- The theater of ancient Greece, the fountainhead of the entireWestern dramatic tradition. The earliest Greek drama is thought tohave developed during the 6th century BC from imitative religiousmagic associated with the worship of Dionysus. The goldenage of Athenian drama (the 5th and 4th centuries BC)saw the emergence of the genres of tragedy and comedyand the production of the great works of Aeschylus (c.525 - 456 BC), Sophocles (c. 496 - 406BC), and Euripides (c. 484 - 406 BC).Aristophanes (c. 448 - 385 BC) was thegreatest comic playwright. The most important development of the later4th century was the emergence of the New Comedy of Menander.Although the Athenian tradition was in serious decline by about 300BC, its influence had already spread to other parts of theMediterranean world (see Greco-Roman drama).
The first Greek plays were performed in a circular dancingarea known as an orchestra. Later a raised stage was addedbehind this area while a tent (skene) behind the stage functionedas both a stage set and a dressing room. scenery became more elaborateand such devices as the ekkyklema and the mechanefor the deus ex machina were added during the 5th century.
The influence of Greek theater persists in the manifold translations,adaptations, and updatings that have appeared since the Renaissance.It also appears in numerous major and minor conventions of the Westernstage; the issuing of a ticket (metal token) for each seat, and thehabit of applauding to denote approval, and whistling to express disapprovalwere all originally Greek customs.