Greek Drama

·        Dramatic performance stemmed from religious festivals.

·        Plays were used to teach social lessons.

·        Drama was not just entertainment—it was a cultural necessity.


What it looked like:

·        Open amphitheaters could hold as many as 40,000 spectators.

·        Acoustics were so good that every member of the audience could hear the actors—no matter where they were sitting.

·        Actors wore exaggerated masks so the audience could differentiate between characters.

·        It is possible masks were used for vocal projection as well.

·        Physical violence was so repulsive it ruined the artistic affect of drama.

·        All violent action took place offstage and was reported by a messenger.



·        Group of 15 actors who represented the rational voice of society.

·        Often sang or chanted their lines.

·        They danced or performed dance-like movements across the stage while delivering their lines:

o      Strophe: 1st ode—chorus moved from the right to the left of the stage.

o      Antistrophe: 2nd ode—chorus moved from the left to right back to their original position.

o      Epode: Final ode—sung standing still.


Thespis:  The first actor to break from the chorus—thus actors are called thespians.


Deus ex machina:

·        Literally translates as “God out of a machine.”

·        Mechanical device used to lower “gods” onto the stage.

·        “Gods” often appeared to solve the unsolvable problems of the characters.

·        Device was also used to lift characters off the stage.


Suspension of Disbelief: 

·        An audience’s willingness to accept the world of the drama as reality during the course of a play



·        Emotional release the audience should feel after watching a tragedy.

·        It purifies us of our baser emotions so that the better ones shine forth.

·        Readers / viewers turn their thoughts inward to ponder their own fate.

·        Readers / viewers are moved to consider the fate of all human beings.

Tragic Hero:

·        Character of noble birth (king or princess).

·        Larger in spirit than the average person.

·        Moves toward committing an act (mistake) that will cause unnecessary      
     suffering, but learns from the consequences.

·        Has a tragic flaw: a personality trait that causes the character’s downfall.

·        Hubris:  The flaw of pride / abuse of power.  This is the most common
     character flaw in Greek tragedies.

·        Other flaws: vanity, arrogance, envy, etc.

·        A tragic hero is isolated:

o      Isolated because s/he is above most others in society.

o   Isolated in the end as a result of their fatal error and the consequences of
     that action.