Definitions of Terms

agon.  Literally, "contest."  In Old Comedy, a debate between two characters with choral songs introducing and commenting on the speeches of the contestants.  The structure of the debate is formal.

anachronism.  "Representation of someone as existing or something as happening in other than the chronological, proper or historical order"  (AHD). With reference to tragedy, "anachronism" means representation of something from contemporary Athens or Greece within the dramatic date of the play.

antistrophe. Literally, an "opposite turning."  See "strophe."

City Dionysia.  (in class)

dramatic date.  The date of the action represented in a tragedy as distinguished from the date of the performance.

early and late.  Something "early" is more remote from us in time than something "late."  "Late" means closer to us.  For this sense of "late," cf. "lately."  For "early," cf. "early man discovered fire."

deus ex machina.  See "mechane."

eccyclema / ekkyclema.  Literally, "thing rolled out."  A rolling platform  that could be rolled out from inside the stage building in order to reveal the interior.

epiparodos.  This terms appears for the first time in Pollux, a scholar of the second century C.E. One of his works was a dictionary ("Onomasticon"), of which some parts survive.

episode.  In the basic structure of Old Comedy and tragedy, episodes, which are largely spoken, alternate with stasima, which are sung.

exodos. Roughly, the part of the play from the last stasimon to the end.

hyporchema.  Choral performance in which the main part of the chorus provides background or support for solo dancers.

iambic.  Spoken parts of tragedy and Old Comedy are in the iambic meter.  An iamb is a two-syllable sequence, a short syllable followed by a long syllable.

kommos.  Lyric or semi-lyric dialogue between chorus and one or more actos.

koruphaios.  Leader of chorus.

mechane. Literally, "machine."  A crane that could suspend actors in front of the stage building.  The expression deus ex machina, "god from the machine," comes from the fact that, in some tragedies, a god or goddess appeared on this device at the end of the play in order to resolve the issue.

metatheater or metadrama.  Drama about drama.  And kind of self-referentiality by which a play calls attention to the fact that it is a play.

ode.  Sometimes used for "stasimon."

orchestra. Literally, "dancing space."  The flattened terrace at the foot of the slope on which the spectators sat.  Probably circular.  See "Skene / scene."

parabasis.  In Old Comedy, direct address to the audience by the chorus, with all other characters off-stage and the action temporarily suspended.  The chorus remains partly in character but also speaks for the poet.  The parabasis has a formal structure.

parodos.  In tragedy and in In Old Comedy, the entrance of the chorus.

prologue. In tragedy and in Old Comedy, the very opening of the play, in the form of a soliloquy or a dialogue.  Although the audience is not directly addressed, the prologue is a way for the playwright to convey information about the characters and the situation of the play.

satyr play.  Each tragedian who competed at the City Dionysia presented three tragedies followed by a satyr play, which provided comic relief.  The characters always included satyrs, half-human half-animal creatures, with horse's tails.  The satyr mask had a snub nose and pointed ears.  The costume included a furry loin cloth with a phallus attached.  The only satyr play that survives in its entirety is Euripides' Cyclops.  "Satyr" has nothing to do with "satire."

skene / scene.  Literally, "tent."  A building, with a door, defining the back (from the spectators' point of view) of the performance area.  Its height and other details are uncertain.  Date at which this building was added to the theater is unknown.  Oresteia (458 B.C.E.) presupposes a stage building.

stasimon.  Plural: stasima.  A song sung by the chorus in a "standing" rhythm, i.e.,  not in a marching rhythm as in entrances and exits.  The chorus is not literally standing still during a stasimon but is dancing.

strophe.  Literally, a "turning."  One unit of a stasimon.  Cf. "antistrophe."

Theater of Dionysus.  On south slope of the acropolis, the citadel of Athens.

theme.  Cf. the use of this term in music.  A recurrent element of subject matter (e.g., bloodshed) or the idea that emerges from that subject matter (e.g., revenge, vendetta).

trilogy.  A set of three plays on the same theme and/or, as in the case of the Oresteia, representing one continuous story.

theologeion.  Literally, "god-speaking-place." Place on roof of skene where gods appeared.