The Greek term for mask is persona and also was a far-reaching element in the prayer of Dionysus at Athens, most likely used in ceremonial rites and also celebrations. Many of the evidence comes from only a couple of vase paintings of the 5th century BC, such together one mirroring a mask of the god suspended from a tree through decorated robe hanging listed below it and also dancing and the Pronomos vas, i beg your pardon depicts actors preparing for a Satyr play. No physical proof remains easily accessible to us, as the masks to be made of essential materials and not taken into consideration permanent objects, at some point being dedicated to the altar that Dionysus after ~ performances. Nevertheless, the mask is recognized to have actually been used since the time of Aeschylus and considered come be one of the above conventions of timeless Greek theatre.

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Mask details

Illustrations that theatrical masks from 5th century screen helmet-like mask, extending the entire face and head, v holes for the eyes and a little aperture for the mouth, and an integrated wig. That is amazing to note that these paints never present actual masks ~ above the gibbs in performance; lock are most often shown being tackled by the actors before or after a performance, that liminal space between the audience and the stage, in between myth and reality. > This demonstrates the way in i beg your pardon the mask to be to ‘melt’ right into the face and allow the actor to vanish into the role. Effectively, the mask transformed the actor as lot as memorization that the text. Therefore, performance in ancient Greece go not differentiate the masked actor indigenous the theatrical character.

The mask-makers to be called skeuopoios or “maker the the properties,” thus saying that their function encompassed many duties and tasks. The masks to be most likely made out of light weight, organic products like stiffened linen, leather, wood, or cork, with the wig consist of of human or pet hair. Because of the intuitive restrictions applied by this masks, it to be imperative the the gibbs hear in order come orientate and balance themselves. Thus, it is thought that the ears were spanned by substantial amounts of hair and also not the helmet-mask itself. The mouth opened was relatively small, avoiding the mouth to it is in seen throughout performances. Vervain and also Wiles posit the this little size discourages the idea that the mask functioned as a megaphone, as originally presented in the 1960s. Greek mask-maker, Thanos Vovolis, argues that the mask serves together a resonator for the head, for this reason enhancing vocal acoustics and altering that is quality. This leader to increased energy and also presence, permitting for the an ext complete metamorphosis that the actor right into his character.

Mask functions

In a large open-air theatre, like the Theatre that Dionysus in Athens, the timeless masks were able to bring the characters’ face closer to the audience, especially since they had intensely over-exaggerated face features and also expressions.


They allowed an gibbs to appear and reappear in several different roles, thus staying clear of the audience from identify the gibbs to one specific character. Their variations aid the audience to identify sex, age, and also social status, in enhancement to revealing a readjust in a particular character’s appearance, ie. Oedipus after ~ blinding himself. Unique masks were additionally created for details characters and 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 created a sense of unity and also uniformity, while representing a multi-voiced persona or solitary organism and also simultaneously urged interdependency and a heightened sensitivity in between each separation, personal, instance of the group.


Actors who played tragic functions wore boots called cothurneses the elevated them over other actors.

When play female roles, the masculine actors donned a ‘ prosterneda’ which is a wooden framework infront of the chest come imitate breasts.

There are small information top top theatrical costumes. This is as result of the perishable materials they have been make of. Still we have some information drawn from depictions on old pottery (see some images below).

Costumes have actually been a really important factor of the production, since they might determine the personalities by gender or social status. In the at an early stage productions actors have been making use of body painting. Little by tiny they began using animal skins, ears, also feathers (see Aristophanes’ Birds).

When the poets presented real costumes, lock imitated the contemporary dressing : the “chiton” and also the “hemateon”. The chiton to be made that linen or silk and it was worn long. The hemateon was an exterior cloth, worn end the shoulders. It was generally made the wool. Both chiton and also hemateon to be decorated depending upon the occasion. For theatrical use the garments have been much more decorated than usually.

In order to play mrs roles, since the actors were constantly men, they were wearing a “prosterneda” (in former of the chest, to imitate woman breasts) and “progastreda” in prior of the belly.

The actors supplied to placed on ordinary shoes, such us loose fitting boots and also laced boots. Is part scholars’ opinion, the actors used shoes with high heels (“kothornoi”). We cannot be sure about that, because we carry out not have a clear evidence from the pottery. In the later on years (2nd century BC), it is sure that these shoes through high heels (“kothornoi”) have been introduced.

