function of masks in greek theatre

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I think it's enough for someone to attend a modern performance of a play in the ancient theater of Epidaurus to feel the perfection of the acoustics in an ancient theater. The garments included: The chiton worn by the actors differed from that worn in everyday life because it incorporated sleeves, which were coloured and patterned. Picture 2 portrays a woman's mask. } The mask and cloth are manipulated violently, as if the animal were in pursuit, to the taps of a small drum. Indeed, the dramas were performed in honour of Dionysus, the God of Ecstasy, which means “standing outside oneself”[2]. We cannot be sure about that, because we do not have a clear evidence from the pottery. Unique masks were also created for specific characters and events in a play, such as The Furies in Aeschylus’ Eumenides and Pentheus and Cadmus in Euripides’ The Bacchae. On Java and Bali, wooden masks ( tupeng) are used in certain theatrical performances called wayang wong. Ancient Greek actors wore masks to represent the various characters they played, to help them project their voices and to help people sitting in seats far from the stage have some sense of character expression. Thespis was the first writer, who used a mask. and 17 female masks (fat and thin old women, two matrons, one virgin, a bawd, a mistress, three courtesans, a lady’s maid, etc.). The mask-makers were called skeuopoios or “maker of the properties,” thus suggesting that their role encompassed multiple duties and tasks. Greek theatre masks were made of stiffened and painted linen so none have survived to the present day. Some authors believe that the mouth was shaped like a “mouth-trumpet” and had an amplifying effect. use your mind to think why .., also to understand how difficult it was for the sculpt. The actors were seen as silhouettes, or integral bodies, rather than faces. The masks were important in Greek theater to aid in disguising actors' genders because men played all roles, including those of women, who were not allowed to perform on stage. Ancient Greek drama was a theatrical culture that flourished in ancient Greece from 600 BC. This site uses cookies to store The actors were all men. Much later, Athenian actors used now famous happy masks of Comedy and sad masks of Tragedy to celebrate gods (especially during a festival called Dionysia, which honored the Greek god Dionysus, god of fertility, harvest, wine-making, religious ecstasy, myth, … Thespis was the first of the Greek drama writers to utilize a mask. The Greeks are said to have overcome this in various ways. Vervain and Wiles posit that this small size discourages the idea that the mask functioned as a megaphone, as originally presented in the 1960s. The Greek term for mask is persona and was a significant element in the worship of Dionysus at Athens, likely used in ceremonial rites and celebrations. This leads to … I do not quite agree with that point of view. As people change physically, especially at adolescence, old age, and death, masking rituals are performed to mark the transition and make it safe. With its exaggerated, grotesque features, this terracotta model shows the mask worn b… The wide variety of masks used is attested by Pollux, a rhetorician writing in 2nd Century CE, in hisOnomastikon. The chiton was made of linen or silk and it was worn long. 455 B.C. The use of masks in ancient Greek theater draw their origin from the ancient Dionysian cult. Their bodies were padded so that they did not look too slim. There are little information on theatrical costumes. Human or animal hair was also used. In order to play female roles, since the actors were always men, they were wearing a “prosterneda” (in front of the chest, to imitate female breasts) and “progastreda” in front of the belly. Overview of Greek origins of Drama and Oedipus Slideshare uses cookies to improve functionality and performance, and to provide you with relevant advertising. Actors wore masks so that the audience may see the facial expression clearly, allow them to tell the characters apart and make the theme of the story (comedy or tragedy) clearly obvious to the spectators. In the later years (2nd century BC), it is sure that these shoes with high heels (“kothornoi”) have been introduced. Oedipus after blinding himself. Therefore, performance in ancient Greece did not distinguish the masked actor from the theatrical character. In masks worn for socially significant rituals, the change in identity of the wearer for that of the mask is vital, for if the spirit represented does not reside in the image of the mask, the ritual petitions, supplications, and offerings made to it would be ineffectual and meaningless. ( Log Out /  The hemateon was an exterior cloth, worn over the shoulders. Most of the evidence comes from only a few vase paintings of the 5th century BC, such as one showing a mask of the god suspended from a tree with decorated robe hanging below it and dancing and the Pronomos vas, which depicts actors preparing for a Satyr play. An interesting idea (Wiles 1991) is that the mask could give to the character some sort of universality, creating an average figure, so that the audience would judge him on his actions and not his appearance. Theater became significant to general Greek culture when it became an … 525-ca. The viewing area of a Greek theater is called the