Classical Greek and Roman Theatre

Topics: Drama, Tragedy, Sophocles Pages: 4 (970 words) Published: October 6, 2013


Discuss the political and social context of the depiction of on-stage violence in both Classical Greek and Roman theatre. Please refer to at least one text studied.

Is picturing a violent act, worse than actually witnessing it? In our modern society, we have become so accustomed to and sometimes enjoy watching violent acts play out on stage, however this was not always the case. Ancient Greek and Roman tragedy, particularly surrounding the fifth century Before Christ, had very different ways of depicting violence within a stage play. Whilst the Greeks presented violent acts as offstage events, out of sight but very much within the emotional reach of the audience, the Romans took a different outlook, turning on-stage bloodshed into entertainment. Through discussing particular aspects of the social and political sides of Greek and Roman culture, we can further explore why each society differed their ways of onstage violence portrayal. Oedipus the King, written by the famous Sophocles, an ancient Greek tragedian, can help to explain these differences, as the play is home to a number of violent acts.

Firstly, we must explore the culture of ancient Greeks, who were in fact the creators of drama. In ancient Greek culture religion played an immense part in shaping the attitudes values and beliefs of the society. Whilst the earliest surviving Greek tragedy dates back to 472 BC, numerous years before this the Greeks had developed a talent for telling the stories of myths and legends to each other in order to bring the society together. For hundreds of years prior to the creation of drama they cultivated melic poetry, that is poetry which is intended to be sung with instrumental background, as well as it’s choral form whereby a large number of citizens would add expressive movement into the poetry and music. These rituals also included the Homeric Hyms, a collection of thirty-three anonymous Ancient Greek hymns celebrating individual gods. The Greeks therefore...
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