Use that costume in Athenian tragedy.

Some writer have argued that use that costume in Athenian tragedy was standardized because that the genre.<1> This is stated to have consisted of a full-length or short tunic, a cloak and also soft animal leather boots, and also may have actually been derived from the robes of Dionysian priests or invented by Aeschylus. Brockett, however, disputes this, suggesting that the proof we have actually is based on historical remains, some few references in the texts, and also the writings of later authors. As much as the vase paints are concerned, most of these room dated later on than the fifth Century BCE and also their partnership with theatrical exercise is unclear. Among the earliest instances is a red-figure vase paint c. 500-490 BCE that reflects a tragic chorus invoking a ghost, ~ above a crater (bowl) in the Antikenmuseum in Basle.<2>

The tragic actors were absolutely heavily disguised. This had a spiritual purpose, for the actor was claimed to offer up his identity in order come let one more speak and also act through him. Indeed, the dramas were performed in honour that Dionysus, the God that Ecstasy, which means “standing external oneself”<2>. Actors as such had come renounce your individuality. The actors believed that the mask itself consisted of the character and are claimed to have prayed prior to putting on your masks. The costume was probably an elaborately-decorated version of everyday apparel worn in the fifth Century BCE. The clothing included:

· chiton (robe or tunic)

· chlaina (overgarment)

· chlamys (short cloak)

· kothurnus (short lace-up boots)

· himation (overgarment)

· peplos (cloak)<3>.

The chiton worn by the actors differed from the worn in daily life since it integrated sleeves, which were coloured and patterned. The sleeves may in reality have been part of one undergarment. Lengthy white sleeves were worn by the (male) actors because that female roles, and also indeed, in vase paintings females are usually painted v lighter skin.

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

The costumes worn gave the audience an immediate sense that character-type, gender, age, society status and class.<5>

Around the time of Aeschylus, the boots or buskins worn by the actors were flat. The actors had actually the same “status” as the chorus. In the 3rd Century BCE, the gibbs were increased to the condition of heroes and “platform” soles started to be used, in addition to a head-dress referred to as an onkos. The elevated soles may have induced a stylised way of walking, suited to the rate of tragic verse, and also the onkos made the gibbs taller, improving visibility. Your bodies to be padded so that they did no look as well slim.<6> However, part authors believe that this happened later than the 3rd Century BCE. That is additionally thought the the “teetering gait” is a misapprehension.<7>

The masks were the most striking feature of the costume worn by the Athenian actors. Facial expression was shed anyway as result of the vast size of the Greek theatres, however the masks were also a way of blotting the end expression, therefore visual definition was expressed by the whole body. The actors were viewed as silhouettes, or integral bodies, quite than faces. The masks themselves were made the stiffened linen, slim clay, cork or wood, and also covered the entirety head and also had hair.

Attempts have actually been do in modern-day times to investigate the use of masks in Athenian tragedy through practice research.<8> this explorations conclude that masks may cause a an ext demonstrative style of acting, v declamatory shipment of the lines substituted for intimacy. They also found that the mask might impede the estimate of sound. The Greeks are stated to have overcome this in various ways. Initially, the mouth apertures to be small, yet later this became a “wide-open” mouth. Part authors believe that the mouth to be shaped like a “mouth-trumpet” and also had one amplifying effect.<9> Certainly, the usage of a mask extending the whole produces an amplified resonating effect, which serves dramatic delivery.

Performances as such had to be an ext physical. Peter Arnott claims that the Greeks thought great acting and also a an excellent voice to be synonymous. This was completed through strong training, voice exercises and also diet.

Experiments have presented that unaccustomed actors suffer disorientation and restriction when masked. The Greeks countered this through a vocabulary the gesture well-known as cheironomia (gesticulation). Aristotle states that in his day excessive gestures were offered – causing overacting – compared with the older tradition.

Masks can additionally be used as a dramatic tool, e.g. Lowering the masks reflects reflection, raising the mask mirrors a challenge or superiority. The Greeks called these physics stances schemata (forms).

Silent masks were supplied to good effect, an especially on child actors, express powerlessness, bewilderment, vulnerability, etc.

The offered of masks allowed the 3 speaking actors to portray as much as eight or ripe characters, with multiple role-playing. The exact same character could therefore be play by different actors, and also transitions within a character would certainly be illustrated by the use of various masks.

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

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