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Mixed Messages in Greek Theatre an Examination of Vases and Written Histories No one fully understands the nature of ancient Greek theatre The barriers that stand between the scholars of the Twentieth Century and the truth of the theatrical practices of 5th and 4th centuries BC Athens are 2500 years of divergent cultures incomplete collections of plays vases figurines and theatre spaces and a lack of the proper tools with which the evidence can be examined Yet hypotheses can be formulated conclusions drawn and understanding strengthened by undertaking a thorough and painstaking analysis of all the available data A limited understanding of the Greek theatre is the ultimate promise of this continuing research However seeking this restricted perspective is clearly the only choice for those who have discovered the provocative remains of a great lost theatre Deciding what can be learned from ancient vases is a difficult problem for experts and novices alike Questions pertaining to theatre further complicate matters with the added condition that the vase must be depicting a scene that is theatrical in nature Green asserts that the ancient artists were not at work to provide visual aids for textbooks and lectures We can with care use them in that way as aids to a modern imagination Green 1995 p13 Greens statement brings to light the importance of cautious research into this area of history especially keeping in mind the context in which the vases were made and used Certainly vases exist which are as Green explains it inescapably linked to the theatre A sample of these well-understood vases is examined below Historians often agree on the subject matter of certain Greek vases because of one or more distinguishing qualities like the presence of masks staging inscriptions of the names of characters and elaborate costuming A neck-amphora by the Ixion Painter c350 BC Kiel private collection represents an actor with the satyr mask he has been wearing drawn
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