,

ear,

visible

by the

and the au-

eye,

and time

form a new

aesthetic

Spatial stasis, perceived

therefore,

it

has been said that

music the time pattern acquires the character of forma-

tive material, the

same can be

regard to space and time.

said for the

drama with

For not only do the audible

impressions follow one another in a certain tempo but

FUNDAMENTALS

3

under a rule

also the visual impressions in space appear

of time continuity,

and

differ therein

from the

painting, sculpture,

and

architecture.

This makes time

and space equally

them

matic action:

hand,

it is

able

in fact,

makes

Dramatic space

the time continuity of dra-

its existetice

The

time-space.

spectator,

on the other

time-space of his everyday reality to

lives in the

which he is

drama;

essential functions of each other.

presupposes for

he

significant for the

arts of

relates the time-space of the play.

and willing

to

submit to

illusion, the

The more more com-

pletely will he succeed in regarding this paradoxical

sit-

uation as artistically justified.

After what has been said, that theatrical space

The former tion of the

and in

is

it

need hardly be mentioned

not identical with dramatic space.

is

merely the occasional and topical realiza-

The

latter.

theatrical space has

relation

between dramatic space

an analogy,

in the art of painting,

the relation between the picture and the canvas on

which

it is

painted.

two

the fusion of

and that of

same

art.

basic time

'

*

Theatrical space

is,

to the spectator,

spheres of reality; that of

everyday

life,

Primarily both have sprung from the

and space concepts which

for the structural uniformity of

all

are responsible

cultural manifestations

of every race. In every kind of civilization, the pression, even in

its

nation gives to either spatial

primitive stage

of dramatic ex-

most primitive beginnings, owes

specific character to the preference

cession in time.

form

It is

stasis

which the or to

its

particular

dynamic

suc-

of importance to note that in the

which invariably precedes the completion

of cultural development, the thoughts and actions of a

FUNDAMENTALS

4

people are primarily governed by the dynamics of one-

dimensional progression in time

as well as in space.

We

consider a nation's cultural development completed as

soon

as there

is

which appears Its

evidence of a uniform structural pattern in every expression of that nation's life.

form character may be determined by the

exclusive

recognition of time continuity, or by the prevalence of

or by a valuation of both time and space.

stasis,

^

The

course which the dramatic art of a nation

is

des-

tined to follow can, as a rule, be traced in the forms of

The fundamental form

prehistory.

its

of any particular type

of theater originates, by necessity, simultaneously with the

advent of a dramatic form of expression, no matter primitive.

how

>.'

In a civilization such as that of the Greeks, where spatial ^

stasis

reigns supreme, quite naturally a clear-cut place of

action can be traced at a

ment than

in a civilization

much

earlier stage of develop-

whose nature

is

determined by

the sole valuation of time dynamics, such as

we

find

during the Gothic period of European cultural history. Medieval

man was

so

exclusively

concerned with the

progression in time and, consequently, with the succes-

them he gave little heed Thus it happens that theater

sion of events, that in presenting to considerations of place.

buildings of a clearly defined structural character are only

found

in

domains of culture which

at least in part,

are exclusively, or

founded on the principle of

spatial stasis.

In those, however, which are time-conditioned, such theater structures are nonexistent.

The same

holds true for dramatic space and time. Their

study in a space-conditioned domain of culture will nat-

FUNDAMENTALS urally have for

its

object time-space

J

which

finds a formal

expression in a dramatic action characterized by

and, in

its

structure.

The time

element, in spite of

its

indispensable

function as a dimension of time-space, carries thetic weight.

tioned

domain

space-time.

which ations.

ment is

of

is

stasis,

collateral in space, a clearly defined theatrical

Its

On

little

aes-

the other hand, within a time-condi-

of culture, the student

formal expression

is

is

concerned with

a dramatic action

characterized by the dynamics of successive situ-

Consequently, in

this

kind of drama

it is

the ele-

of space, as materialized in the place of action,

minor

aesthetic significance, although

its

which

dimensions

cannot be dispensed with for the definition of space-time.

PART

I

Origin and Form Development of the Tragic Locale

Outline of the Greek

'T^HE GREEK form -*-

of

life,

as

Character

evidenced in the non-

territorial unit of the city-state, in

in the

works of

especial

historians, poets in

clarity,

painting,

Greek

Euclidian geometry,

and dramatists, and, with

sculpture,

architecture,

and

characterized by lack of dynamics.. Space,

is

as such, has little significance;

it

is

the

empty

cavity be-

tween bounding planes. Their 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.

