Professor J. W. White's Lecture.


A very large audience assembled in the lecture room of the Jefferson Physical Laboratory yesterday afternoon to listen to Professor J. W. White's lecture on the Greek stage. Professor White said that of all the monuments of ancient Athens which have survived the ravages of time none is more interesting than the theatre of Dionysus. For many years the site of this theatre was not known. The greatest share of the credit of its discovery and subse quent excavation is due to the Germans. The theatre is at the southeastern extremity of the Acropolis. It was constructed on the plan employed in all Greek theatres; the seats rose in semi-circular tiers from the orchestra as a converging point, and at the back of the orchestra, facing the seats was the building set apart for the actors. The dimensions of the theatre were very large; it would doubtless accomodate the whole body of Athenian citizens.

The orchestra was semi-circular in form, and was paved with diamond or rhomboidal shaped stones. The seats ascended in curves one above another, and are divided by stairways into wedge shaped divisions. The outer row of seats was about three hundred feet from the orchestra and had an actual elevation of one hundred feet above it. The front row of seats are of solid Pentelic marble and have backs. The rows immediately behind them are not cut out of the solid rock as they are higher up, but are made of limestone from the Peiraeus. The theatre must have once been a noble and majestic structure but it is now only a bewildering mass of ruins.

One of the most interesting portioh of the ruins is the wall, about thirty-five feet long, which runs along a portion of the front of the stage. It is interesting because it appeals to the eye, being decorated with groups of sculptures in high relief representing Bacchnalian scenes.

We cannot make a comparison between the modern and Greek theatre. The Greeks went to the theatre in the morning and stayed all day. The theatre was only open for three days in the spring, on the occasion of the Dionysias festival. It was a religious duty for the people to attend at this time, as it was a period of utter abandonment to pleasure.

The Greek drama always preserved the unities. This part of the lecture, which treated of the drama, the manner of preserving it, and the equipments of the theatre, was especially interesting. In closing, various views of the masks used in the Greek theatre were shown in anticipation of the next lecture, which will treat of the costuming, among other subjects.