Thank you for allowing me an opportunity to answer your interesting
question. Many others have shared your curiosity about the name of the
pair of masks over the years and no one seems to have put a precise
name to the symbol you are referring to.
First, a bit of history:
?According to legend, sometime between 600 and 675BC, a man named
Thespis of Attica added an actor who interacted with the chorus. This
actor was called the protagonist, from which the modern word
protagonist is derived, meaning the main character of a drama. The
name Thespis has achieved immortality in theatrical jargon - 'actors'
and 'Thespians' are synonymous. Plays were performed outdoors, in
daylight, before audiences of 10,000 or more at festivals in honor of
Dionysus. Masks played an important role in Greek drama. They gave the
actors the ability to easily play more than one character in
succession with a simple change of mask. They conveyed a kind of
static emotion that must have created an atmosphere very different
than our modern theater. The masks and dress were usually highly
stylized and exaggerated making the characters easy to identify even
from a great distance. Ancient masks were made from clay, wood or
linen with the attached wig covering the entire head and they had
wide-open mouths for easier speaking. The traditional "Comedy Tragedy"
masks are used now as a universal symbol for drama, and also represent
the two sides of Dionysus, as well as the two effects of wine: joyous,
Bacchic revelry, and a dark, sorrowful harvest.?
COMEDY TRAGEDY MASK GRAPHICS
Because the fundamental theatrical concept of Dionysus? time was that
performances were either comedy or drama in nature, the masks could
fairly accurately be called ?the masks of Dionysus? or ?Dionysian
masks?, but this is just a logical approach on my part and not
necessarily an historical fact or reference.
?Theatrical masks have their origin in Dionysian rituals.?
MUSING ON DIONYSOS: THE STAGED AND THE STAGING GOD
ANCIENT THEATRE TODAY
In more modern times the symbolic pair of masks have been referred to
simply as ?Thespian?s Masks? as seen in these examples:
Even more commonly, the masks have become known as just ?Theatre
Masks? and ?Theatrical Masks?, or a bit less commonly perhaps ?Greek
Theatre Masks?. All of these seem quite appropriate given the nature
of the Greek word for ?theatre?:
?Theatre (from the Greek verb ?theasthai?, "to view" or "to see,"
whence theatron, or "seeing place") may be defined not only as a
structure in which dramatic performances are given, but as the sum of
all the arts required for the production of a dramatic, or imitative,
ENTERTAINMENT: STAGE AND THEATRE
By the definition of ?the sum of all the arts? these masks have indeed
come to be known as ?Theatre masks? or "Thespian Masks", not because
they represent the physical venue so much as they represent the
totality of the art itself; or better still, all things theatre. One
can easily find an abundance of the well-known symbolic image using
the common search terms for this image, ?theatre masks?:
I hope you find that my research exceeds your expectations. If you
have any questions about my research please post a clarification
request prior to rating the answer. Otherwise I welcome your rating
and your final comments and I look forward to working with you again
in the near future. Thank you for bringing your question to us.
Tutuzdad-ga ? Google Answers Researcher
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