In analogy to this concept of space, their time consisted

Their sense of the past and

of intervals between events. the future, moreover,

mine

their

form

of

was not

forceful

enough

to deter-

life."

This, however, does not imply that the Greeks lacked a sense of the infinite.

Mondolfo,^ on the contrary, has

proved that an awareness of infinity can be traced even in early

Greek

that, before

and

points of the

poetry.

Moreover, he has demonstrated

after Socrates, the philosophers at various

Greek world were concerned with problems

such as infinite time, motion, number, boundless space,

and the

eternity of

God and 9

the individual soul.

OUTLINE OF THE GREEK CHARACTER

10

There 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 determining

form of

of the Greek

These problems may have

life.

been the concern of a small minority of creative thinkers

community which

v^'ithin a

of space in

and time and,

possessed a limited concept

therefore, an urge to express itself

bounded forms; and

it

is

possible that the antithetic

urge caused these philosophers to raise the problem of

On

infinity.

the other hand, the awareness of infinity

may have been

a

common

possession of

all,

and fear may

have impelled them to take refuge in the secure confines of

human measurements.

from

attitude

differs

that of the occidental nations in that the fear of

infinite space it,

The Greek

and time caused the Greek

from

to escape

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

drama

of Attica; and, moreover, they

may even

sidered the roots of the ethical principles

which

conduct of the dramatic characters in such

M^

According

be con-

direct the

conflict.

to the Attic concept of ethics, as represented

by Plato's writings,^ the ultimate goal of human the attainment of beatitude.

his self-determination, therefore,

aim

at that

assures

is

is

solely directed

The temporary

man's endeavor should

good, since only that which

such condition of

therefore, ^

which

life is

Within the boundaries of

felicity.

All true

toward that which

is

good

endeavor, is

satisfaction of impulsive desires,

good.'

on the

OUTLINE OF THE GREEK CHARACTER

II

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

with the attainment of beatitude by others.

How

man

is

conscious

It is better,

therefore,

achieve a state of felicity so long as he

of having

harmed

to suffer injustice

his fellow

man ?

than to do

to others.

it

can a

This, however,

does not imply that one should accept injustice without resisting

A

it.

moral code of

('Avdyxri)

human Attica.

this basic nature, in

Greek

that particularly

and Destiny pervades

life,

He who

is

connection with

which recognizes Necessity

piety

(Tijxti)

as the directing forces of

tragic creations of the land of

all

truly pious resigns himself with

mag-

nanimity to the inevitable decrees of Destiny; with dignified

composure he

suffers misfortune

even

if

it

befalls

him through no fault of his own. Whenever he finds himself in a dilemma between divine and human commandments he decides in favor of the Deity /^ot even the imminence of death will make him falter, as is shown in ;

Sophocles' Antigone. of

what

is

of acting,

right; to

In his

him

own

there

is

heart he finds a sense

but one possible

no matter how menacingly Necessity stands

against him.

Necessity

is

the supreme

Zeus, the guardian of law and order,

gods,

is

way

subject to her rule.

decrees, but

are

powerless

no

power and even less

than

all

other

The immortals know her against them. How much

so

is

Man

Thus,

it

appears almost as a matter of course that the

more

in the frailty of his mortal flesh!

action of Attic tragedy does not constitute a

succession of causally connected volitional acts of

dynamic its

hero,

/'

OUTLINE OF THE GREEK CHARACTER

12

in the course of

his character unfolds itself.

It

on the contrary, the catastrophal predicament

presents, in

which

which

a

morally conscious person finds himself because

of his destiny." 'Attic tragedy

characterized by a static

is

condition of suffering rather than by dynamic action.

^ The

tragic hero

flect his

is

shown

reactions to

in a series of situations

moral

conflicts

and not

which

re-

until Euripides

does he become a clearly defined character.^ /

There

is

a tendency, nevertheless, in

Sophocles and traces of

it

some works

of

even in some of Aeschylus,

toward granting the hero an opportunity to avoid the catastrophe by

^

means

of a volitional act.

of his ethics, however, bars this

way

tragic effect of his final downfall

is all

The

discipline

of escape,

and the

more

pathetic.

the

But it remained for Euripides to devise tragic conflicts which arose from, and found their solution in, a succession of volitional actions, Here we find character develi

opment based on

a

dynamic succession of

situations."

Euripides shows the force of Tyche in a state of disinte-

which amounts almost to irony, for contemporaries, has definitely abandoned the gration

he, like his belief in the

inevitable rule of Destiny and the absolute validity of

To him and

ethical standards.

in his character,

sponse

when he

which is

his age

man's destiny

lies

reveals itself in his volitional re-

confronted by the active manifesta-

tions of other characters.

