Greek Tragedy: The Oresteia and Antigone. Unit 2: Greece Honors 2101, Fall 2006 Bryan Benham. Classical Greek Drama. Written for and performed at dramatic competition during Dionysian festival at Athens. Tragedies: trilogy plus a Satyr play
Unit 2: Greece
Honors 2101, Fall 2006
About human suffering.
Associated with religious celebrations, thus solemn, poetic, and philosophic.
Based on myth or characters from myth.
Main character imperfect but admirable and confronted by a difficult moral choice or struggle against hostile forces (human and divine).
Main character's struggle ends in defeat and, usually, his or her death; but happy endings not unheard of.
About human comedy.
Associated with social commentary by means of outspoken farce and baudy actions (Vaudville?).
Based on contemporary characters or events.
Main character is parody of contemporary that is being ridiculed.
Satyr plays (brief comic parody of myth)
New Comedy (a comedy of errors or situation comedy)Two Forms of Greek Drama
Orchestra: “dancing space” used by chorus; often included an altar (thymele).
Simple Structure: After a prologue spoken by one or more characters, the chorus enters, singing and dancing with additional scenes that alternate between spoken sections (episodes) and sung sections (choral odes):
Clytemnestra, with the help of her lover Aegisthus, kills her husband Agamemnon (and Cassandra) upon his return after ten years from the Trojan War. She declares it is justice for sacrificing their daughter Iphigenia ten years earlier. The people look forward to Orestes’ revenge.
Clytemnestra dreams ill- omens and Orestes returns to avenge his father. After revealing himself to Electra, his sister, Orestes kills Aegisthus and Clytemnestra, only to be chased by the terror of the Furies.
Orestes flees to Athens under the protection of Apollo. The Furies catch up to Orestes, but Athena insists on a trial to determine the propriety of Orestes’ killing of his mother.
[Antigone is the one literary text that exresses] “all the principal constants of conflict in the condition of man. These constants are fivefold: the confrontation of men and women; of age and youth; of society and of the individual; of the living and the dead; of men and of god(s).”
Wisdom is by far the greatest part of joy,
and reverence toward the gods must be safeguarded.
The mighty words of the proud are paid in full
with mighty blows of fate, and at long last
those blows will teach us wisdom.
What is the message Sophocles is conveying here?
Suggested Paper TopicsNote: the following suggestions focus only on the plays assigned, but you may wish to develop a thesis that includes discussion of other texts we have read; you need not limit yourself to just these plays for these topics.