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This week in history: Thespis

by / Tuesday, 26 November 2019 / Published in Ancient Greece, Ancient History, For Students, For Teachers
Photo by Sailko, used with permission under Creative Commons Attribution 2.5 Generic (CC BY 2.5)

This week in 534 BCE, Thespis of Icaria became the first person we know of to portray a character on stage in ancient Greece. He sang about myths to an audience in Athens. But rather than just narrating by song, he played the various characters in the story, using masks to differentiate them. Thespis also won Athens’ first recorded “Best Tragedy” competition. Then he took it on the road, performing in the various Greek city-states with his masks, props, and costumes. Thespis changed theatrical story-telling in the ancient world – and today, we use “thespian” as a synonym for actor, in his honor.

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