Even Euripides'

gods,^ such as

Artemis and Aphrodite in Hippolytus, are merely personified it

human

may seem

impulses.

To

the

modern dramatic

critic

that their introduction into the prologues

the concluding parts of certain

and

plays has been prompted

by sophisticated routine rather than by dramatic

necessity.

OUTLINE OF THE GREEK CHARACTER In the following pages an attempt the inner causes to

owes

its

which the

specific

is

form

origin, and, furthermore, the laws

the development of this form.

made of

13

to reveal

Greek drama

which underlie

II

The Beginnings of Tragic Presentation Under

TN SPEAKING

of the

Pisistratus

Greek drama we have

-"-particularly Attic tragedy, that

that

was cultivated

sixth century B. C. istics

are

its

in Its

Athens

mind

in

unique dramatic form

after the first half of the

most striking external character-

presentation under an open sky, and the re-

peated alternation of lyrical parts rendered by a chorus and of dramatic parts performed 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 (561-528 B. integral part of his social

benefit of his people

was

and

C).

An

religious reforms for the

a comprehensive reorganization

of the cults of the gods in general and that of Dionysus in particular for

form.

which he found

"Pisistratus,"

says

a

new and more

Schmid,*

"not

spiritual

simply

trans-

ferred to the city the customary Dionysian cult of the Attic peasants and, in the process, added splendor to

its

—in which case he would have become the originator of comedy —but he introduced a new, foreign cult of the

xtoi-ioi

god from the Boeotian settlement Eleutherae. "His idea

may

have been that the 14

spirit of this

Eleuthe-

BEGINNINGS UNDER PISISTRATUS

I5

raean cult readily lent itself to the serious character

he desired

give to the festival;

to

To

Dionysus Melanaegis. to the age-old

was the

it

which

cult

of

beautify the ritual he added

dithyramb the 'drama'; the presentation of

an action, not by persons detached from the action such as a narrating poet or chorus, but

who were

primary and secondary,

by

very characters,

its

impersonated by play-

ers.

This dramatic action was not a requirement of the

ritual

but an original contribution

of the festival.

was no more

made by

coherence with the

Its

the organizer

ritual of the cult

hymns

rigid than that of the rhapsodic

or of any other 8ju8ei|ig with the ritual of their related festivals.

no more

With in

the ancient Dionysian rites

common

dithyramb of Arion, no more than that

from

taken

the

has perhaps

it

than the use of masks; with the

myths

ancient

of

its

were

plots

heroes.

.

.

.

The

process of introducing the mythological element into the lyrical poetry

been

has

analogy in the plastic

its

started, as far as the

Arion

(SSt,

II,

dithyramb

is

arts,

and had

concerned, by

This connection with the myths

407f.).

of ancient heroes automatically invested the dithyramb

From now on

with austere dignity.

and

perceive with their eyes tangible

mode

Panathenaean

by means of

what

heretofore,

had been offered

recitation;

of the ancient heroes.

most vivid and

ears in the

of presentation

festival,

the people were to

From

very name, TQaywSia.

tors

do not appear

the

namely, selections from the myths the very beginning, choral

singing was the property of tragedy," as its

at

to the ear alone

It

may

is

be mentioned that ac-

in singing parts until a

period of dramatic development.

indicated by

much

later

BEGINNINGS UNDER PISISTRATUS

l6

"The decisive step towards a clear differentiation of the drama was the addition of the actor who expressed himIt is possible self in lyrical forms and iambic meters. had taken an

that rhapsodic recitation

mimic expression (Aristotle, and had thereby provided drama, such

There

29!!.).

we

as

(A. B, Keith,

The is

Poetics

26,

;

a

1462,

drama of ancient India Drama, Oxford, 1924, pages

find in the

Sanscrit

another possibility that, beginning with

had taken

and

it is

a turn

probable that somewhere in the

land of Attica, most likely at Icaria, some time before tratus,

Pisis-

experiments with serious drama had been made,

and that

Pisistratus availed himself of their results."

