Miles Gloriosus


I. Greek drama was closely associated with the Dionysia, festivals in honor of Dionysus, the god of the vine, at which both tragedies and comedies were presented. The development of Greek tragedy need be only briefly sketched here. It probably originated in songs sung by the solemn procession which followed the statue of the god when it was taken from its temple and carried through the city streets. These songs told of the life of Dionysus, and the members of the procession represented the worshipers who had followed him in his wanderings. Eventually, a chorus separated from the procession and performed at a special time and in a special place. These independent choral performances soon included verses composed in praise of other gods and heroes. Thespis (ca. 540), "the father of tragedy," is reported to have introduced between songs of the chorus dramatic recitations by its leader. Aeschylus (525- 456), seven of whose plays are still extant, is said to have added a second actor. It has been suggested that, if Aeschylus performed in his own plays, the addition of a second actor meant that there were three performers in all. In any case, Aeschylus' later plays require three actors. His innovations made dialogue an important feature. His plays present the tragic stories of gods and heroes in the toils of fate. Either Sophocles (495-405) added a third actor, or, since he did not act himself, all three performers became regular actors. The seven extant plays of Sophocles are remarkable for their dramatic force and their skillful character-drawing. Of Euripides (480-405), eighteen tragedies and a satyr play, the Cyclops, survive. In the tragedies he presents gods and heroes under much the same guise as common men, with all their weaknesses and passions, and thus develops a romantic element. The situations in Euripides'

Additional information

Publisher: Place of publication:
  • Cambridge, MA
Publication year:
  • 1963


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