History of European Drama and Theatre

History of European Drama and Theatre

History of European Drama and Theatre

History of European Drama and Theatre


This major study reconstructs the vast history of European drama from Greek tragedy through to twentieth-century theatre, focusing on the subject of identity. Throughout history, drama has performed and represented political, religious, national, ethnic, class-related, gendered, and individual concepts of identity.Erika Fischer-Lichte's topics include:* ancient Greek theatre* Shakespeare and Elizabethan theatre by Corneilli, Racine, Moli¿¿re* the Italian commedia dell'arte and its transformations into eighteenth-century drama* the German Enlightenment - Lessing, Schiller, Goethe, and Lenz* romanticism by Kleist, Byron, Shelley, Hugo, de Vigny, Musset, B¿¿chner, and Nestroy* the turn of the century - Ibsen, Strindberg, Chekhov, Stanislavski* the twentieth century - Craig, Meyerhold, Artaud, O'Neill, Pirandello, Brecht, Beckett, M¿¿ller.Anyone interested in theatre throughout history and today will find this an invaluable source of information.



Theatre and the polis

In early spring, when the sea was navigable again after the stormy winter months, the citizens of Athens gathered in the theatre to celebrate the Great, or City Dionysia, the largest and most important state (polis) Dionysian festival. The most significant element and climax of this festival was the performance of tragedies over a period of three days. The choregoi (producers), poets and actors competed in the tragic agon (competition), and a victory earned them tremendous prestige and respect from the polis. The winning poets were held in such high regard by their fellow citizens that they would often be elected to important political or military posts. Sophocles, for example, who won twenty victories in the tragic agon between 468 BC (the first year he competed) and the year of his death in 406 BC, was awarded the post of Hellonotamias in 443-2. Between 441 and 439, he was awarded a generalship with Pericles during the Samic War, it is claimed due to the enormous success of Antigone. In 428 he was awarded another generalship, this time with Thucydides, and in 411 he was finally elected as one of the probuloi - all of which is impressive evidence of the effect that performances of the tragedies had on the polis.

The performances were dedicated to Dionysus and, thus, functioned as an integrative part of the cult of the state. The Theatre of Dionysus was situated in a holy area dedicated to the god directly adjacent to the temple of Dionysus Eleuthereos. The organisation of the festival was carried out by the polis under the mantle of the highest state minister, the archon eponymos. Preparations for the Great Dionysia lasted many months. Directly after taking up his post in summer, the archon eponymos would select three poets from the competitors and, it is recorded, allocate each a chorus. Generally, the poet was responsible for directing the play. Its financing, however - including several months' provisions for the citizens, who volunteered as chorus members and who also received a daily wage to compensate for giving up their regular employment - was provided by the choregos, a wealthy Athenian who drew upon personal resources to cover the enormous expenditure involved. The choregos was similarly elected by the archon eponymos.

There was a law which stipulated that wealthy Athenians should take turns to act as choregos, but, although taking on such duties meant a heavy financial burden and only benefited the polis, some choregoi even fought over the position out of sequence. Indeed, many choregoi lost a fortune by outfitting the chorus in an excessively lavish way in order to impress and win personal prestige. It offered the producer an ideal starting point to a public life in politics, as shown by such well-known politicians asThemistocles, Pericles, Alcibiades and Nicias, all of whom took on the post of choregos with great success. In fact, the significance of the choregos was such that his name was put first, above that of the poet, in the reports on the dramatic competition.

The preparations for the festival climaxed in the selection and appointment of the judges of

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