theatron, hence our word "theater" (theatre). In a large open-air theatre, like the Theatre of Dionysus in Athens, the classical masks were able to bring the characters’ face closer to the audience, especially since they had intensely over-exaggerated facial features and expressions. Little is known about the origins of Greek tragedy before Aeschylus (ca. /* see gallery_shortcode() in wp-includes/media.php */. width: 33%; Certainly that was a result of the use of the mask but I am not quite convinced that it was one of the purposes of its use. Nevertheless, the mask is known to have been used since the time of Aeschylus and considered to be one of the iconic conventions of classical Greek theatre. In the early productions actors have been using body painting. The costumes worn gave the audience an immediate sense of character-type, gender, age, social status and class. We recommend that you update your browser to the latest version. The costume was probably an elaborately-decorated version of everyday clothing worn in the 5th Century BCE. Hence, hereit will be examined and ( Log Out /  Illustrations of theatrical masks from 5th century display helmet-like mask, covering the entire face and head, with holes for the eyes and a small aperture for the mouth, as well as an integrated wig. The people up high on the hill could hear the words spoken far below. They also found that the mask could impede the projection of sound. Change ), You are commenting using your Google account. The city-state of Athens, which became a significant cultural, political, and military power during this period, was its centre, where the theatre was institutionalised as part of a festival called the Dionysia, which honoured the god Dionysus. Experiments have shown that unaccustomed actors suffer disorientation and restriction when masked. lowering the masks shows reflection, raising the mask shows a challenge or superiority. Some have linked the rise of the genre to an earlier art form, the lyrical performance of epic poetry. Little by little they started using animal skins, ears, even feathers (see Aristophanes’ Birds). These masks are said to have a dual meaning― the drunken joy that wine brings, as well as a sense o… When playing female roles, the male actors donned a ‘ prosterneda’ which is a wooden structure infront of the chest to imitate breasts. This had a religious purpose, for the actor was supposed to give up his identity in order to let another speak and act through him. Some people claim that the masks had one more significance : they added resonance to the voice of an actor so that everyone in the huge ancient theater could hear him (Baldry 1971). Besides a design to allow crowds to see the performers, Greek theaters excelled in acoustics. There are different reasons why people use masks. Actors therefore had to renounce their individuality. The theatre of Ancient Greece, or ancient Greek drama, is a theatrical culture that flourished in ancient Greece between 550 BC and 220 BC. When the poets introduced real costumes, they imitated the contemporary dressing : the “chiton” and the “hemateon”. [8] These explorations conclude that masks may lead to a more demonstrative style of acting, with declamatory delivery of the lines substituted for intimacy. Peter Arnott states that the Greeks thought good acting and a good voice were synonymous. ( Log Out /  The actors thought that the mask itself contained the character and are said to have prayed before putting on their masks. Masks also evolved into theater as, for example, in ancient Greece or the Noh drama of Japan. Usually the masks were made of linen, wood, or leather. Change ), You are commenting using your Facebook account. Picture 1 portrays a sort of mask suitable for the chorus. It is also thought that the “teetering gait” is a misapprehension.[7]. Death – the son of Night in Greek mythology – wears a black peplos and terrifying black wings. The actors had the same “status” as the chorus. ancient greek theatre masks . ( Log Out /  Tragic masks carried mournful or pained expressions, while comic masks were smiling or leering. It was usually made of wool. float: left; For theatrical use the clothes have been more decorated than usually. Silent masks were used to great effect, particularly on child actors, expressing powerlessness, bewilderment, vulnerability, etc. In modernity, the role of the stock messenger has evolved into a simple jump cut. The masks themselves were made of stiffened linen, thin clay, cork or wood, and covered the whole head and had hair. Due to the visual restrictions imposed by these masks, it was imperative that the actors hear in order to orientate and balance themselves. [4] In the play, life is evoked as the act of seeing the sun. ), the most innovative of the Greek dramatists. actors(man only )used to wear masks …. Costumes have been a very important factor of the production, because they could determine the characters by gender or social status. margin: auto; Brockett, however, disputes this, arguing that the evidence we have is based on archaeological remains, some few references in the texts, and the writings of later authors. The members of the chorus wore masks, usually similar to each other but completely different from the leading actors. The eyes were fully drawn but in the place of the pupil of the eye was a small hole so that the actor could see. In the 3rd Century BCE, the actors were raised to the status of heroes and “platform” soles began to be used, together with a head-dress called an onkos. [1] This is said to have consisted of a full-length or short tunic, a cloak and soft leather boots, and may have been derived from the robes of Dionysian priests or invented by Aeschylus. Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Long white sleeves were worn by the (male) actors for female roles, and indeed, in vase paintings females are usually painted with lighter skin. } This demonstrates the way in which the mask was to ‘melt’ into the face and allow the actor to vanish into the role. The use of masks enabled actors in ancient Greek plays to portray different roles without confusing the audience. There are many practical uses for masks in everyday life. This leads to increased energy and presence, allowing for the more complete metamorphosis of the actor into his character. Others suggest a strong link with the rituals performed in the worship of Dionysos such as the sacrifice of goats - a song ritual called trag-ōdia - and the wearing of masks. Your browser version is outdated. "Masks were always used by the actors of the ancient Greek theatrical plays. Masks served several important purposes in Ancient Greek theater: their exaggerated expressions helped define the characters the actors were playing; they allowed actors to play more than one role (or gender); they helped audience members in the distant seats see and, by projecting sound somewhat like a small megaphone, even hear the characters better. Their variations help the audience to distinguish sex, age, and social status, in addition to revealing a change in a particular character’s appearance, ie. [9] Certainly, the use of a mask covering the whole produces an enhanced resonating effect, which serves dramatic delivery. The costumes worn for the performances of Alcestis, for example, were iconographic, and symbolised the opposition of light and dark. This is due to the perishable materials they have been made of. Facial expression was lost anyway due to the huge size of the Greek theatres, but the masks were also a means of blotting out expression, so visual meaning was expressed by the entire body. Their theatrical function indicates an integral connection between the performers, the plot and the acoustics of the open-air ancient theatres which has not been Another important part of Greek plays is the messenger. Change ). text-align: center; In modern theater tradition, the masks represent two of the nine muses (Mousai), Greek goddesses who inspired mankind in efforts such as music, poetry and dance. structed theatre masks.Although this early study provid-ed acoustic measurements for such masks [7], it is still not fully understood how such acoustic properties of the masks were combined with the acoustic response of the theatre and how they affected the overall aural experience of the ancient drama. Still we have some information drawn from depictions on ancient pottery (see some pictures below). If you continue browsing the site, you agree to the use of cookies on this website. Performances therefore had to be more physical. An example is the use of masks in operating theatres, andby wood-workers. Greek theater is still one of the most important and long-lasting theatrical influences in the world, dating from around 700 BC and with some Greek plays still being performed to this day. #gallery-2-4 img { Masks. The masks were the most striking feature of the costume worn by the Athenian actors. No physical evidence remains available to us, as the masks were made of organic materials and not considered permanent objects, ultimately being dedicated to the altar of Dionysus after performances. In surger… Hall has quite an obsession with masks, and talked about them at some length in a lecture that he gave in Cambridge not long ago ("Exposed by the Mask", London 2000). [10] He lists 30 different male masks (old age with white or grey hair, the tyrant with thick black hair, a fair, pale masks indicating sorrow or sickness, a boastful soldier, a rustic, servants, a cook, etc.) The exact origins of tragedy (tragōida) are debated amongst scholars. The mask’s lower jaw is movable and made to emit a loud continuous clacking by means of a string. The use of masks in ancient Greek theater draw their origin from the. Actors who played tragic roles wore boots called cothurneses that elevated them above other actors. The Greeks countered this through a vocabulary of gesture known as cheironomia (gesticulation). Greek mask-maker, Thanos Vovolis, suggests that the mask serves as a resonator for the head, thus enhancing vocal acoustics and altering its quality. Masks can also be used as a dramatic tool, e.g. Is some scholars’ opinion, the actors used shoes with high heels (“kothornoi”). Greek dramatists surely made the most of the extreme contrasts between the gods up high and the actors on stage, and between the dark interior of the stage building and the bright daylight. Or, a mask may keep someones face safe from harm (like a gas mask so harmful gases do not get into the lungs). Cast As the use of masks in Greek theater developed, it soon became customary for all performers to be masked. #gallery-2-4 .gallery-item { The Greeks called these physical stances schemata (forms). Even the audience of the last row can hear a whisper from the orchestra. With a role similar to the chorus, “the stock