The City Dionysia and Greek Tragedy

In this week’s lessons we have been continuing to rehearse our Aristophanes plays ready for our Dionysia Festival next month. You also made some word clouds which helped you think about the key themes, characters and ideas in your plays.

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We then explored the Dionysia and Greek tragedy in more detail. A Dionysia Festival would have had a very different atmosphere from a theatre experience today. It started with a solemn procession of the “choregoi” (wealthy citizens who had sponsored the plays). This was followed by a second procession which was more like a revelry. There were two days of male choruses singing hymns to Dionysus in competition.

This was then followed by the plays – in each day, 3 plays (either tragedies or comedies) followed by a satyr play.

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We looked at the words “katharsis” and “hamartia” and discussed their relevance to Greek tragedy. Katharsis means “cleansing” – the experience of watching something sad and then crying and feeling better is a form of katharsis. Hamartia is a character flaw that drives the story in tragic plays.

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We looked at the opening scene of the play Oedipus, and how he came across as caring,and determined to solve problems, as well as quite confident – arrogant even. We discussed how these traits led to the unravelling of the dreadful pollution which he had brought upon the city.

Finally, Amy, Maddie and Eloise appeared in the newspaper, in a story featuring the Suffrage Season, which our Dionysia forms a part!

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