Greek Tragedy

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Introduction author: Simon Goodhill 

Publisher: Penguin Classics 

Date published: 2004

Pages: 307

Greek Tragedy is a compilation of five plays created in the brilliant twilight era of Athenian theater.

The following greek plays are in the book:

  • Agamemnon by Aeschylus
  • Oedipus Rex by Sophocles
  • Medea by Euripides
  • Frogs by Aristophanes
  • Poetics by Aristotle

Greek Tragedy is an excellent introduction to the genre – the audience is exposed to five of the most famous Greek playrights and their stylistic differences. There is also a blend of comedy and tragedy despite the title.

The main reason I bought this book was due to studying Medea in highschool, it was one of the few that I enjoyed being forced to read. I was blown away by Medea’s ruthless character and the passionate style of herioc verse.

I found Agamemnon and Oedipus Rex to be of equally awesome standard. Those who believe all older writing to be boring would be shocked: the plays unfold with gruesome, bloody, vivid detail and with bold, emotion drenched verse. These are exciting plays about adultery, incest, murder and all the other nasties of human nature, yet with poignant moralisation. I have often thought that if these plays were brought to cinemas they would be lapped up just as quickly as Ben Hur or Gladiator.

I have to guiltily admit that I did not read Frogs or Poetics. This is because I have already established that I dislike ‘comedies’ that are not modern. Let me use this example to explain: showing BBC’s ‘The Office’ to someone from 496BC would not yield the hilarious laughter result one would get from showing ‘The Office’ to someone from 2001. Comedy has to do context and usually poking fun at social norms and/or politics of a particular place or age. I am not an ancient greek, therefore I will not find the same things funny that they do. But anyone can understand tragedy, it has a way or transcending time and is also not so particular as comedy.   

The book  provides a large amount of information to help the audience form a thorough background. This includes maps, geneologies, timelines and also explanations of methods the Greeks used to perform the plays. Simon Goodhill’s introduction is informing without isolating those not familiar with the genre. The language itself may be hard at first, but this can be helped by referrng to the detailed Preface and Notes.

♥♥♥♥ – 4/5

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2 Responses to Greek Tragedy

  1. silverseason says:

    I enjoyed your comments and will look for the book. The play Agamemnon is the first play in a trilogy by Aeschylus. You might enjoy the others also: http://silverseason.wordpress.com/2010/03/23/aeschylus-the-oresteian-trilogy/

  2. goldnsilver says:

    Thanks for letting me know about the trilogy – I wasn’t aware that it was one of three. This is really exciting for me because I really enjoyed Agamemnon, as well as Aeschylus’s particular methods of drama.

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