Myth and Society in Attic Drama

Myth and Society in Attic Drama

Myth and Society in Attic Drama

Myth and Society in Attic Drama

Excerpt

The present study is an attempt at putting the two halves of a single picture together--the one half Attic drama, the other Attic society. It is the outcome of a question which probably many others beside myself have been both philistine and sensible enough to ask. Why do people continue to read these plays? As literature they breathe an old world air; they are remote in time, strange in plot, in form unlike the drama of today, and yet they do very definitely and inexplicably move the reader. On the other hand, if they can move us in times like these, must they not have stirred more effectively a contemporary audience?

In answering these questions the first thing to do was to read all the plays through, not haphazardly picking tragedy, then comedy in turn, but in the order of their original appearance as chronological links in a single evolution. The next was to find out how they were produced. The drama in vacuo as literature is not complete. It must be visualized, for the imagination, at least, must stalk the boards and come alive again. Here archaeology was of enormous help. A visit in the past to the Dionysiac theater and to the mountain-encircled stage at Delphi did more than volumes to apply the touch of life to the old plays. Further, with all the power of a richly expressive art the Greeks recorded their own impressions of the theater in countless vase paintings, in statuettes and figurines, which are still available in museums or in reproduction. Like small scintillae of ancient life they helped repeople and vivify the ancient stage.

And yet there was something still lacking. As spectacle the plays must have been bright indeed--a moving mass of color and of not too statuesque figures--but the plots, the dialogue, the curious ethical principles involved, continued to seem strange. Was there . . .

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