The Ancient Library

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On this page: Drama (continued)



vide one. The choregus had also to see to the position and equipment of the personce mutte.

In earlier times it is possible that the persons engaged in the representation did not make a business of their art, but performed gratuitously, as the poets down to the time of Sophocles appeared on the stage. But the dramatic art gradually be­came a profession, requiring careful pre­paration, and winning general respect for its members as artists. The chief require­ments for the profession were distinctness and correctness of pronunciation, especially in declamatory passages, and an unusual power of memory, as there was no prompter in a Greek theatre. An actor had also to be thoroughly trained in sing­ing, melodramatic action, dancing, and play of gesture. The latter was especially necessary, as the use of masks precluded all play of feature. The actors were, ac­cording to strict rule, assigned to the poets by lot; yet a poet generally had his special protagonistes, on whose peculiar gifts he had his eye in writing the dramatic pieces.

The Athenian tragedies began to be known all over the Hellenic world as early as the time of .<Eschylus. The first city, outside of Attica, that had a theatre was Syracuse, where ^Eschylus brought out some of his own plays. Scenic con­tests soon began to form part of the religious festivals in various Greek cities, and were celebrated in honour of other deities besides Dionysus. It was a habit of Alexander the Great to celebrate almost every considerable event with dramatic exhibitions, and after him this became the regular custom. A considerable in­crease in the number of actors was one consequence of the new demand. The actors called themselves artists of Diony­sus, and in the larger cities they formed permanent societies (syn&doi) with special privileges, including exemption from mili­tary service, and security in person and property. These companies had a regular organization, presided over by a priest of their patron-god Dionysus, annually elected from among their members. A treasurer and officers completed the staff. At the time of the festivals the societies sent out ] their members in groups of three actors, with a manager, and a flute-player, to the different cities. This business was espe­cially lively in Ionia and on the Euxine, the societies of Tfios being the most dis­tinguished. The same arrangement was j

adopted in Italy, and continued to exist under the Roman Empire.

The universal employment of masks was a remarkable peculiarity of costume (see masks). It naturally excluded all play of feature, but the masks corresponded to the general types of character, as well as to the special types indicated by the re­quirements of the play. Certain conven­tionalities were observed in the colour of the hair. Goddesses and young persons had light hair, gods and persons of riper age, dark brown; aged persons, white; and the deities of the lower world, black. The height of the masks and top-knots varied with the age of the actors, and the parts they took. Their stature was considerably heightened in tragedies by the high boot (see cothdrnus), and the defects in proportion corrected by pad­ding, and the use of a kind of gloves. The conventionalities of costume, probably as fixed by jEschylus, maintained them­selves as long as Greek tragedies were performed at all. Men and women of high rank wore on the stage a variegated or richly embroidered long-sleeved chiton, reaching to the feet, and fastened with a girdle as high as the breast. The upper garment, whether hlmdtitSn or chldmijs, was long and splendid, and often embroi­dered with gold. Kings and queens had a purple train, and a white himation with a purple border; soothsayers, a netted upper garment reaching to the feet. Persons in misfortune, especially fugitives, appeared in soiled garments of grey, green, or blue ; black was the symbol of mourning, and so on.

In the Satyric Drama the costumes of the heroic characters resembled in all es­sentials what they wore in the tragedies, although, to suit the greater liveliness of the action, the chiton was shorter and the boot lower. In the Old Comedy the cos­tumes were taken as nearly as possible from actual life, but in the Middle and New Comedy they were conventional. The men wore a white coat; youths, a purple one; slaves, a motley, with mantle to match; cooks, an unbleached double mantle; peasants, a fur or shaggy coat, with wallet and staff; panders, a coloured coat and motley over-garment. Old women appeared in sky-blue or dark yellow, priestesses and maidens in white ; courtesans, in motley colours, and so on. The members of the chorus were masked and dressed in a cos­tume corresponding to the part assigned them by the poet. (On their dress in the

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