The Greek term for mask is persona and was a far-reaching element in the prayer of Dionysus at Athens, most likely used in ceremonial rites and also celebrations. Most of the evidence originates from only a few vase paints of the 5th century BC, such together one mirroring a mask of the god suspended indigenous a tree with decorated robe hanging listed below it and dancing and the Pronomos vas, i m sorry depicts gibbs preparing because that a Satyr play. No physical proof remains obtainable to us, as the masks to be made of essential materials and not taken into consideration permanent objects, eventually being committed to the altar that Dionysus ~ performances. Nevertheless, the mask is well-known to have actually been used because the time of Aeschylus and considered to be among the above conventions of classical Greek theatre.

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Mask details

Illustrations of theatrical masks from 5th century display helmet-like mask, spanning the whole face and also head, v holes because that the eyes and a small aperture because that the mouth, and also an combined wig. The is interesting to note that these paints never show actual masks top top the actors in performance; castle are most often shown being taken on by the actors before or after a performance, that liminal room between the audience and also the stage, between myth and also reality. > This displayed the method in i beg your pardon the mask to be to ‘melt’ right into the face and allow the gibbs to vanish into the role. Effectively, the mask reinvented the gibbs as lot as memorization the the text. Therefore, performance in ancient Greece walk not differentiate the masking actor from the theatrical character.

The mask-makers to be called skeuopoios or “maker the the properties,” thus saying that their duty encompassed many duties and tasks. The masks were most most likely made out of light weight, organic materials like stiffened linen, leather, wood, or cork, with the wig consists of person or pet hair. Because of the visual restrictions implemented by these masks, it was imperative the the gibbs hear in order to orientate and also balance themselves. Thus, it is believed that the ear were spanned by substantial amounts of hair and not the helmet-mask itself. The mouth opened was fairly small, staying clear of the mouth to be seen throughout performances. Vervain and also Wiles posit that this little size discourages the idea that the mask worked as a megaphone, as originally presented in the 1960s. Greek mask-maker, Thanos Vovolis, suggests that the mask serves as a resonator because that the head, therefore enhancing vocal acoustics and altering that is quality. This leader to increased energy and presence, enabling for the much more complete metamorphosis the the actor into his character.

Mask functions

In a huge open-air theatre, favor the Theatre the Dionysus in Athens, the classical masks to be able to bring the characters’ confront closer come the audience, especially due to the fact that they had actually intensely over-exaggerated facial features and expressions.


They allowed an actor to appear and reappear in several different roles, thus avoiding the audience from identify the actor to one particular character. Their variations aid the audience to distinguish sex, age, and also social status, in enhancement to revealing a adjust in a particular character’s appearance, ie. Oedipus ~ blinding himself. Distinct masks were additionally created for details characters and also events in a play, such as The Furies in Aeschylus’ Eumenides and Pentheus and Cadmus in Euripides’ The Bacchae. Worn by the chorus, the masks developed a sense of unity and also uniformity, if representing a multi-voiced persona or single organism and also simultaneously encouraged interdependency and a heightened sensitivity between each separation, personal, instance of the group.


Actors who played tragic roles wore boots referred to as cothurneses that elevated them over other actors.

When play female roles, the masculine actors donned a ‘ prosterneda’ i m sorry is a wooden framework infront that the chest come imitate breasts.

There are little information on theatrical costumes. This is as result of the perishable products they have actually been make of. Still we have actually some information drawn from depictions on ancient pottery (see some images below).

Costumes have been a an extremely important factor of the production, since they could determine the personalities by gender or society status. In the early productions actors have been using body painting. Small by tiny they began using pet skins, ears, also feathers (see Aristophanes’ Birds).

When the poets introduced real costumes, castle imitated the modern dressing : the “chiton” and also the “hemateon”. The chiton was made of linen or silk and it was worn long. The hemateon was an exterior cloth, worn over the shoulders. The was commonly made of wool. Both chiton and hemateon to be decorated relying on the occasion. Because that theatrical usage the clothes have been much more decorated than usually.

In order to play female roles, because the actors were constantly men, they were wearing a “prosterneda” (in front of the chest, come imitate female breasts) and also “progastreda” in former of the belly.

The actors offered to put on plain shoes, such us loose fitting boots and laced boots. Is part scholars’ opinion, the actors supplied shoes through high heels (“kothornoi”). Us cannot be sure around that, due to the fact that we perform not have actually a clear proof from the pottery. In the later on years (2nd century BC), the is sure that these shoes through high heels (“kothornoi”) have actually been introduced.

Use of costume in Athenian tragedy.

