Chapter_14 IM 6e - CHAPTER 14 THE THEATER OF DIONYSUS MYTH...

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CHAPTER 14 THE THEATER OF DIONYSUS: MYTH AND THE TRAGIC VISION MAIN POINTS 1. In the fifth century B . C ., principally in Athens, the ancient myths were recast in dramatic performances in the Theater of Dionysus. 2. Tragic drama is a phenomenon of the new Athenian democracy. Its characters enacted questions of power, excess, and abuse. The people (demos) of democratic (ruled by the demos) Athens could learn from the dramas the immense costs of overreaching limits. 3. Greek tragic drama often confronted two characters, each of whom acted out a set of laudable convictions, but neither of whom was willing to compromise. 4. The vehicle of tragic drama taught the Athenian demos the value of restraint, moderation, and compromise for civic existence. 5. The city Dionysia, held annually for five days in March, included a procession of citizens carrying emblems of the Dionysus cult and celebrating the making of new wine; rituals also involved sacrifices. 6. Tragedies, satyr plays, and comedies were staged. The first Dionysia was celebrated by Athens about 534 B . C ., when the tyrant Pisistratus instituted a competition among playwrights. The first winner of the tragic competition was Thespis, who reportedly created the first role for an actor by separating a single performer from the traditional choir. Aristotle notes that tragedy began with the dithyramb, a choral song to the god. 7. Tragedy, allegedly introduced by Thespis, originally means “goat song,” a reference to the goatskins worn by the choir or the chants during the goat sacrifice. 8. Thespis and other dramatists wrote tragedies committed to the spirit of Dionysus, but used myths about other gods and heroes as their primary subject matter.
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