Whatever may have been the motives of

when he

^"

Pisistratus

instituted the city Dionysia, tradition has con-

nected with their

name

7),

a prerequisite for the heroic

Arion, the presentation of choral lyrics in this direction

toward

early turn

(in 534 B. C.) the

initial celebration

Themon,

of Thespis, son of

of Icaria in Attica,

where Dionysus had been worshiped throughout the ages

and

is

even remembered in the modern

The name

Dionyso."

which

flashes for just a brief

uncertainty.

was the

The

first

Pisistratus,

in

of Thespis

it is

of the place,

moment

in the night of

tradition of the ancients has

to present

it

said, invited

him

to organize the cult plays

honor of the Eleutheraean Dionysus and thereby

must have enjoyed

at that

that he

an actor opposite the chorus.

foundations for the tragic drama."

as

name

like a little spark

is

laid the

Thespis, therefore,

time an established reputation

an actor, a dramatist, or both.

As

is

not unlikely with

BEGINNINGS UNDER PISISTRATUS 3.

native of Icaria he

Dionysian plays. be,

may

rest

even have been connected with

Whatever the truth

we know nothing

of the matter

definite about his Hfe

acter of his presentations.

IJ

At

and the char-

best our information

on circumstantial evidence.

may must

Ill

Origin of the Theater

TN THE -*-till

following chapters,

the patient

it

is

tools of philology, literary criticism,

define

to

the

not our intention to

once more with the conventional

soil

rather to apply the

Form

methods of

and archaeology; but

art criticism

and

aesthetics

fundamental time-space pattern of the

Dionysian cult play in Attica; and, subsequently, to demonstrate

how

drama and its from it through

the tragic

their characteristics

theater have derived a natural process of

development. In the fine

arts,

form

analysis considers

the realm of the visible. to analyze dramatic

and

with visual data such less

the dramatic

theatrical

and

try to reconstruct before his

from

all

forms does not deal un-

to his physical eye

this naturally

only in contemporary drama.

a play

outside

as are supplied to the art critic

works are presented

in their original style,

no data

However, anyone who attempts

can be achieved

In any other case he must

mind's eye the ensemble of

available sources.

If

he succeeds in gain-

ing a sufficiently clear view of such an ensemble he will

be able to discover

its

degree of certainty as

formative principle with the same if

his observations

were based on

the physically visible creations of architecture, sculpture, or painting. |8

— ORIGIN OF THE THEATER At

much

By

it

is

not meant

The

conditions a dramatic entity.

analysis of occidental

drama

reveals that depth, the third

dimension of physical space, kind of drama.

this

concerns the astronomer, but rather

it

aesthetic space as

In the following

arise.

will be said about space.

physical space as

I9

author wishes to forestall a misun-

this point, the

derstanding that might easily

pages

FORM

is

most

essential for that

For Greek drama physical space

drama and

not

is

essential.

In the Greek

mount

an unmeasurable, undeterminable something,

to

theater, space

enclosed by only two confining planes; cavity,

xevov,

upon the

The

whose minute

fact that

it

aesthetic

significance

from

its

is

facilitated

it

never

basic characteristic, which, in the last analysis, sible for the erection of the

No matter obliterated

of

them

are

to

by

beginnings the place of action has

been definitely fixed in space and that

whose ruins

rests

contains air and conducts sound.

study of the entity of Attic tragedy

the fact that

tanta-

an empty

is

it

is

is

lost this

respon-

permanent theater buildings

found in every part of the Greek world.^^

what extent

their original outlines

by Hellenistic and even

possess a

Roman

have been

additions,

all

uniform structural nucleus: a circular

orchestra, the dancing place of the chorus.

word chorus, fOQoc,^ discloses the very principle on which Greek form is based. RetrogresThe latest sively, we mark the following semantic steps: meaning is dramatic chorus, that is, a group of choreutae, and simultaneous to it chorus means choral part of the

The

history of the



play (as opposed to dialogue parts).

This

is

choral dancing and singing, dance meaning,

preceded by first,

group

dance; then dancing place, and finally enclosed place.

ORIGIN OF THE THEATER FORM

20

The

original

meaning

of

its

basic stem, x^Q-, seems to have

been enclosing, embracing, confining (also in Greek xeiq a hand); with /-augmentation

it

appears in *l^Q-^-^'i\

Latin hor-t-us, a garden; Gothic gar-d-s, a house (Ger-

manic *gar-d-az). (See Curtius, Griechische Etymologic, page

199.)

