THE “CRETAN THEATER” AND NEO-GREEK DRAMATURGY
According to Ezinereligion, the first Greek theatrical work after the fall of the Byzantine Empire (perhaps first performed in Mantua in 1478), is a play by D. Moschos, La Neaira, written in prose and imitating ancient comedies, which certainly constitutes an example of in its own right and cannot be considered the initiator of a new tradition of theatrical literature. The real starting point of neo-Greek dramaturgy must be identified in the so-called “Cretan theater” which over the course of two centuries, the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, drawing considerable inspiration from the Italian theater, gave a turning point towards the modernization of the drama and the definitive redemption from antiquity. The work that chronologically begins this school is Abraham’s sacrifice, dated around 1600, a mystery in 2 acts of 1154 rhymed decapentasyllables. This is followed by the Erofile tragedy by G. Chortatsis, published posthumously in 1637, considered, alongside the Sacrifice, the most important work of Cretan theater. It is a grim tragedy that follows very closely the ‘ Orbecche of G. Giraldi. Another tragedy, difficult to date, of which a single printed copy dated 1647 is preserved, is Il re Rodolino, a skilful reworking of Torrismondo by T. Tasso by the hand of the author IA Troílos. The third Cretan tragedy, Zeno, is a remake in verse of a Latin play by the English Jesuit G. Simon. But the Cretan theater did not only produce tragedies; among the works we have received we also find the Ghiparis, a pastoral drama, attributed to the same author of the Erofile, and three comedies: Katzurbos, written by Chortatsis between 1595 and 1601, the Stathis, of which only one redaction has survived abbreviated, and the Fortunatos, certainly later than the other two, which was composed by the Venetian-Cretan MA Foscolo. Alongside these works it is right to mention Evjena, a tragedy by T. Montselese, written in the literary dialect of Crete but with elements of the local dialect of the island of Zakynthos, which is believed to be the place of origin of the composition, a hypothesis also reinforced by the name of the author. With the advent of Turkish domination in Crete, all intellectual manifestations go through a period of stagnation. The Ionian Islands, the only region free from the Ottoman yoke because under Venetian jurisdiction, maintain strong cultural ties with Italy, ties that make their influence felt even in the theatrical field. We know that in the Heptanese, during the century. XVI, there are numerous representations of ancient tragedies or Plautian comedies, but also of works written in Italian, a language quite widespread among the notables of the Seven Islands, Omilies.
THEATER AND PATRIOTISM BETWEEN THE EIGHTEENTH AND NINETEENTH CENTURIES
To have real native plays we have to wait two centuries. In fact, it was only in the eighteenth century that some authors began to write about the theater. Unfortunately, however, in addition to the two mediocre tragedies of the Cephalonite P. Katsaitis, Iphigenia (1720) and Tieste (1721), only the text of a work, the Chasis (1795) by Zantiota D. Guzélis, has reached us. It is a comedy in 4 acts written in rhymed decapentasyllables that portrays the comic aspects of popular life in Zakynthos with lively realism. We also have news of two highly satirical comedies, I Giannotti by G. Kantunis and I Moraiti by a certain S. Surmelis, whose text has been lost. Between the end of the century. XVIII and the beginning of the XIX, the theater plays an important role as a meeting place and dissemination of patriotic ideas among the Greek communities abroad, especially in Wallachia, Moldavia and Odessa, where theaters are founded that stage performances of works by both foreign and Greek authors, capable of inspiring feelings of revolt against the Turks. Thus, alongside the staging of the tragedies of Alfieri, Metastasio, Voltaire and Racine, some Greek authors try their hand at the composition of works which, if from the artistic point of view do not have a great value, nevertheless manage to inflame with patriotic fervor the entire audience. We recall: I. Zambélios (1787-1856), author of four tragedies: Timoleon, Costantino Paleologo, Giorgio Kastriotisand Rigas Thesalos; IR Nerulos (1778-1850), who wrote Aspasia, a tragedy in verse in 3 acts, Korakistikà, a prose comedy in 3 acts, Polyxeni, a tragedy in verse in 5 acts and two comedies in prose, The inquisitor family and He who is afraid of newspapers, published under an illegible and unpronounceable pseudonym (BDZKMXPRATH); A. Christopulos (1772-1847), author of a single play which does not even have a definitive title and which is generally designated by the name of Achilles; N. Pikkolos (1792-1866) with the tragedy The death of Demosthenes. Once, in 1821, Greece became an independent state, a myriad of authors began to try their hand at the composition of plays, also driven by the enthusiasm of the particular historical moment.
And there are so many hymns to freedom that even the highest ideas are transformed into banal commonplaces; moreover, in the absence of a regular theater, the authors are not able to have an official verification. The fact that the compositions were written in katharéyusa, antiteatral language par excellence, and that their authors persisted in imitating foreign theater, distorted national taste and created a hybrid repertoire. However, even in this period there is no shortage of valuable authors, such as the Sutsos brothers: Alexandros (1803-63), who wrote comedies imbued with a romantic and rebellious spirit, including The Prodigal (1830); Panaghiotis (1806-68), of a milder spirit, author of Il viandante (1831) and Il Messia (1839). Worthy of interest is the work of M. Churmuzis, of which we remember the comedies The employee (1835) and Il fanariota. Surely the most valuable work in this period is Il basilico by A. Matesis (1784-1875), written in 1830, but published only in 1854, which precedes the rise of social drama in modern Greek theater by at least two generations. The problem of language, which had already inspired R. Nerulos in his comedy Korakistikà (1810), constitutes the fundamental theme of Babylon (1836), by D. Vizantios (1790-1840), who describes the situation in a witty and lively way. linguistics of Nafplio, the first capital of the Greek state. On a very different tone instead, D. Vernardakis (1834-1907) and S. Vasiliadis (1845-74), authors of classical tragedies that dominate the scenes, moving the audience, for about half a century.