Greek Drama

•      Developed from religious festivals paying homage to Dionysus (god of wine and fertility)

•      Competitive festivals where 3 playwrights present 4 plays each (3 tragedies and one satyr or comedy) in order to heighten religious mood.

•      Performed on open-air amphitheatres seating around 14000 people.

•      Actors appeared behind orchestra in front of skene (stage building serving as dressing room).

•      Wall of skene later painted to represent the setting.

•      Drama based on familiar stories.

•      Dramatic irony essential device in which the audience knows what the character is ignorant of.

•      Deus ex machina (god from above) another device where gods are lowered from roof to rescue characters from irresolvable situations. Term later used to describe improbable means by which author resolves conflict.

•      Huge audience mostly unable to see facial features, thus drama depended heavily on words rather than actions.

Typically divided in 5 part:

•      Prologue: opening speech or dialogue that gives the exposition needed to understand action to follow.

•      Parodos: chorus appears to present its perspective on the events disclosed in prologue.

•      Episodia: episodes, at which characters engage in dialogue to present the play’s conflict.

•      Stasimon: choral ode, in which the chorus comments on each episode.

•      Exodus: follows last scene, presents the resolution of the conflict

•      Thespis added an actor external to chorus.

•      Aeschylus added a second actor.

•      Sophocles added a third actor.


•      Born 496 BC

•      Witnessed the glory and the fall of Athens in his lifetime.

•      Improved stage scenery.

•      Reduced importance of chorus.

•      Added third speaker on stage


•      Cadmus slew dragon, instructed to sow dragon's teeth to form city of Thebes.

•      From teeth sprang race of giants fully armed and angry, fought till only five were left, becoming fathers of Thebes.

•      Oracle tells Laius, great grandson of Cadmus, that his son will kill him.

•      Laius and wife Jocasta give son to shephard to kill.

•      shepherd gives it to another man who gives it to childless king and queen of Corinth who name him Oedipus (in reference to mangled and swollen feet when his parents pierced them with iron pin)

•      Years later Oedipus kills Laius on crossroad.

•      Thebes beset by Sphinx (winged monster with head of woman and body of lion killing all who fail to answer her riddle).

•      Oedipus, escaping oracle's prophecy of him killing his father and marrying his mother, solves the puzzle. As reward, he marries Jocasta.



•      Oedipus sends brother in law Creon to Apollo for guidance.

•      Creon brings message from Apollo: solution is to find killer of Laius and banish him from Thebes.

•      Oedipus consults the blind prophet Teiresias who tells him reluctantly that Oedipus is the killer.

•      Oedipus assumes it’s a conspiracy by Creon mocking Teiresias for not even being able to solve the riddle of the Sphinx.

•      Jocasta interferes when Creon confronts Oedipus with his accusation, explaining that Oracles don’t always tell the truth, citing the Oracle about Laius’ murder.

•      Description of Laius and his murder place makes Oedipus suspect he's the murdered, Jocasta conforts him by saying that the witness said there were 5 murderers.

•      Oedipus tells Jocasta what troubles him: his own oracle of killing father, and a man who told him he's adopted.

•      Messenger from Corinth comes with news that Oedipus’ father Polybus is dead. News taken as proof of oracle's untruth.

•      Messenger tells Oedipus, trying to assure him, that Merope isn’t really his mother. Messenger is that same man who received Oedipus from the shephard.

•      As it unfolds, Jocasta begs Oedipus not to carry through with investigation. Oedipus says he must, Jocasta bids Oedipus farewell. Oedipus assumes she’s ashamed of his low birth.

•      Shephard comes to confirm that Oedipus is son of Jocasta and Laius

•      Oedipus runs in castle looking for sword to kill Jocasta, finds her hanged in her own room.

•      Oedipus gorges his own eyes with her gold brooches, symbolizing his blindness to the truth.

•      Creon begs Oedipus to hide from view but Oedipus insists on banishing himself after saying goodbye to his daughters.