Some authors have suggested that use the costume in Athenian tragedy was standardized for the genre.<1> This is said to have had a full-length or quick tunic, a cloak and soft leather boots, and may have actually been obtained from the robes of Dionysian priests or designed by Aeschylus. Brockett, however, disputes this, suggesting that the evidence we have actually is based on archaeological remains, some couple of references in the texts, and the writings of later on authors. As far as the vase paints are concerned, most of these space dated later on than the fifth Century BCE and their relationship with theatrical exercise is unclear. Among the earliest instances is a red-figure vase painting c. 500-490 BCE that mirrors a tragic chorus invoking a ghost, ~ above a crater (bowl) in the Antikenmuseum in Basle.<2>

The tragic gibbs were certainly heavily disguised. This had a religious purpose, for the actor was supposed to provide up his identification in order come let one more speak and also act through him. Indeed, the dramas were performed in honour of Dionysus, the God of Ecstasy, which way “standing exterior oneself”<2>. Actors as such had come renounce your individuality. The actors thought that the mask itself contained the character and also are claimed to have prayed prior to putting on your masks. The costume was most likely an elaborately-decorated variation of everyday clothes worn in the 5th Century BCE. The apparel included:

· chiton (robe or tunic)

· chlaina (overgarment)

· chlamys (short cloak)

· kothurnus (short lace-up boots)

· himation (overgarment)

· peplos (cloak)<3>.

The chiton worn through the gibbs differed from the worn in everyday life because it included sleeves, which were coloured and also patterned. The sleeves might in fact have been part of one undergarment. Lengthy white sleeves were worn by the (male) actors for female roles, and indeed, in vase paintings females space usually painted through lighter skin.

The costumes worn for the performances of Alcestis, because that example, were iconographic, and also symbolised the the opposite of light and dark.<4> In the play, life is evoked together the action of seeing the sun. Fatality – the boy of Night in Greek mythology – attract a black peplos and also terrifying black wings. Apollo attract white, representing the sun. Admetus contrasts the black color of the funeral procession v the white of the funeral procession. The corpse the Alcestis is dressed as a bride, in accordance v Greek tradition and also Herakles put on a bearskin and also carries a club.

The costumes worn provided the audience an instant sense of character-type, gender, age, social status and class.<5>

Around the time of Aeschylus, the boots or buskins worn by the actors to be flat. The actors had actually the exact same “status” together the chorus. In the third Century BCE, the actors were raised to the standing of heroes and “platform” soles began to it is in used, along with a head-dress called an onkos. The elevated soles may have actually induced a stylised means of walking, suited to the rate of catastrophic verse, and also the onkos made the gibbs taller, boosting visibility. Your bodies were padded so that they did not look also slim.<6> However, part authors think that this happened later on than the third Century BCE. It is likewise thought the the “teetering gait” is a misapprehension.<7>

The masks to be the many striking function of the costume worn by the Athenian actors. Facial expression was lost anyway because of the huge size the the Greek theatres, but the masks were likewise a method of blotting out expression, for this reason visual definition was express by the entire body. The actors were seen as silhouettes, or integral bodies, fairly than faces. The masks themselves to be made that stiffened linen, thin clay, cork or wood, and also covered the entirety head and had hair.

Attempts have been do in modern times to investigate the use of masks in Athenian tragedy through practice research.<8> these explorations conclude the masks may bring about a an ext demonstrative format of acting, with declamatory delivery of the lines substituted for intimacy. They also found that the mask could impede the estimate of sound. The Greeks are stated to have actually overcome this in various ways. Initially, the mouth apertures were small, but later this ended up being a “wide-open” mouth. Some authors think that the mouth to be shaped prefer a “mouth-trumpet” and also had one amplifying effect.<9> Certainly, the usage of a mask spanning the totality produces an enhanced resonating effect, which offer dramatic delivery.

Performances thus had come be more physical. Peter Arnott states that the Greeks thought good acting and also a great voice to be synonymous. This was accomplished through athletic training, voice exercises and also diet.

Experiments have displayed that unaccustomed actors experience disorientation and also restriction once masked. The Greeks countered this v a vocabulary the gesture known as cheironomia (gesticulation). Aristotle says that in his day extreme gestures were offered – leading to overacting – contrasted with the older tradition.

Masks can likewise be provided as a dramatic tool, e.g. Lowering the masks mirrors reflection, elevating the mask reflects a challenge or superiority. The Greeks called these physical stances schemata (forms).

Silent masks were offered to great effect, particularly on boy actors, to express powerlessness, bewilderment, vulnerability, etc.

The used of masks allowed the three speaking actors to portray as much as eight or ripe characters, v multiple role-playing. The exact same character could as such be play by different actors, and transitions in ~ a character would be shown by the use of different masks.

The wide variety of masks provided is attested by Pollux, a rhetorician writing in 2nd Century CE, in hisOnomastikon.

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<10> that lists 30 different male masks (old period with white or grey hair, the tyrant through thick black color hair, a fair, pale masks indicating sorrow or sickness, a boastful soldier, a rustic, servants, a cook, etc.) and 17 woman masks (fat and also thin old women, two matrons, one virgin, a bawd, a mistress, 3 courtesans, a lady’s maid, etc.).