Drama

Ancient Tragedy

– Aeschylus, Euripides and Sophocles

Aeschylus (c. 525-456 BC)

Aeschylus

The first of the three classical playwrights of 5th-century Athens, Aeschylus was born near Athens in 525 BCE, in the village of Eleusis. His father was called Euphorion, and was of noble descent. As a young man Aeschylus would have been influenced by two historic events: the exile of Hippias, a dictator, in 510 BC, and the establishment of democracy in Athens under Cleisthenes in 508 BC.

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Aristophanes

 – Master of Comedy

The birth year of Aristophanes (c. 448-385 BC), the great comic playwright and poet of Athens, is uncertain. He is known to have been about the same age as Eupolis, and is said to have been “almost a boy” when his first comedy (The Banqueters, since lost) was brought out in 427 BC.

Poster for The Birds, by Aristophanes, for a performance at Cambridge University. Public domain.
Poster for The Birds, by Aristophanes, for a performance at Cambridge University. Public domain.

Although tragedy and comedy had their common origin in the festivals of Dionysus, the regular establishment of tragedy at Athens preceded by half a century that of comedy. This initial period of comedy is called the Old Comedy and may be said to have lasted about 80 years (470-390 BC). Of the forty poets who are named as having illustrated it the chief were Cratinus, Eupolis and Aristophanes. Continue reading Aristophanes

Karagiozis

Karagiozis, Greek shadow puppet theater, has a history in Greece that links conceptually with one line of development that goes back to pre-classical times, and with a second, more direct connection, that positions the form in Greece from 1799, the earliest date at which the term shows up in a documented source. Going forward, Karagiozis spawned a comic tradition that served Greece well up to modern times — through epitheorisis, or review performances, Karlos Koun’s theatrical renditions of Karagiozis, and satiric comedy on the stage.* Continue reading Karagiozis

Aspects of Modern Greek Drama

Modern Greek dramaturgy was shaped by various factors. The struggle to establish the popular language (the demotic) in literature, translations of foreign classic and modern authors in a vivid, working language and the attempts of Greek playwrights to face and expose contemporary reality, either under the guise of comedy and satire, or under the new conditions of social drama, are the elements from which contemporary Greek drama has emerged. Comedy of manners, satirical revue and realistically expressed social drama have been the forms favoured by contemporary authors. Greek Comedy in its various forms as well as works aiming at social realism and pshychological drama succeeded in presenting a wealth of popular characters, a critique of situations and behaviour typical of the Greek bourgeoisie and a satire of political actuality.

Poster for performance of  The Coupling at The National Theatre of Northern Greece.
Poster for performance of The Coupling, by Grigorios Xenopoulos, at The National Theatre of Northern Greece.

Works originating from the 19th century were impressively staged anew during the 20th century, such as Vyzantios’ Babylonia, Chourmouzis’ comedies and Dimitrios Koromilas’ comic idylls. The scene of bourgeois drama was further enhanced with works by Grigorios Xenopoulos, Pantelis Horn and Spyros Melas. The 19th century Vasilikos by Antonios Matesis continues to be performed today in contrast to the works of Yiannis Kambysis. Continue reading Aspects of Modern Greek Drama