It is

eral,

significant for the history of

and for

tiated

in gen-

that of the dramatic entity in particular, that

Homeric

as early as

Greek form

appears in the differen-

epics, xoQog

meanings, dancing place and dance (Homer,

Iliad,

XVIII, 590; Odyssey, VIII, 260, 264; XII, 4; XII, 318). oldest meaning, enclosed place, is hypothetical and un-

The

supported by literature. the inference can be

From Homer's

drawn

use of the

word

that the early lonians con-

sidered a confined dancing place a prerequisite for group

dancing; that, in other words, there existed already in

Homeric times

that

fundamental propensity toward the

clearly defined locale that in the course of time

become the

At no

was

Greek culture and

essential feature of

art.

time, however, have the lonians regarded group

dancing in

a confined area as a matter of sufficient

portance to

make

expression, for

ments

to

it

it

is

of their highest artistic

the

their greatest achieve-

in the field of individual lyrics."

lie

XoQog^ both as a

achieved

medium known that

im-

its

essential significance

Peloponnesus. orate forms of

practiced

on

word and

it

To them

a

ritual,

seems to have

with the Dorians of the

the measured floor

and the

elab-

group dancing and singing which they

became the concrete symbols At the time

of their reli-

gious and

artistic

art of the

Peloponnesus had reached the zenith of

longings.

that this choral its

ex-

ORIGIN OF THE THEATER FORM pressiveness actors'

it

was mated, on the

dialogue.

This

product of the Ionian

shows a marked

and

since

its

latter

soil

21

of Attica, with the

readily identified as a

is

mode

spirit since its

of presentation

Ionian epic poetry;

affinity to that of

execution, also true to Ionian style, was

to individual performers.

During the process

left

of amalga-

mation, the lyrical chorus of the Dorians was transformed

As an

into a dramatic chorus.

new

integral part of a

Attic tragedy, the dramatic chorus under-

artistic unity,

went, in the course of time, most remarkable modifications of both It

its

form and

its

functions.

cannot be sufficiently emphasized that without that

age-old propensity toward the art of the

bounded

locale the choral

And we

Dorians could never have originated.

shall readily see that Attic tragedy

and

its

theater

would

never have attained their specific form without the previous existence of the measured dancing floor, to the circular orchestra

There

is

which

merely incidental.

are other indications that the Dorians possessed

an indigenous inclination toward the bounded their attitude

vails a centripetal

tendency, that

from the menacing expanse confines of

locale.

In

toward the world and the Deity, there pre-

human

is

they

fled, as

it

were,

of the universe into the safe

measurements.

The

terrible

and mys-

terious gods were conjured by means of their images and

the

spot

where

their

blessings

were needed.

tied

to

The

idol, the center of an enclosed place (xooo;), was

appeased by the magic of the imitative group dances and the chants of

its

worshipers.

lyricized versions of the ancient

In the course of time,

myths of

heroes replaced the primitive magic

local

gods and

cult, in part

or en-

E

,

N

!•

»

O5 H

E

H^B^^^H

E »

1

c/



» • *

0000

[

\ I

1 Fig. 29.

Ground plan of the Hellenistic structure of the Dionysus

{According to Dorpfeld, DRGTh, plale IV.) (Compare page In studying the above ground plan, the reader is referred to Figure 23

Theater. ii8

and

f.)

to the

explanation of Figure 28.

did the Athenians proceed so radically as was done in other parts of the Greek and Hellenistic world where the pride of local wealthy merchants or the

whim

of a squan-

dering Diadochus or proconsul, unhampered by tradition,

caused the erection of brand-new theaters equipped

with every contemporary improvement.

This refined

THE HELLENISTIC STRUCTURE

Il8

hesitation of the Athenians in the introduction of

new-

fangled forms was probably conditioned both by eco-

nomic and sentimental ever

Certainly, what-

considerations.

form changes the Dionysus

theater

underwent must

have been brought about by a functional necessity.

sumably nothing was destroyed which could be retained, and what actually was changed regarded as an

A

Pre-

just as well

may

be safely

requirement.

artistic

comparison of the Hellenistic foundations of the

Dionysus theater (Figure 29) with those of the Lycurgean structure (Figure 23)'^ discloses that the front of the scene

building with

its

three door openings apparently

not affected by the remodeling. ever,

at

In front of

distance of approximately six

a

was placed that

feet, a parallel stone sill

as a stylobate for a

row

is

it,

was

how-

and one-half

easily identified

of twelve Doric columns.

Their

intercolumniations are of equal width excepting two, each of

which corresponds

in the side

to a

door in the scene wall, the one

middle being twice

one and one-half times

as as

wide, the one to the right

wide

as the

normal

inter-

columniation.

This row of columns formed a proscenium whose height, according to fragments of the entablature,

was about thirteen

columns and

their

feet, that is to say, exactly

the same as that of the Lycurgean parascenia (Figures 24

and

28).

