Sunday, September 20, 2015

Why was adding more actors such a big deal after Thespis incorporated the first actor in drama?

Unless I'm misinterpreting something, it seems as if every actor added to the Greek drama stage was a major breakthrough, after Thespis distinguished the first actor from the Chorus. Why was it such a big deal? Why couldn't a playwright just incorporate, say, five actors on the stage at the same time? That would have allowed for a lot more variety and complex dialogues. Instead, they seem to have just waited until someone finally decided to add one more actor to a play, as if it was some kind of social taboo.


Abbey said...

When I was doing my research for the presentation on Greek masks, I was thinking the exact same thing! I didn't think it was necessary for two people to each have two different masks in order to play the roles of four people. Other than the fact the masks were used as offerings to Dionysus, why else would the skeuopoios ("maker of the properties") use so many resources and spend so much time into making these elaborate props? I don't think this question will ever be satisfactorily answered, but I do have a few different thoughts about why only three people were cast. As we learned, the Dionysia was a religious festival and competition that honored god Dionysus in which tribes competed against one another for prizes. To think about the reason religiously, maybe there were only 1-3 actors on stage to limit distractions so the audience would focus more on Dionysus and try to find an emotional connection to the words that were being spoken rather than in what way they were being performed. Perhaps, also, the playwrights of the tribes only wanted to send the best actors on stage to represent them, preferring three amazing actors that play six characters to six mediocre characters that play a single role each.

Jack Zheng said...

These are some good points, though Sophocles also emphasizes the spectacle of the play and its importance in attracting attention. He says that the action is the whole point of drama. And from the information we've seen, Dionysia seems like as much of a party as the music fests we have today (but with drama) and even prisoners were let out to attend it.