The Theology Of Æschylus -- By: William S. Tyler
BSac 16:62 (April 1859) p. 354
The Theology Of Æschylus
There could be no greater misapprehension of the ancient Greek drama, than to judge of it by the modern theatre. They have little in common but the name. The points of contrast are more numerous and more striking than the points of resemblance. The modern drama is exhibited within doors, in the night, and by gas light or candle light. The ancient was by day, in the open air, and beneath the broad, pure light of heaven. The modern theatre is a common building; and though of extraordinary size and splendor, yet enclosed by walls and roof, and capable at most of containing only two or three thousand people. The Greek theatre was hewn out of the solid rock in the side of the Acropolis, or built up with quarried stone on a scale of similar magnificence; and it counted its audience by tens of thousands. The spectators in a Parisian theatre can see nothing but the theatre, with its temporary and insignificant adornings. The Acropolis, the Agora, the porticoes, the temples and altars of the gods, all the architectural splendors of Athens, clustered around those who gathered in the theatre of Dionysos; all the natural and historical glories of Attica were spread before them. As they had no covering but the blue sky, and no light but the bright sun, the singularly deep, liquid, blue sky, and the wonderfully bright sun of Greece, so the horizon was the only limit to their field of vision.
The modern theatre is a private speculation, patronized it may be by royalty, and sometimes attended by the aristocracy, where monarchy and aristocracy exist, but for the most part filled and supported by the lowest and the worst of the population. At Athens, the theatre was a public institution, the expenses were paid, directly or indirectly, out
BSac 16:62 (April 1859) p. 355
of the public treasury; the government was the proprietor and manager, and the audience was the enlightened, the refined, the sovereign people of Athens, together with the elite from all the principal cities of Greece. The theatre, as it now exists in the cities of Europe and America, is generally, if not universally, a school of vice and crime, in which bad men and women teach other men and women, not quite so bad as themselves, to gratify their appetites and passions, and to become the pests of society. The theatre, as it was in its palmy days in the Grecian cities, was a school of good morals and religion, taught by the wisest and best men of their times; for such were the tragic poets in the age of the immortal triumvirate of Greek tragedy; and the poets themselves were not only the authors but the actors, or at least the trainers of the actors, of their own dramas; and as tragedy was the consummate flower o...
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