Greek Tragedy

From the Course Syllabus for Week 7:

What counts as a just action, and what counts as an unjust one? Who gets to decide? These are trickier questions than some will have us think. This unit looks at one of the most famously thorny issues of justice in all of the ancient world. In Aeschylus’ Oresteia—the only surviving example of tragedy in its original trilogy form—we hear the story of Agamemnon’s return home after the Trojan War. Unlike Odysseus’ eventual joyful reunion with his wife and children, this hero is betrayed by those he considered closest to him. This family’s cycle of revenge, of which this story is but one episode, carries questions of justice and competing loyalties well beyond Agamemnon’s immediate family, eventually ending up on the Athenian Acropolis itself.

So far we have seen epic poetry and Homeric Hymns, they all use the dactylic hexameter form. More elusive references. A crux moment, before and after. Tragic time is usually NOW, and we are brought back to some earlier time which is being reconstructed before our eyes.

The actors all wear masks and the style is stylised. Aeschylus, Euripides and Socrates.

Tragedies started in the 6th c BCE and end in the 7th c BCE.

Songs sung in honour of gods. Tragedy is different, people come to an outdoors theatre, sit in an amphitheatre, engaging in honour of Dionysus, the patron of theatre. The most important festival was in Athens.

A spare stage with a door for entrances and exits. Actors in the first person. A chorus provide a commentary to the actors and the audience – making funny comments.