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Greek Tragedy: General Characteristics
Transcript of Greek Tragedy: General Characteristics
By: Kelsey Gage
What Is Tragedy?
Tragedy is a piece of dramatic work with serious subject matter that presents a dramatic conflict which is not solved and only ends in catastrophe.
Tragedy was the earliest form of Greek Theatre to be produced.
The stories portrayed were based on myths, legends, and epic poems.
Themes often used were love, life, death, abuse of power, and, sometimes, interactions between humans and gods.
Although there were many pieces written, only 31 works by 3 authors remain. (Aeschylus, Sophocles, Euripides)
Aeschylus (earliest author) had a religious focus, Sophocles (middle) had both religious and secular focus, and Euripides (latest author) had a secular focus.
KEY: Epiesodion = Episode, Stasima = Chorus Number
Prologue = Exposition, Exodus = Conclusion
Parados = Entrance of the Chorus
This 5-episode format was consistent throughout Greek tragedy and would carry over to later forms such as Shakespearean tragedy.
Greek tragic playwrights liked to use parallel scenes throughout their work in order to drive home a point or lesson.
Although playwrights followed a similar format, they still had a unique style.
Tragedies always have a late point-of-attack. This means that most of the action/events of the play have occurred before the play even begins.
Types of Characters
There were two types
of players on stage:
characters and the chorus.
Characters were those that had a name/title and their own lines.
They spoke in either dialogue or soliloquy.
On occasion, they would sing a solo, duet, or engage in sung dialogue with the chorus.
The chorus was a group of people who had no individual name/title or lines on stage.
They only communicated through concerted song and dance.
The only chorus member allowed to break from the group was the Chorus Leader who had his own lines.
Historical Context of Tragedy
Greece was one of the most artistically-progressive states in Ancient History.
Before Theatre, myths and legends were spread by word of mouth.
When Thespis created Theatre in 534 BCE during a festival honoring the god Dionysus, the art became immensely popular and tragedy emerged as the primary genre.
The earliest tragedy still in existence is Aeschylus' "The Persians" (472 BCE) but historians believe the first tragedy produced occurred prior to 5OO BCE.