Connections 2 : Greek Drama
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From the Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy:   Description of: Tragedy
Aeschylus 525-456 B.C.
Aeshylus was the earliest of the great Greek tragedians and the principal creator of Greek drama. He added a new element to the ancient celebrations when he introduced a second actor into the play, reducing the chorus in size. The chorus retreated from the center of attention and assumed a secondary role, commenting, warning or setting the mood for the action of the play which was now carried by the actors.

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Short biography and plays

Sophocles 496-406 B.C.
Sophocles gave tragedy its classical form by introducing the third actor into the plot. The chorus is much less prominent than in Aeshylus' works, the action is swifter and the dialogue sharper. When Sophocles was a young man, Athens was still supremely confident from victory over Persia; when he died, civil war with Sparta had brought disaster over the city. He despaired for the Athens he loved; but, as he saw life, outside circumstance was in the ultimate sense powerless; within himself, he held, no man is helpless.

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Sophocles page

Euripides 480-406 B.C.
Euripides was the most revolutionary of the Greek tragedians. The early poets still shared the traditional beliefs with the majority of their audiences, but a younger man, like Euripides, who was influenced by the free-thinking spirit of his time, no longer believed in the power of a god like Dionysus, whose festival he, as a tragic poet, was required to celebrate. Euripides solved his dilemna by presenting his plot in a way that implicitly contradicted the many answers his divine messengers provided for the difficulties of life.

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Euripides Home Page

The critical spirit of Euripides was far too advanced for his time. It was not surprising, therefore, that after Euripides no other great poet rose in Athens to carry on the tragic tradition.

Philosophers took over where tragedians left off. The advantage of philosophic dialogue was that it didn't have to appeal to the entire citizenship. Dramatic poets depended on the assent of the crowd - hence when disagreement between the public and the most advanced thinkers of Athens set in, further investigation into the nature of man could only occur in the more private medium of philosophic dialogue.

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