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The History of Comedy Tragedy Theatre Masks

Comedy tragedy theatre masks are something we have all seen. You cannot spend more than a few moments in theatre life without being confronted with the two masks.

For most of us the two masks are all we need to see to know that we are looking at something theatre related.

And yet, how many of us know the origins of these masks that all of us recognize so easily?

Comedy tragedy theatre masks, like the concepts of comedy and tragedy in theatre were born in ancient Greece.

Hundreds of years before the birth of Christ the Greeks were immersed in a culture that held the theatre as, not only a form of entertainment, but as an integral part of their religious framework.

Whenever a theatre festival came to a Greek town there was always a great number of ceremonies that were always present. In the evenings there would be a group of men who would wander the streets, along with a musician. This group would be called a "comus" and their fun songs a "comoedia". It doesn't take much to see where our word "comedy" derived.

Conversely, the sad songs of satyrs were called "tragoedia" from where of course we get the word tragedy.

Since masks were always a vital part of Greek theatre it was inevitable that masks would have eventually been created to depict the two foundational elements of Greek theatre. The laughing comedy mask and the weeping tragedy masks were born and have been with us ever since.

As hard as it is to believe that something as simple as these two masks could have endured into the modern age with their original intent still being known and adhered to, that is in fact what has happened with these two masks.

So the next time you have an opportunity to view the comedy tragedy theatre masks do not be so quick to assume you understand them completely. Remember their ancient roots and take a little time to appreciate their enduring power.

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