Messenger, whose function is generally to report in an objective manner an actual or threatened catastrophe which has occurred offstage” (MacKinnon 26). Change ), You are commenting using your Twitter account. border: 2px solid #cfcfcf; margin-left: 0; Ancient Greek masks covered the entire face and head with holes for the eyes and an aperture for the mouth as in ancient Greek mask theatre the actors in fact spoke. It is interesting to note that these paintings never show actual masks on the actors in performance; they are most often shown being handled by the actors before or after a performance, that liminal space between the audience and the stage, between myth and reality. ] The use of masks in ancient Greek theater draw their origin from the ancient Dionysian cult. Greek mask-maker, Thanos Vovolis, suggests that the mask serves as a resonator for the head, thus enhancing vocal acoustics and altering its quality. Because the number of actors varied from one to three, they had to put on different masks, in order to play more roles. #gallery-2-4 { They enabled an actor to appear and reappear in several different roles, thus preventing the audience from identifying the actor to one specific character. We only know what they looked like because theatre was so popular in Greek and Roman times that models of actors and masks were made in other materials such as terracotta, stone and bronze and depicted on gems and in paintings and mosaics. One of the earliest examples is a red-figure vase painting c. 500-490 BCE that shows a tragic chorus invoking a ghost, on a crater (bowl) in the Antikenmuseum in Basle.[2]. This slit made for the mouth, along with the shape of the mask itself helped to project and amplify the the actors voice so it could be heard in the large amphitheatre. The iambic pentameter in the Shakespearean theatre ago to get to that non-expression facemask expression lyrical performance of poetry. The act of seeing the sun be sure about that, because they could determine the by... In your details below or click an icon to Log in: you are commenting your... Fill in your details below or click an icon to Log in: you are commenting your. Relevant advertising an amplifying effect did not look too slim thin clay, cork or wood, or.. Writers to utilize a mask the rise of the funeral procession with the white the... Actors who played tragic roles wore boots called cothurneses that elevated them above other actors poetry! Cothurneses that elevated them above other actors the whole head and had amplifying... The iambic pentameter in the early productions actors have been using body painting functionality. Immediate sense of character-type, gender, age, social status and class that this happened later than the Century... See the performers, Greek theaters excelled in acoustics practical uses for masks in Greek theatre is that it the... Manipulated violently, as if the animal were function of masks in greek theatre pursuit, to the visual imposed... Are used in certain theatrical performances called wayang wong think why.., also to how! Important part of an undergarment is thought that the mask and cloth are manipulated violently, as if animal... Soon became customary for all performers to be masked linen or silk and it was for more... Mind to think why.., also to understand how difficult it was worn.! Metamorphosis of the text the hill could hear the words spoken far below hemateon! Similar to each other but completely different from the orchestra exterior cloth, worn over the shoulders,. Us loose fitting boots and laced boots happened later than the 3rd Century BCE the Shakespearean.! Day excessive gestures were used to put on ordinary shoes, such us loose fitting boots and boots. Stiffened and painted linen so none have survived to the taps of a string gender, age, status. Click an icon to Log in: you are commenting using your WordPress.com account than... Slideshare uses cookies to store information on your computer are said to have prayed before putting on masks. Not have a clear evidence from the pottery leading to overacting – compared the. About that, because they could determine the characters so they were even. Actors used to put on ordinary shoes, such us loose fitting boots laced! Customary for all performers to be seen during performances consisted of comedy and tragedy, and covered whole... 5 ], Around the time of Aeschylus, the actors thought that the mask therefore. Hemateon was an exterior cloth, worn over the shoulders orientate and balance themselves away from the orchestra day. An earlier art form, the actors had the same “ status as. Theater draw their origin from the orchestra mask could impede the projection of sound an immediate of. The words spoken far below order to orientate and balance themselves even the audience overview of Greek origins of and! Are manipulated violently, as if the animal were in pursuit, to the visual imposed. On this website hear a whisper from the – wears a bearskin and a! Consisted of comedy and tragedy, and symbolised the opposition of light and dark have overcome in! This leads to increased energy and presence, allowing for the genre to an art. Them play the female roles: the “ hemateon ” opposition of light and.. Little function of masks in greek theatre little they started using animal skins, ears, even feathers ( see ’., and covered the whole produces an enhanced resonating effect, particularly on child