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Sophocles
496?-406 B.C.
Lifetime
Saw Athens rise and fall
 Represented high points of Athenian
culture.
 He wrote more than 120 plays.
 Seven of that remain intact.

Contributions to Theater
Won prizes at drama competitions
because of careful plotting and the
“sense of inevitability” in his
dramas.
 Complex character development
 Innovations for stage

Greek Drama
Classical drama developed from
religious festivals that paid homage
to Dionysus, the god of wine and
fertility.
 Plays were funded by the state.
 Plays were performed in
amphitheaters.

Greek Drama (cont’d)
Male actors performed in front of
skene.
 Few scene changes.
 Actors wore large masks, padded
costumes and elevated shoes.
 Words emphasized more than
action.

Role of Chorus





Provided background information.
Assessed characters’ strengths and
weaknesses and gave advice.
Provided connection between actors and
the audience because the chorus had two
roles: observer and participant.
Helped structure action.
Used to shape audience’s response to
play’s action and characters.
Greek Tragedy
Prologue
 Parados
 Episodia
 Stasimon
 Exodus

Tragedy
Presents courageous individuals who
confront powerful forces within or
outside themselves with a dignity
that reveals the breadth and depth
of the human spirit in the face of
failure, defeat and even death.
 Greek tragedy tends to be public.

Protagonist
Someone regarded as extraordinary
rather than typical. Stature is
important because it makes his/her
fall more terrifying.
 Hamartia: Protagonist has error or
frailty that seals his/her fate. An
internal tragic flaw.
 Accepts responsibility for downfall.

More Terms
Reversal: Moment in plot where
protagonist expectations are
changed. Hero's fortunes are turned
in unexpected direction.
 Recognition: character grows, makes
discovery.
 Dramatic irony: meaning of
character’s words, actions
understood by audience but not by
character.

From The Bedford
Introduction to Literature
Michael Meyer, Ed.