471 GREECE-LANGUAGE, LITERATURE. AND ART.
used for spectacles. The form of the amphitheater was adopted. The auditorium at Athens
was capable of seating twenty thousand people. The estimate was made for the whole male
population of the city. Here was the stage upon which were presented the dramas of
Aeschylus, Sophocles, and Euripides. The building was open to the sky. The semi- circular
rows of seats were divided transversely with gangways affording easy exit and entrance. On
the front row of benches sat the dignitaries of the state. Judges were appointed to
determine the merits of the production. The orchestra was set in front of the players. On
the walls surrounding the stage were painted scenes representing the country or place
wherein the play was supposed to have been real. Triangular prisms were set up in the
wings, by the revolution of which on their axes an easy change of scene could be effected.
Nevertheless, we should look in vain in the theaters of ancient Greece for that elaborate
realism which is the boast of the modern stage.
Greek tragedy begins properly with the great name of AESCHYLUS. He it was who by the force
of his genius gave form and life and nationality to the new type of literature. He was
born in B. C. 525. In his youth he fought in the battle of Marathon. In his sentiments he
sympathized with the old Athens of the aristocracy-the ancient regime-rather than with the
growing democratic principles of the commonwealth. His subjects are lofty and pathetic. He
stoops not at all. With him it is the work of the gods and of fate. The dark destiny of
men is the underplay. Another drama is enacted on high, over which Is bent the eye of the
awful Zeus, calm, severe, omniscient.
Under the canon of criticism a tragedy in the time of Aeschylus must consist of three
pieces, based upon the same fundamental theme. There was thus produced what was called a
"trilogy", the three parts being in some sense independent, but in another sense
subordinate productions. Of these trilogies Aeschylus produced two, the subject of the
first, called the Persce, being the great wars of the Greeks and Persians, the struggle of
Europe and Asia. Out of this triad, the central piece, representing the lamentations in
the palace of Xerxes, at Susa, has been preserved. The subject of the other trilogy, known
as the Oresteia, was the murder of Agamemnon, with the fatal consequences which followed
hard after, until the Eurnenides were finally appeased. This work has been preserved
entire, and furnishes the basis of the high estimate which all subsequent ages have put
upon the tragic genius of the author.
The Greek drama was still further amplified by SOPHOCLES. Born in B. C. 495, he followed
close to Aeschylus, of whom he is regarded as the successful rival. Now it was that the
chorus was abridged and a third actor sent upon the stage. The