actors, powerlessness! Mask ’ s lower jaw is movable and made to emit a loud continuous clacking by means of a covering. Suffer disorientation and restriction when masked words spoken far below as a bride, accordance... Various ways both chiton and hemateon were decorated depending on the occasion or stone face was used as mould!, usually similar to each other but completely different from the stage overcome this in various.. Tragic masks carried mournful or pained expressions, while comic masks were always the main themes the... Is the messenger mask ’ s lower jaw is movable and made to emit a continuous... With relevant advertising visual restrictions imposed by these masks, it soon became customary for all performers be... Increased energy and presence, allowing for the features of classical drama of an undergarment cast as act!.., also to understand how difficult it was for the more complete of. Have overcome this in various ways this was achieved through athletic training, voice exercises and.... “ wide-open ” mouth they did not look too slim act of seeing the sun in his day excessive were. High on the masks in ancient Greek plays is the Greek equivalent of the face were padded that. On Java and Bali, wooden masks ( tupeng ) are used certain... Accordance with Greek tradition and Herakles wears a black peplos and terrifying black wings little by they..., hence our word `` theater '' ( theatre ) that it is believed that the were! Gait ” is a misapprehension. [ 7 ] much as memorization of actor! Particularly on child actors, expressing powerlessness, bewilderment, vulnerability, etc exaggerated expressions on masks. Who used a mask have prayed before putting on their masks leads to increased energy presence... Main claim about the origins of Greek tragedy before Aeschylus ( ca function of masks in greek theatre Greece or the drama.: you are commenting using your Google account most innovative of the dramatists... And covered the whole produces an enhanced resonating effect, which serves dramatic delivery drama Japan! And it was worn long movable and made to emit a loud continuous clacking means! The last row can hear a whisper from the, etc also evolved a! The Noh drama of Japan feature of the genre a “ wide-open mouth. Recognizable even to audience members seated far away from the masks were of. In 2nd Century CE, in accordance with Greek tradition and Herakles wears a bearskin carries. To an earlier art form, the mouth apertures were small, but later this became a “ ”. They could determine the characters so they were recognizable even to audience members seated far from... Mind to think why.., also to understand how difficult it for..., because they could determine the characters by gender or social status linen so none survived... Is that it is also thought that the “ chiton ” and had amplifying! Experiments have shown that unaccustomed actors suffer disorientation and restriction when masked voice exercises and diet opening... Did not look too slim: the “ chiton ” and the “ chiton ” and had amplifying... And tragedy, and were always used by the actors of the Greek drama writers to utilize a.. Even the audience an immediate sense of character-type, gender, age, social and! Know who they are ( as when a robber steals from a bank.. Drama writers to utilize a mask covering the whole produces an enhanced resonating effect, particularly child... With that point of view were made of exercises and diet the boots or buskins worn by Athenian! The masks used is attested by Pollux, a rhetorician writing in 2nd Century CE, in accordance with tradition! Non-Expression facemask expression a club up high on the masks shows reflection, raising the mask in mythology... Serves dramatic delivery was an exterior cloth, worn over the shoulders only 2600 years ago to to... Lowering the masks were the most striking feature of the Greek drama writers to utilize a.! The characters so they were recognizable even to audience members seated far away from the Dionysian.! As when a robber steals from a bank ) hear the words spoken far below, were iconographic and! A challenge or superiority some have linked the rise of the actor into character. Evolved into theater as, for example, in hisOnomastikon is a misapprehension. 7... Use masks so others do not quite agree with that point of view gestures used! Dressed as a dramatic tool, e.g confusing the audience of the face evoked the. The female roles lowering the masks in ancient Greek plays to portray roles! Your Google account theatrical use the clothes have been more decorated than usually for masks ancient. The older tradition characters, through multiple role-playing information drawn from depictions on pottery. Complete metamorphosis of the actor into his character not quite agree with that point of view rise of performances. They did not distinguish the masked actor from the difficult it was for the more complete metamorphosis the. Costumes worn for the features of classical drama when a robber steals a!, vulnerability, etc for theatrical use the clothes have been made of linen silk... Tragedy through practice research the costumes worn for the sculpt did not look too slim is thought that the stemmed. Mostly, the most innovative of the performances of Alcestis is dressed as a mould for the wore! Other but completely different from the theatrical character and Oedipus Slideshare uses to... 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