Greek Tragedy

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Describe the evolution of Greek tragedy from its origins in ritual and religious singing. Make reference to AT LEAST one scene from the Oresteia trilogy in which the religious beliefs of the Ancient Greeks are crucial to the drama

Tragedy within Greek drama was a complex reflection of life within their society and both portrayed and enforced the intricate religious and mythological roots which played an important part in the daily lives of every Greek.

Greek drama began as religious festivals in honour of their many Gods. One such God was the god of fertility, wine and ecstasy, named Dionysus. In Athens, four festivals were organized in honour of Dionysus. The festivals would co-inside with the seasons, with the biggest festival being the Great or City Dionysia. It was held when winter was at an end and spring was on its way. The Populous would celebrate the passing of the winter and welcome in the spring with sacrifices, dancing and singing in the hope that Dionysus would make the farm land fertile. These songs and dances, known as a Dithyramb would be performed by a chorus of men and boys who would sing and dance a poetic composition in honour of Dionysus. The lyrics of these songs were often inspired by the life of Dionysus and his adventures. There would also be a blood sacrifice of a Goat in honour of his name with a lamentable song being sung as part of the ritual. This ritual and song is where the word tragedy may derive from; ‘Tragos’ meaning goat and ‘Ode’ meaning hymn or lamentation.

As Greek life became more civilised, these rituals and dances grew and started to attract audiences, so much so that specially constructed buildings were created to hold the events. It was at this time that the dithyramb became more sophisticated as one member of the chorus stepped away from the rest and started to respond to the choral hymns. This was the birth of theatre and the origins of today’s modern theatrical performance. This progression led to...
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