Masks, Costumes & Props

ancient masks


Masks served several important purposes in Ancient Greek theater: their exaggerated expressions helped define the characters the actors were playing; they allowed actors to play more than one role (or gender); they helped audience members in the distant seats see and, by projecting sound somewhat like a small megaphone, even hear the characters better. In a tragedy, masks were more life-like; in a comedy or satyr play, masks were ugly and grotesque. Masks were constructed out of lightweight materials such as wood, linen, cork, and sometimes real hair. Unfortunately, they lacked durability, and none has survived.

ancient costumes


Costumes, along with masks and props, helped indicate the social status, gender, and age of a character. Athenian characters wore more elaborate, decorated versions of everyday clothing, such as a tunic or undergarment (chitôn or peplos), a cloak or over-garment (himation). Costumes for characters that were non-Athenians were more outlandish. Tragic actors wore buskins (raised platform shoes) to symbolize superior status, while comic actors wore plain socks. When depicting women, actors wore body stockings, with a progastreda and a prosterneda to make their bodies appear feminine. Some plays even called for actors to wear animal costumes.

ancient props


In addition to masks, actors also used props to create a character. These could be a crown to represent a king; a lyre for a musician; a walking stick to suggest age; a caduceus for a messenger; spears and helmets to suggest military men. A "props-maker" (skeuopoios) would create and provide these to the actors. Props can also be used for symbolism, as in the red carpet Agamemnon walks on when he returns home from war, signifying the blood he spilled at Troy.

special props

Special Props

Ekkyklêma—Literally, "wheel out," a large wheeled platform that could be rolled out to display scenes that had taken place beyond the view of the spectators (usually the results of violent acts since those never took place on stage).

Mêchanê/Krane—Literally, "machine," a crane-like device used to lift actors, allowing performers to appear in the air or to enter dramatically from behind the skene (which was a common method of portraying the gods).