Further,

it

was found that the front

the parascenia had receded

from

that of the

line of

Lycurgean

parascenia to almost the exact extent (six and one-quarter feet) of the distance

scene wall.

between the proscenium and the

In other words, the

two

vertical structural

THE HELLENISTIC STRUCTURE

II9

planes have approached, at an almost equal rate, an ideal

median plane halfway between them.

The

aesthetic significance of this innovation for the

perceptual form of the scene will be discussed

regard to theatrical technique, however,

must be noted, though,

f.

and Figure 24).

It

that the location of the proscenium

in the Hellenistic theater, as part of the structure, points

in the

temporary structures

in the

of the fifth century B. C. (page 90

With

later.

was of no im-

wooden proscenium

portance since there existed a

Lycurgean theater and even

it

to the gradually

permanent stone

acquired practice of

erecting the decorative wall of the proscenium at precisely that distance

from the scene

ically Hellenistic shape,

wall.

Moreover,

its

specif-

namely, that of a row of columns

with widened door intercolumniations, indicates that the house front had definitely become the conventional place of action (pages 93 and iii).

imply that

it

was impossible

This, however, does not

change the

to

scenes.

On

the contrary, the study of the Hellenistic proscenium discloses that

an increased demand for variety in the decora-

tion of the scene

may have been

able degree for the particular

Furthermore,

it

may

responsible to a consider-

form

be regarded

of this proscenium.

as certain that the dec-

orative picture of the scene unmistakably reflected the

space concept of the Hellenistic era. Prior to the analysis of the Hellenistic scene picture, a

few phenomena must be discussed which to the clarification of the Hellenistic

When

in

will contribute

form problem.

406 B. C, Attic tragedy died with Sophocles

and Euripides, the

stratified

plane form of the theatrical

THE HELLENISTIC STRUCTURE

I20

What

scene was also doomed.

immediately followed

may

be best characterized as a loosening of the plane, since

complete dissolution, naturally, did not ensue

its

at once.

It

has been previously mentioned that in the works of Euripides

the

chorus

well-nigh

is

smothered under the

weight of the dramatic happenings (page 109).

mer

aesthetic equilibrium

The

for-

between the horizontal plane of

the orchestra and the stratified vertical plane of the scene

had been

definitely

abandoned

fact that the orchestra of the

served

its

circular shape

The

in favor of the latter.

Dionysus theater had pre-

unimpaired until the days of the

Emperor Nero, was due

to conditions that

had no con-

nection whatsoever with tragic presentations.

Since about

400 B.

C,

the Greek theater, not excepting the Athenian

one, served

Comedy

almost exclusively.

There are

in-

dications that even in Aristophanes' plays the scenic per-

formance was not

as clearly divided

chorus as was the case in tragedy.

from

that of the

Flickinger, supported

by Capps and White,'' proves that the actors quite unconcernedly

mount

moved

all

This

over the orchestra.

is

tanta-

to the appearance, in dramatic presentation, of a

novel type of dynamics which

movements

is

no longer

restricted to

parallel to a vertical plane (like those of the

tragic dialogue scene), but could freely include advances

into the horizontal plane of the orchestra. tain to

of is

what extent Menander and other

New Comedy

It is

uncer-

representatives

availed themselves of this liberty, but

more than probable

it

that they did so to an even greater

extent, since their traditional connection

with the

statu-

esque style of tragic presentation was distinctly looser than that of

Old Comedy,

THE HELLENISTIC STRUCTURE The importance of the perceptual

phenomenon

of this

form of the scene

121

for the aesthetics

rests

upon the

fact

that the third dimension, that of space proper, gradually

moved

into the reach of aesthetic possibility

some time

before the stratified plane definitely surrendered to the Hellenistic proscenium

and the form principle which

it

Although a recession into the depth of the means of breaking up the background plane

represented.

scene by

did not yet take place, the premises for

it

presented them-

selves gradually.

About 400

B.

C,

the loosening of the plane becomes

noticeable in statues in the round, that possess

char-

all

plane but, in addition, an element

acteristics of the classic

of motion w^hich extends the plane in the direction of

This

the third spatial dimension.

may

be well illustrated

by the Standing Discus Thrower and the Athlete Dropping Oil (Figure 30).

In both instances, an advance

made from

a plane into space.

toward the

rear,

is

A

not carried any farther than

is

nec-

essary for the establishment of aesthetic balance, since is

is

movement,

reciprocal

it

not yet a question of dissolving, but merely of loosen-

ing the plane.

Owing

to this gradual conquest of spatial

depth in

all

fields of art of the late-classic era, the Hellenistic penetra-

tion of the plane,

when

it

was

at last

accomplished, could

not have given the effect of an aesthetic catastrophe, but rather of a necessary event pated.

