Curiosities of Music - online book

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The stage of the Athenian theatre was very wide but not deep, and the scenery was very sim­ple; sometimes the house of the chief character was represented, sometimes the tent of a hero, but oftenest the entrance of a palace, before which the entire action of some dramas could take place. They were always exterior views, and no scenes of the interior parts of a dwelling were ever used. The whole active life of the Greek was passed in the open air, so that it seemed more natural to him to represent his characters as living similarly. The female characters were often personated by boys.
There were many expedients to make the following of the action of the play easier to the spectators, in such a vast space; programmes they had not, opera glasses did not exist, so certain formulae took the place of both; when standing on the stage of the Athenian theatre, and facing the audience, the harbor and city of Athens were on the left hand, and Attica on the right; a person entering from the right hand, was therefore pre­sumed to be a stranger who had come over land; and from the left as coming from the city.
The stage also possessed some mechanical effects, such as chariots descending from the skies, birds or even immense beetles soaring aloft carrying persons with them, forms arising from the deep, thunder, lightning, etc. The chorus was an immense help to the audience in following the events of the piece, and we must now describe this characteristic part of Greek tragedy

E-Book - An Annotated Compendium of Old Time American Songs by James Alverson III