The Different Types of Greek Drama and their importance

The Different Types of Greek Drama and their importance Greek statuette. Two strolling actors with comedy masks in the Louvre, Paris


The Ancient Greeks took their entertainment very seriously and used drama as a way of investigating the world they lived in, and what it meant to be human.

The three genres of drama were comedy, satyr plays, and most important of all, tragedy.

Comedy: The first comedies were mainly satirical and mocked men in power for their vanity and foolishness. The first master of comedy was the playwright Aristophanes. Much later Menander wrote comedies about ordinary people and made his plays more like sit-coms.

Tragedy: Tragedy dealt with the big themes of love, loss, pride, the abuse of power and the fraught relationships between men and gods. Typically the main protagonist of a tragedy commits some terrible crime without realizing how foolish and arrogant he has been. Then, as he slowly realizes his error, the world crumbles around him. The three great playwrights of tragedy were Aeschylus, Sophocles, and Euripides.

Aristotle argued that tragedy cleansed the heart through pity and terror, purging us of our petty concerns and worries by making us aware that there can be nobility in suffering. He called this experience 'catharsis'.

Satyr Plays: These short plays were performed between the acts of tragedies and made fun of the plight of the tragedy's characters. The satyrs were mythical half-human, half-goat figures and actors in these plays wore large phalluses for comic effect. Few examples of these plays survive. They are classified by some authors as tragicomic, or comedy dramas.




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