GREEK THEATRE, The. The Greeks did not turn night into day as we do in the 20th century. Rising at early dawn the whole city thronged to the sacred precinct to witness the performance of not only one play but of three, and not only for one day but for three days in succession.
The theatre at Athens had a happy location. Shielded from the north wind Acropolis it was so situated that the afternoon breeze from the Saronic Gulf blew directly into the faces of the audience. The occasion was the great festival of Dionysus, and the time March, when everybody longed to be out of doors. The seating capacity of the theatre — though not the largest in Greece — was 17,000 or more. The ((building" was as far removed from mag nificence as Shakespeare's theatre from the Grand Opera House in Paris; there were no plush chairs, no boxes, but merely seats of wood (later of stone), without backs, except in the front row. The audience wore festal attire. A myrtle wreath sufficed to designate the capacity in which the spectator was present as a par ticipant in the festival.
The As the sun was hot and there was no awning, or canopy, the men wore broad-rimmed hats. The array of smart and fashionable dresses so conspicuous in a modern theatre was wholly absent. Thousands had to be contented with a threadbare tunic. All the resident Athenians were in attendance, even boys and slaves; strangers, too, were present, either as official guests or as interested spec tators. The tickets were purchased at one of the offices in the city at six cents apiece. The state made a special appropriation for thousands of the poor: their tickets of admission were purchased with money from the public treasury. The 67 seats in the front row contained in scriptions indicating to what honored occupant they belonged: priests, the nine archons, the judges, foreign ambassadors and soldier's or phans. In the centre of this row was a marble chair with arms. This was the seat of the priest of Dionysus. The people were his guests. In the early period he would send boys with baskets containing food and wine to dis tribute among his guests. But later the audi ence grew too large, since the population in creased rapidly, and visitors came more and more from the islailds and from the mainland. Consequently, the people brought their lunches with them; a loaf of bread, a few onions and some garlic bulbs. Sometimes wine was fur nished at the expense of the choregus. Though the audience was large and composed of various classes, it was extremely critical. They ap plauded by shouting and by clapping, if the performance was good: they did not hesitate to give loud expression to their feelings, or re frain from shedding tears, at the pathetic parts; but if the acting was bad, if an actor broke down, or mispronounced a word, they were quick to express their disapprobation by hissing, hooting, or even standing upon their seats. If
an actor fell far below their expectation, a disturbance might arise: missiles were hurled, a fine imposed, or even corporal punishment inflicted.
The Directly in front of the lowest seats, was a circular orchestra, over 60 feet in diameter, originally of beaten earth, but later paved with polygonal stones. In the cen tre of this was the thyntele, or altar of the god, on the steps of which the flute-player took his seat. Back of the orchestra was a wall, about 10 feet high, with columns which could repre sent the facade of a palace or the front of a temple. At this point, in the earliest period, was erected a booth, which was originally used as a dressing room. This was called skew (tent), scene. Later the term was applied to the whole congeries of buildings, and later still to the stage itself ; sometimes to the wall back of the stage. The actors and the chorus performed their respective parts on the com mon level of the orchestra, the narrow stage back of and above the orchestra being reserved for the appearance of the gods. There was probably no curtain. thouht it a mistake to try to produce tragical effects by elaborate machinery. The scenery in the time of /Eschylus was probably as simple as that in a performance of a Shakespearian drama by the Ben Greet players. But in the Hellenistic age Greek engmery made transformations that would beggar the most gigantic efforts of modern times. From the time of Alexander the Great every important Greek town had its theatre. There was a great appeal to the imag ination. But movable scenery was abundant: altars, monuments, cliffs, household utensils. The two entrances (on the sides) were called porodoi. Through these the chorus, the reti nues (and sometimes the actors) made their appearance. The word for actor is hypocrites. In the classical age the number did not exceed three for any play, with the possible exception of the Coloneus' of Sophocles; and they were always men, even for the feminine roles. Hence a change of costume for the vari ous parts was necessary. The traditional view is that the actors wore masks in the 5th century; but this has been assailed, by some scholars. Later the wearing of masks is unquestionable. There were more than 27 famous actors before the time of Alexander. Some of them became celebrated as orators, statesmen or ambassadors. No disrepute attached to the profession, as at Rome. The actor's remuneration was an affair of the state. All finanCild arrangements were made by the archon, who assigned each role.