Ancient Greek theater has long been of interest to many historians and theater enthusiasts alike. Perhaps one of the most intriguing aspects of Greek theater is the masks used by all actors, made even more intriguing because little is known about them. Although history can tell us masks existed in the Greek theatre, it cannot tell us exactly what they looked like. One can only make guesses based on historical evidence what these masks looked like, and why they were used. Greek masks occurred in four main types, and their main purpose was to provide a neutral face to cover the actors' individuality.
Generally speaking, Greek characters can be identified by simple visual aspects each individual mask. A mask with pale skin was usually representing a woman who was not a slave; darker skin represented a man. A beard could be used to indicate a mature man, and white hair could be associated with old age (Wiles, Greek Theatre, 148). According to Julius Pollux, there were four main families (or genera) of masks in Greek theater, particularly in comedy. Pollux created a catalogue of these four genera of masks, as well as the different types of masks within the different genera. In all, Pollux catalogued forty four types of masks. The four main genera are old men, young men, women, and slaves. Pollux placed the masks in the sub-categories according to the visual appearance of the mask. The masks were then grouped my more common traits to form the four genera (Wiles, Menander 75-76).
Old men, in Pollux's catalogue, include a grandfather mask. Tilting these masks backward causes, the mouth [to drop], the eyes [to] droop, and the hollowness of the cheeks [to become] more apparent, (162). If the head of the masks were shaved, it would indicate the character was in mourning. These types of masks could likely indicate, the type of father who has lost his children in their infancy, has acquired serenity in sorrow, and will recover his children in the course of the play, (162). Other types of old men masks include a different kind of grandfather mask and one referred to as a principal old man. This other grandfather mask is described in Pollux's catalogue as, thinnermore taut around the eyes and gloomyrather palewell-bearded[with] russet hair [and] crushes ears, (75). The principal old man, is described as, having a wreath of hair round his head[with a hooked nose] and right brow raised, (75). Other more specific types of old men masks make up the rest of this genus.
[...] Masks are likely the most intriguing aspect of Ancient Greek theatre. Due to the ritual practice of burning the masks after the performance, little is actually known about what the masks looked like and what exactly they were for. We can, however, get a decent idea of the different types of masks and what they generally looked like. There were many kinds of masks; Julius Pollux is responsible for cataloging them into four separate genera. The four main families of masks are old men, young men, women, and slaves. [...]
[...] The sections include: talker, curly, virgin, pseudo-virgin, concubine, mature courtesan, and many others. The differences in these female masks are very minute, and sometimes as simply as having the hair parted a certain way. Most of the main types of young women masks were pale in complexion and had smooth hair (76-77). Slave masks make up the final genus. These masks are divided into the following sections: grandfather, principal slave, low-hair, curly slave, slave Maison, slave Cicada, and wavy-haired principal. The grandfather slave is represented by grey hair. [...]
[...] Aristotle believed black hair should be used only for free men (166). This idea, however, did not always hold true. There were so many different types of masks in Ancient Greek theatre, but the question still stands: Why were masks used? One of the main reasons was to provide a neutral face. Wearing masks, “obliterate[d] all the idiosyncrasies which distinguish[ed] one individual, or actor, from another,” (68). Since the faces of the actors were not visible, they had to rely on their movements and actions to convey certain ideas and emotions. [...]
[...] These types of masks could likely indicate, the type of father who has lost his children in their infancy, has acquired serenity in sorrow, and will recover his children in the course of the (162). Other types of old men masks include a different kind of grandfather mask and one referred to as a “principal old man.” This other grandfather mask is described in Pollux's catalogue as, “thinner—more taut around the eyes and gloomy—rather pale—well-bearded—[with] russet hair [and] crushes (75). [...]
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