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Greek Theatre

1. Introduction

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In this module, we provide an introduction to Athenian tragedy and comedy, focusing in particular on: (i) the difference between ancient theatre and going to the theatre today; (ii) the kind of people who went to the theatre, how many there were, and where they sat – and why this was (and is) important; (iii) the idea that Athenian theatre was a means of putting the city of Athens and its political system es meson (‘into the public domain to be contested’); and (iv) the reason that Athenian tragedy tends to be set somewhere other than Athens, to be located in the mythical past rather than present day, and in which the characters tend to be anything *other* than Athenian citizens.


In this course, Professor Simon Goldhill (University of Cambridge) explores several aspects of Greek tragedy and comedy, focusing in particular on Sophocles’ Oedipus the King, Euripides’ Bacchae, and Aristophanes’ Frogs. The first module provides an introduction to Greek tragedy and comedy, focusing in particular on the particular time and place in which these plays were written and performed ¬– fifth-century Athens. In the second module, we think about the rituals and ceremonies that preceded the performance of the dramatic works themselves – and why they are important in how we think about tragedy and comedy. Each of the three modules after that focuses on a single play –Sophocles’ Oedipus the King, Euripides’ Bacchae, and Aristophanes’ Frogs – and we think about some of the play’s key issues and preoccupations. The sixth module provides some concluding thoughts on the genre as a whole.


Simon Goldhill is Professor of Greek Literature and Culture and a Fellow of King's College, Cambridge. His research interests include Greek Tragedy, Greek Culture, Literary Theory, Later Greek Literature, and Reception. His many publications include Reading Greek Tragedy (1986), Love Sex and Tragedy (2004), Victorian Culture and Classical Antiquity (2011), and Sophocles and the Language of Tragedy (2012), the last of which won the 2013 Runciman Award for the best book on a Greek topic, ancient or modern.

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APA style

Goldhill, S. (2020, September 03). Greek Theatre - Introduction [Video]. MASSOLIT.

MLA style

Goldhill, S. "Greek Theatre – Introduction." MASSOLIT, uploaded by MASSOLIT, 03 Sep 2020,

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