To fully explain the conditions governing Classical Greek Theatre it isfirst necessary
to go back in history to understand it's origins. Greek Theatre was born over 2,500 years
ago – 2,000 years before Shakespeare – in its earliest form it took the form of religious rites,
involving songs and dances acted out in honour of the gods, and was performed only by priests and followers of the gods.
Over the course of time up to approximately 600 BC, these rites slowly evolved into the
Classical Greek Theatre that we recognise today. At this point the rites were formalised around THE DITHYRAMB – an ode to the god DIONYSUS – the god of wine, fertility and nature – things close to hearts of the people of that time – the Dithyramb being usuallyperformed by a chorus of 50 men, five from each of the tribes of Attica. The CHORUS is a central part of Classical Greek Theatre – It was the means by which the message of the play was poetically communicated to the audience.
The Dithyramb gradually evolved from simply praise of Dionysus into stories, tragedies
and comedies, much like our modern plays. Of course every play needs a leading actor, and thefirst man to take such a role was THESPIS OF ATTICA, who became the protagonist
in Athenian plays of the time. In removing himself from the Chorus and coming forward to perform the leading roles, which would inevitably involve him in taking the part of a god, he must have been thefirst recorded person to be guilty of HUBRIS – a man considering himself to be the equal of the gods. His name gave rise to the name by which the actors of today are sometimes known – THESPIANS.
The plays of this time were performed in the great AMPHITHEATRES – these were
open air theatres – the word theatre being derived from the Greek THEAT…