The Greek Theatre


The Greek Theatre







audience seats








·         Tragedies were always performed in the open air and the daylight

·         Early Greek theatres were built wherever there was a natural large bowl-like shape in the ground.  Not only did it allow all the audience to see the stage and the orchestra but it also had excellent acoustics.  The smallest sound from the stage or orchestra could be heard at the back of the audience

·         Euripides’ Medea was performed at the Theatre of Dionysus at Athens.  This was a simple theatre in the round.  The audience would have sat on the ground or on banks of wooden seats



·         This was the circular area at the centre of the theatre.  This is where the chorus danced and sang.  The orchestra was about 20 metres in diameter and had an altar at its centre.


·         These were the passage ways by which the chorus made its way to the orchestra


·         This was a raised area where the actors stood during the play and acted


·         This was a wooden building behind the stage and had a roof

·         It was used as storage space and as changing rooms for the actors

·         The front of the skene acted as a back wall for the stage. It was often painted to look like a palace or a forest or wherever the action of the play took place.  It was like the scenery in a modern theatre.  (scenery comes for the Greek word skene)

·         The skene had a large central doorway which opened onto the stage.  The actors could enter and leave through this.

·         The roof of the skene could also be used.  Gods could stand here, or Medea could appear in her chariot.



The remains of a Greek theatre at Epidauros



The Actors


·         In a Greek tragedy like the Medea there was not an actor for every part.  There were only three actors and they were all men.  They had to share out the parts between them

·         This meant that during the play there would have to be many quick changes of costume as the actors prepared to play a different part.  They would go into the skene to do this

·         Usually only two of the three actors were on the stage at any one time

·         It was difficult acting in an open-air theatre.  The actors needed to have strong voices so that they could be heard by the whole audience.  A long speech like the messenger’s speech would have required a lot of stamina and variation in expression.


The Chorus


·         The chorus in Euripides’ Medea would have been made up of about twelve or fifteen men

·         The chorus entered


No comments have yet been made

Similar Classical Civilization resources:

See all Classical Civilization resources »