EN 2140 Lecture Notes - Lecture 1: Dionysia, Drama City, Euripides

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1 Aug 2016
From around 1600BC to 300BC when it declined in power / the essential political unit was the city state
or POLIS /Athens, Sparta, Corinth ,Thebes etc.
Period most relevant to theater is from around 8th century BC / Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey (a poetic
compilation of previous history, gods, heroes) provided most of the myths, stories and other materials
that influenced drama
City states acknowledged their similarities and common values
yet they thrived on differences in language and culture.
Kings and subsequently noblemen were the leaders who improved general living conditions.
Athens became the cultural center of Greece by the mid 500 – which is when the City Dionysia –
a festival celebrating god Dionysus – was established.
Athens became the cultural centre of Greece.
This reflected a general focus of the society on humanity.
The result was that this was the first democracy – which also testified to the complex view on
the relationship between religion and philosophy.
Greeks believed in a myriad of gods as well as in human capability to understand nature and the
world around them.
These two views clashed to a degree –putting humans at constant odds with the gods. Both depended
on Fate which was unpredictable.
This is where the essential conflict driving most of Greek tragedies comes from – the clash between the
human rationality (and the PRIDE they derived from it) and the unpredictability of Fate.
Three great playwrights :
- Aeschylus (7 plays remain-out of 80)
- Sophocles (7 plays remain – out of 120)
- Euripides(18 plays remain-out of 90)
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