How

it

may have

which had long been presented

itself in

of the theater will be discussed after presenting a of theatrical technique

which

is

antici-

the realm

problem

of the highest importance

in the functional interpretation of the visible scene

form

THE HELLENISTIC STRUCTURE

122

of the Hellenistic theater:

tion

it

the widely discussed ques-

is

whether or not the Hellenistic theater possessed an

elevated stage.

It

seems that

it

cannot be answered uni-

Standing Discus Thrower. BY Alcamenes ( .') (Rome, Vatican.) (Munich, Glyptothek). (Compare page 121.) A loosening of the sculptural plane appears in Greek art about 400 B. C. The two statues above serve to illustrate this. Although both possess all characFiG. 30.

Athlete Dropping Oil

teristics

tion

of classic sculptural presentation they also contain an element of

which extends the plane

formly for in

all

effect in the direction of a third spatial

parts of the Hellenistic world.

southern Italy and

Sicily,

a

mo-

dimension.

Probably,

moderately high stage

platform was adopted from the local form of primitive theater

which served the presentation

of popular farces;

a theater of a non-Hellenic basic type.

trace of such a platform

In Athens, no

was found whereas

in

other

Hellenistic theaters outside Italy their existence could not

THE HELLENISTIC STRUCTURE be definitely ascertained.'^

In the Dionysus theater, a

stage platform appears in the

no longer It

12}

Neronian structure that

is

Hellenistic.

should be remembered that Bethe

from the

"*

infers,

solely

importance of the chorus,

steadily decreasing

that even the theater of classic tragedy possessed an ele-

The

vated stage.

archaeological results

and Reisch compiled

which Dorpfeld

work

in the final chapters of their

on the Dionysus theater " prove conclusively that

in the

Lycurgean structure (and, consequently, in the temporary an elevated

theaters preceding it) there has never existed stage;

and they further prove

it

to be unlikely that, in

the Hellenistic structure, the actors performed in the nar-

row

area on top of the proscenium, almost thirteen feet

above the orchestra

scription of ViTRuvius.^^

question of

has been read into the de-

level, as

In his passages

naming corresponding

it

is

merely a

structural parts

and

in this the architect, Vitruvius, has proceeded in perfect

consistency with his purpose. the Hellenistic and the

Roman

In both types of theaters, one, a person

who moved

along the principal axis of the theater, through the

or-

chestra to the scene, traversed a longer path in the Hellenistic

theater than in the

Roman

one, before he reached

the elevated platform, the pulpitum. orchestra

was

In the former, the

a full circle while, in the latter, the elevated

stage projected part

way

into the orchestra, thus over-

lapping a considerable segment of the former

circle.

Vitruvius says no more than that the Greek term for

pulpitum

is

XoyeTovi but

makes no statement whatever

about their identity of theatrical function. the scaena

of

the

Roman

theater

Functionally,

coincides

with the

THE HELLENISTIC STRUCTURE

124 pulpitum theater

is

(^oyeiov), but

makes no statement whatever

not identical with the area on top of the pro-

scenium; an area which, in Athens, was about thirteen feet

above the orchestra and only about nine feet deep.

This does not that "with

appear

m

conflict

them

with Vitruvius' further statement

[the Greeks] the tragic

and comic

actors

scaena, whereas the other artists perform per

orchestram."

Note

in

scaena but per orchestram!

In

denotes "presence at a place," but per indicates "expansion over an area."

performed

at

throughout the

This

is

the decisive point: the actors

the same place fifth

the scene building.

century B.

where they had acted

C,

This statement

that

is

logically concluded

by the passage: "Therefore, in Greek, there fundamentally different terms

to say, near

is

'scenic'

and

exist the

two

'thymelic' art-

ists." It is

certainly incorrect to identify these latter,

who

per-

form "throughout the orchestra," with the chorus of tragedy or comedy, because at the time of Vitruvius, and even long before, a great number of thymelic presentations took place in the theater; presentations rhetorical, rhapsodic,

character.

In other words, they were things that had

nothing whatsoever to do with the drama.

may

which were

dithyrambic or purely musical in

Possibly,

it

be assumed that the choral remnants that survived

in the

contemporary drama, are to be expressly exempted

from being

styled thymelic.

How

the

synonymy

of thy-

melic and orchestric could originate becomes apparent

from the following instance from Pollux: " "The scene is

the realm of the actors, the orchestra that of the chorus.

THE HELLENISTIC STRUCTURE In the latter there

is

found the

6ii[.i8?iri,

12$

which

is

either

a kind of step or an altar."

