Theater and drama in Ancient Greece took form in about 5th
century BCE, with the Sopocles, the great writer of tragedy. In his
plays and those of the same genre, heroes and the ideals of life were
depicted and glorified. It was believed that man should live for
honor and fame, his action was courageous and glorious and his life
would climax in a great and noble death.
Originally, the hero's recognition was created by selfish
behaviors and little thought of service to others. As the Greeks grew
toward city-states and colonization, it became the destiny and
ambition of the hero to gain honor by serving his city. The second
major characteristic of the early Greek world was the supernatural.
The two worlds were not separate, as the gods lived in the same world
as the men, and they interfered in the men's lives as they chose to.
It was the gods who sent suffering and evil to men.
In the plays of
Sophocles, the gods brought about the hero's downfall because of a
tragic flaw in the character of the hero.
In Greek tragedy, suffering brought knowledge of worldly
matters and of the individual. Aristotle attempted to explain how an
audience could observe tragic events and still have a pleasurable
experience. Aristotle, by searching the works of writers of Greek
tragedy, Aeschulus, Euripides and Sophocles (whose Oedipus Rex he
considered the finest of all Greek tragedies), arrived at his
definition of tragedy. This explanation has a profound influence for
more than twenty centuries on those writing tragedies, most
significantly Shakespeare. Aristotle's analysis of tragedy began with
a description of the effect such a work had on the audience as a
"catharsis" or purging of the emotions. He decided that catharsis was
the purging of two specific emotions, pity...