Unity of Place, as commonly understood, asserts that the action of a Greek play transpires in a fixed location which, once established, cannot be departed from. In fact, the plays themselves seem not to grasp this principle; or, if they do, it is purely as a matter of convenience. Nevertheless, the influence of Aristotle has been so strong, and the reverence paid to him so persuasive, that scholars have been forced into agonized head-shakings over what actually happened in the Greek theatre. Much ink has been expended on the number of guestrooms in Clytemnestra's palace, to justify the comings and goings in Agamemnon and The Libation Bearers. Long articles have been written to explain why when Heracles, in Alcestis, leaves Admetus' palace for the heroine's tomb, he does not immediately bump into Admetus, who is returning from the same place. The Dutch scholar Van Leeuwen finds himself confronted with an apparent impasse in Aristophanes' The Achamians. Dikaiopolis, the inventive and peaceloving protagonist, is seen celebrating the rural Dionysia with his family in the country. Threatened by an angry chorus, he seeks aid and succour from Euripides. How can we justify this apparent propinquity? Euripides' house is apparently only a few feet from Dikaiopolis' farm, and the latter's retreat is immediate. After much cogitation, Van Leeuwen moves to a solution. We must imagine, he
If we look at the plays, instead of what people have said about them, a very different pattern appears. The facilities offered by the Greek theatre were of the simplest: an open space (the circle of the orchestra) and a closed space (the skene). This combination seems to satisfy the basic needs of play production, and reappears in other times and cultures: we see the same relationship between platea and domus in the medieval theatre, or between open stage and tiring house in the Elizabethan. The open space offers scope for the performance, and the closed space, the stage house, serves a multiple purpose as dressing room, a place from which actors may make their appearance, and a focal point for action.