Neither Vitruvius,

who

wrote

beginning of the

at the

Christian era, nor Iulius Pollux, a contemporary of the

Emperor Commodus,

are likely ever to have witnessed a

fine type of dramatic presentation let alone that of a

Greek tragedy (or comedy) discussed in these pages.

of approximately the kind

Nevertheless,

antiquarian tradition

still

no awareness of

Beyond the

existed.

remarkable

records the orchestra and the

scene as separate domains, although certain that

is

it

middle of the second century A. D.

that as late as the

a

it

may

be regarded as

developmental continuity

descriptions of theatrical structures,

such as furnished by Vitruvius, their writings possess little

value.

One

fact has

been repeatedly mentioned:

that, in con-

sequence of the diminished importance of the chorus, the

dramatic dialogue attained such predominance that structural changes

sole

all

improvement

Since in the Dionysus and other Hellen-

of the scene. istic

were planned for the

theaters with similar pillared proscenia, the actors

must have performed than on

its

top,

finds in the scene

in jrofit of the

proscenium rather

the analysis of the Hellenistic entity

background the very same

structural

elements that had formed that background during the classic period.

The

modifications which their form and

function underwent will be presently discussed. It

has been previously stated (page ii8) that in the

Hellenistic Dionysus theater the front line of the para-

scenia

had receded from that of the Lycurgean parascenia

THE HELLENISTIC STRUCTURE

126

to almost the

same extent

as the distance

between the

proscenium and the scene wall, whose front was appar-

changed

ently not

An

of remodeling.

in the process

might lead

inspection of the foundations alone

to the

rash conclusion that the mutual approach of the vertical structural planes

might have aimed

of the sculptural

at a

decrease in depth

scene plane as compared to

rich

its

Evidence will forth-

stratification in the classic period.

with be presented to show that exactly the opposite was intended. In

intercolumniations, the proscenium of the Hel-

its

lenistic

panels

Dionysus theater contained exchangeable painted (:n;ivaxeg)

scenium of the

of the kind discussed apropos the proclassic

(page 93).

era

In Athens, the

proscenium columns show no trace of abutments for the panels to lean against," such as were found in other

Not

Hellenistic theaters.^^

preserved.

It is,

a single such panel has been

therefore, just as impossible to attain a

mode

concrete impression of their is

for those of the classic period.

may

of presentation as

it

however,

it

Indirectly,

be inferred that they expressed the same idea of form pervades

that

every

other

branch

of

Hellenistic

Architecture, sculpture in the round or in the the

few remaining fragments

make

it

of

apparent that the days of the

were definitely over and

that,

art and,

This use of space occidental concept,

with is

it,

its

and

painting

stratified

plane

henceforth, in place of

the corporeal surfaces, the body, as such, has

problem of

relief,

Hellenistic

art.

become the

interior space.

fundamentally different from the

which found

in the great Gothic cathedrals

its

sublime expression

where dusky vaultings and

THE HELLENISTIC STRUCTURE softly colored expanses of

enormous

dows mark vague boundaries contrary, Hellenistic space

has

grown out

stained-glass win-

On

against infinity.

always reveals that

It

of the plane and, moreover,

loses contact with that plane.

put

from within,

dental peoples look out the peoples of the

To

Hellenistic

the

a clearly defined,

possesses

measurable dimension of depth. it

llj

it

as

briefly,

never

it

the occi-

were, whereas

it

world looked in from

without.

An

illustration

concept of space. at

Hellenistic

Figure 31 shows the Altar of Zeus

a Hellenistic building of the second cen-

?ergamon,

tury B. C.

help to clarify the

will

Its

structural mass,

viewed in

its

totality, is

a hollow cubic body of a width and depth greater than its height. A broad flight of steps rises from its lower

frontal

edge toward an oblong horizontal plane that

once bore the altar proper.

The

rear

and

walls

side

constitute in themselves a structural unity consisting of a

lower basement whose wings encase the steps on either side,

and an upper colonnade with a

unbroken continuity, height on

The

all

this

four sides

flat

colonnade

temple roof.

rises to a

In

uniform

and on the wings of the basement.

character of the composition compels the visitor to

approach the building from the front.

In doing

so, his

eye no longer meets stratified planes such as the buildings of the classic era present without exception (Figure 32).

On

the contrary, the ascent of the steps takes

agonally into the interior space of a sides of the

basement that flank the

significance as

crowned,

all

vertical

along

its

him diThe

hollow body.

steps

have no aesthetic

planes because the basement

is

upper edge, by a cornice projecting

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