Drama: a story acted out on a stage for an audience
Tragedy: a dramatic work that presents the downfall
of a dignified character, usually ending in a
Comedy: a dramatic work that is light and often
humorous in tone, usually ending happily, with a
peaceful resolution of the main conflict.
Irony: usually involved a misunderstanding or
difference in understanding, creating a gap in
understanding that is appreciated by the audience.
Dramatic Irony: the reader or audience has
knowledge of a situation that the characters do not
know. The characters’ subsequent actions based
on that missing information creates irony.
Tragic Irony: a noble character is undone by
Began in 6th century B.C.
Religious festivals honoring Dionysus, the god of
wine and fertility, or new growth
Masked dancers performed on circular stage
Thespis of Icaria, a Greek poet, introduced the first
actor to the stage
thespian, meaning actor, comes from his name
Actor would represent multiple characters through the use of
masks and costumes
Plays continued to be religious in nature
Asked questions about the role of fate in human life and the
relationship between mortals and the gods
tragedy comes from Greek word for goat, a sacred animal to
Plays evolved into a form of entertainment
Writers competed for prizes before thousands of
spectators at the festivals of Dionysus in Athens
Hundreds of Greek tragedies were performed
Only 35 have survived
Plays were based on familiar
myths and legends that audiences
were familiar with
Audience is aware of things that
the characters are not (Dramatic
Imagine watching a play about
Little Red Riding Hood or any
other familiar fairy tale. What
would you know that
the characters would not?
Four Great Play Writes
Sophocles, Euripides, Aeschylus (tragedy)
Each contributed something significant to the
What They Did for the Tragedy:
Aeschylus: added a second actor, which created
Sophocles: added a third actor, which created more
Euripides: added stage effects and more realistic
More about Sophocles
In his youth, he was a wrestler, a
dancer, and a musician
He became a military leader, and
worked in politics
He served as an ambassador and a
Helped establish the first
Handsome, charming, friendly,
Highly regarded in Athenian
Character in a drama who is dignified or noble, yet
possesses a tragic flaw that brings about or
contributes to his or her downfall.
Recognizes the flaw only after it is too late to change
the course of events.
Examples of tragic flaws: poor judgment, pride,
Oedipus is a tragic hero
The Legend of Oedipus:
Somebody Call CPS
Born to King Laius and Queen Jocasta of Thebes
An oracle told Laius that a son born to him would kill him
Laius ordered servant to pin baby’s feet together and leave
him to die on a mountain
The servant pitied the infant and, instead, gave him to a
The shepherd gave him to King Polybus and Queen Merope
Oedipus means “swollen foot”
The Plot Thickens
Oedipus learns from a drunken partier that his father
(Polybus) was not actually his father
Oedipus goes to see the oracle at Delphi to find out the
truth about his parents.
The oracle reveals a terrible prophecy:
Oedipus would kill his father and marry his mother.
I Know Something You Don’t Know
Oedipus flees Corinth in an attempt to prevent the
prophecy from coming true
On his way to Thebes, he runs into King Laius and
some servants at a crossroad (symbolic?)
Remember, he does not know this is his dad (but we
do: dramatic irony)
They get into an argument and Oedipus kills Laius
What’s That Egyptian Thing Have to Do With
When Oedipus gets to Thebes, there is a monster (The
Sphinx) terrorizing the town
The Sphinx has the face of a woman, the body of a lion,
and the wings of a bird.
A riddle for you: “What is it that walks on four legs in
the morning, on two at midday, and on three in the
It (she?) ate anyone who could not solve the riddle.
And the Answer is:
Oedipus was a smart guy:
“Man, for he crawls as a baby, walks erect in maturity,
and uses a staff in old age.”
With the riddle answered, the Sphinx destroyed itself,
and Thebes was freed from the terror
Oedipus is named the new king of Thebes (of
AND he scores a new lady: the late King
He rules Thebes for many years – he is a
Prophecy, Prophecy, Prophecy
Irony, Irony, Irony
Thebes in Trouble Again
The Sphinx is dead, but now the city is dealing with a
Some scholars believe that this drama may have first
been performed after Athens had suffered through a
terrible plague, which began in 430 B.C.
Things to Ponder as We Read
Does Oedipus fit the definition of a tragic hero?
the words and actions of minor characters
help you understand the main characters?
What strategies do you need to use in reading a play?
Where do you see examples of dramatic irony?
How does this add to the telling of the story?