Four Famous Greek Plays

Four Famous Greek Plays

Four Famous Greek Plays

Four Famous Greek Plays

Excerpt

The Greek drama is the most convincing testimony we have to the fact that great literature is timeless and therefore always modern. Homer carries a still greater burden of years, and Sappho's songs have come to us in scarred and jagged fragments, like the remains of buried statues; but one was a simple story, directly told, of war and the beauty of women and the love of friends and family, and the other a passionate cry from a woman's heart. These are permanently moving things, and in Homer and Sappho there is little of the débris of bygone literary conventions to hide the treasure. The drama is different. It, too, tells stories of elemental human passions, but it must speak to us across twenty-five hundred years, not only in a language that for half that time has been a stranger to the lips of man, it must speak also through an art form more foreign to us than even its names and stories.

The dramatic is peculiar among literary forms in the strength of the conventions which it develops, conventions upon which the author leans for support and by which he is limited in the exercise of his genius. The dramatist, instead of speaking directly to his reader, must depend upon a group of actors to present his story to the audience, also in the group. Unless, therefore, he is writing a "closet-drama" -- and the Greeks never did -- the author must govern himself always by the circumstances surrounding the performance of his piece. Chief among these are the occasion when the play is to be performed and the . . .

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