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EARLY ORIGINS

Greek theater is still one of the most important and long-lasting theatrical influences in the world, dating from around 700 BC and with some Greek plays still being performed to this day. Theater became significant to general Greek culture when it became an integral part of a festival honoring the god Dionysus. The three theatrical genres enjoyed by the ancient Greeks were the tragedy, comedy, and satyr play. The Greek empire was far-reaching, and as a result, theater was spread throughout much of the world, along with the mythological tales that many plays were based upon.

THREE MAJOR GENRES

The three major genres of ancient Greek theater were comedy, tragedy, and satyr plays, and a large amount of the material contained within

was based upon Greek myths, familiar tales to theatrical audiences. While comedies and tragedies continue to this day to be important not only in theater but in culture as a whole, satyr plays, which were similar to burlesque shows with their sexual humor and playfulness, largely died out. While it can be argued that the genre continues in burlesque shows, it is largely agreed upon that the genre did not last long after the sixth century B.C.

The origins of Greek tragedy began around 532 BC in Athens. During this time, a theater festival called Dionysia was founded to bring unity among the Attican tribes. The event included a contest, and people competing to present the best performance included Thespis, Choerilus, Pratinas, and Phrynichus, who each left a specific legacy in drama. For instance, Phrynichus was the first poet to use a historical figure as a subject of his work. Phrynichus was once fined by the Athenian government for writing a story that made the entire audience cry, and the government banned the play from ever being performed again so no one else had to endure the heartache.

spartanComedy plays were typically used to mock the men in power, making fun of them for their foolish decisions or their vanity. This style of comedy has continued to this day, remarkably similar to its original form. Aristophanes was the first great writer of comedic plays, including plays that are still studied to this day, such as The Birds and The Clouds. 

The three best-known writers of ancient Greek tragedy were undoubtedly Aeschylus, Sophocles, and Euripides. These three writers wrote about some of the great motifs of their time and ours, including pride, love, power, greed, and loss, all of which are prominent themes in the ancient Greek mythology upon which many of their plays were based. Some of the great tragedies ever written, in ancient Greece or otherwise, were written during this time and by these three writers, including Aeschylus’ trilogy The Oresteia, Sophocles’ Oedipus the King, and Euripides’ Electra.

GREEK MYTHOLOGY & THEATER RESOURCES

Check out these sites to learn more about Greek mythology and the theater:

ANCIENT GREEK THEATERS VIDEO

There are many famous theaters throughout ancient Greece that have played an instrumental role in the Greek culture and it’s strong belief in mythology.  Legends have been formed,  taken to the people in these venues and now they stand, several thousand years later, as symbols of this strength and belief.

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