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Short Note on Trajedy

  • Date Submitted: 03/07/2011 09:35 AM
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Greek tragedy, created in the city-state of Athens in the last thirty years of the sixth century B.C.E., is the earliest kind of European drama. Its subject matter is normally drawn from mythology, except that for the ancient Greeks "mythology" was a kind of historical saga, often perfectly credible oral history, including stories about gods and other supernatural beings, handed down from generation to generation by word of mouth. The Persians of Aeschylus, describing the invasion of Athens by a huge Persian fleet in 480 and its defeat in the naval battle of Salamis, is such a play. However, tragedy is, strictly speaking, neither historical nor mythological; it is a poetic drama in the sense that poetry rises above the particulars of history and expresses human truths of a universal kind.

Origins and Evolution

According to Aristotle, tragedy originated from the improvisations of the exarchontes of the dithyramb. A dithyramb was a religious hymn in honor of Dionysus, and the Dionysiac origin of tragedy was in antiquity taken for granted, Dionysus being the god of theater as much as the god of wine, vegetation, and fertility.
It is impossible to reconstruct with any certainty the stages of evolution from religious hymn to ritual enactment, and finally to a kind of secular play in which a great variety of myths were presented in dramatic form to a theatrical audience rather than a group of worshipers. The critical stage in this line of development was the transition from ritual to theater. Ritual must be repeated more or less exactly if it is to be a religious act. But once it metamorphoses into a playful act, its religious ties are loosened and a great potential for development in form and content becomes available to creative artists.
However, once the first sparks were struck tragedy evolved swiftly by embracing and building on earlier forms of poetry. Choral lyric was a major poetic genre in Archaic Greece, particularly among Dorian Greeks. Next, the...


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