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Greek Drama: Tragedy and Comedy

When looking at Greek Drama, it needs to be considered in two distinctly different genres, tragedy and comedy. Greek Drama is usually either very tragic or very comedic, which is where the genres come into play. These are two very different genres and thus, they both have a very different nature from one another.

When looking at Greek Drama, it needs to be considered in two distinctly different genres, tragedy and comedy. Greek Drama is usually either very tragic or very comedic, which is where the genres come into play. These are two very different genres and thus, they both have a very different nature from one another.

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Greek Drama got its start from an ancient festival called Dionysia. “At Dionysia, Greeks would celebrate their God of wine, Dionysis, by drinking wine and having short plays” (Electronica). These short plays eventually developed into what is now considered Greek Drama. Greek Drama was meant to be used as a form of communication towards the people of Greece to get messages across that would not normally be talked about in day-to-day conversation. “Greek Drama helped to explain events in Greek society” (Electronica). These plays would help an audience to comprehend certain events depicted in the play. With their newfound knowledge, they could have a better understanding of certain political aspects of their life and other aspects as well. “Greek Drama employed many characteristics to help convey its message” (Electronica). Characteristics used by the Greek playwrights included catharsis, hammartia, and koimodia. With the use of these characteristics an audience could be easily persuaded to view things in the way the playwright viewed them. Therefore, these examples show that the nature of Greek Drama helped explain many details of Greek society.

Greek Comedy used humor as a way of getting points and ideas across to the audience. “Satire and body humor were used as a means of communicating the message of the play in a humorous manner” (Electronica). Satire and body humor were a common part of any Greek Comedy. They helped lighten the tension the audience may have been feeling during a particularly serious scene of the play. Wit was also an important part of any Greek Comedy. “Greek Comedy makes fun of human flaws with irony and wit” (Electronica). The use of irony and wit often made a play seem like it was dealing with a less serious matter than it actually was. Irony could be used to make the death of someone seem hilarious. A good example of a Greek Comedy which outlines all of these traits is Lysistrata. “‘What is it all about?’ ‘About a big affair’ ‘And is it thick too?’ ‘Yes indeed, both big and great.’ ‘And we are not all on the spot!’” (Aristophanes 2). This situation shows humor while talking about the serious subject of war and peace. This would lighten the mood of any audience watching the play while talking about such a serious matter, thus does Lysistrata fall into the genre of Greek Comedy. Lysistrata also shows comedy between the characters while talking about a means to end the war. “‘Refrain from what? Tell us, tell us!’ ‘But will you do it?’ ‘We will, we will, though we should die of it.’ ‘We must refrain from the male altogether… Nay, why do you turn your backs on me?’ (Aristophanes 7). This shows humor because the women are willing to refrain from anything, except for sex. This is a clever use of irony by Aristophanes and helps to clearly classify Lysistrata as a Greek Comedy. Clearly, clever use of satire, body humor, irony, and wit, are all what make up a great Greek Comedy.

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Greek Tragedy uses many mechanisms to make the audience feel like they are an actual part of the play and feel sorry for the characters as if they know them. One mechanism implemented by Greek playwrights was Hammartia. “Hammartia is an error in judgment that leads to the tragic hero’s demise” (Electronica). Many Greek Tragedies used Hammartia to show how a quality that makes someone great can also lead to their demise. Hammartia is also known as the tragic flaw. This quality of a Greek Tragedy is most often used on the tragic hero to show that what once made him great has lead to his downfall. “Dramatists presented their audience with deeply troubling emotional issues as they publicly examined the worst and most hidden fears of the individual” (definition of Greek Tragedy). Deeply troubling emotional issues are what make a Greek Drama a Greek Drama. Without these issues, the tragic hero would have no way to be brought down and thus, there would be no Greek Tragedy. Greek Tragedy can be best represented by Antigone. “You made your choice, to live ; I mine, to die” (Sophocles 21). This shows Antigone in a tragic sense because Antigone’s tragic flaw, ambitiousness, is what makes her choose to die and it is her downfall. Her ambitiousness made her great when she chose to bury her brother but it eventually killed her. Antigone is a great example of a Greek Tragedy. “None may bewail, none bury, all must leave unwept, unsepulchred, a dainty prize for fowl that watch, gloating upon their prey!” (Antigone 2). Antigone is told that she may not bury her brother as he was the enemy. She is presented with a deeply troubling emotional issue because she has an obligation to bury her brother, yet she is not allowed to by the law. The aforementioned qualities certainly show what a Greek Tragedy was to be composed of.

Through their use of Comedy and Tragedy in Greek Drama, Greek playwrights show how plays can be used as a useful tool in the persuasion of an audience, whether it is in the comedic or tragic form. Surely, this shows the true power of Greek Drama. Greek Drama will forever hold a place in history as one of the greatest feats of ancient civilization.

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