Greek Drama and Dramatists

Greek Drama and Dramatists

Greek Drama and Dramatists

Greek Drama and Dramatists

Synopsis

The history of European drama began at the festivals of Dionysus in ancient Athens, where tragedy, satyr-drama and comedy were performed. Understanding this background is vital for students of classical, literary and theatrical subjects, and Alan H. Sommerstein's accessible study is the ideal introduction.The book begins by looking at the social and theatrical contexts and different characteristics of the three genres of ancient Greek drama. It then examines the five main dramatists whose works survive - Aeschylus, Sophocles, Euripides, Aristophanes and Menander - discussing their styles, techniques and ideas, and giving short synopses of all their extant plays.

Excerpt

Ancient Greek drama comprises three principal genres: tragedy, satyrdrama and comedy. These resemble each other in many ways, and were performed at the same festivals, but each had its own distinguishing features, which are so clear-cut that when a new papyrus fragment of a hitherto unknown dramatic text is discovered it is nearly always possible to assign it to its correct genre on the basis of language, metre and content. In what follows, therefore, it will be necessary to discuss both those features which the three genres shared (including the physical and institutional environments in which they were performed) and those which distinguished them from each other.

We can be sure that role-playing activities, perhaps of a ritual or semi-ritual nature, were part of Greek life, as they are part of the life of almost all peoples, from the earliest times; we know that choral dancing was familiar in Homer's world; and archaic art portrays many groups of costumed dancers, often fantastically garbed (e.g. as birds, satyrs, or horsemen complete with hobby-horses), often grotesquely padded. But we do not know how or where these performances metamorphosed into something that can truly be called drama - an enactment of a story (whether adapted from a familiar myth, or freely invented) in which each performer, or group of performers, represents (at any given time) a person or persons in the framework of the story, speaking or singing the words of a more or less fixed text. The origins of drama were already disputed in Aristotle's day. Our evidence suggests, however, that the crucial time

1 We know of at least two other forms of dramatic performance that existed in the classical period - mime and phlyax drama - but no complete examples of these have survived.

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.