Greek Tragedy

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Glossary of Greek Drama

Agon: a debate between characters in a play. For example, in The Clouds, a comedy staged in 423 B.C. by Aristophanes, two teachers at a thinking shop operated by Socrates debate the validity of traditional values and logical reasoning (which Aristophanes supports) vs the new ideas and deceptive reasoning of philosophers known as sophists.  
Anagnorisis Startling discovery; moment of epiphany; time of revelation when a character discovers his true identity. Anagnorisis occurs in Oedipux Rex when Oedipus realizes who he is. 
Antagonist Chief opponent of the protagonist in a Greek play.  
Attica Peninsula in southeastern Greece that included Athens. According to legend, the King of Athens, Theseus, unified 12 states in Attica into a single state dominated by Athenian leadership and the Athenian dialect of the Greek language. The adjective Attic has long been associated with the culture, language and art of Athens. The great period of Greek drama, between the Sixth and Fourth Centuries, B.C., is known as the Attic Period. Drama itself was invented by an Attic actor, Thespis, who introduced speaking parts to accompany choral odes. 
Catastrophe Denouement (resolution) of a tragedy in the drama of ancient Greece. 
Catharsis In literature and art, a purification of emotions. The Greek philosopher Aristotle (384-322 B.C.) used the term to describe the effect on the audience of a tragedy acted out on a theater stage. This effect consists in cleansing the audience of disturbing emotions, such as fear and pity, thereby releasing tension. This purgation occurs as a result of either of the following reactions: (1) Audience members resolve to avoid conflicts of the main character–for example, Oedipus inOedipus Rex and Creon in Antigone–that arouse fear or pity or (2) audience members transfer their own pity and fear to the main character, thereby emptying themselves of these disquieting emotions. In either case, the audience members leave the theater as better persons intellectually, morally, or socially. They have either been cleansed of fear of pity or have vowed to avoid situations that arouse fear and pity. In modern usage, catharsis may refer to any experience, real or imagined, that purges a person of negative emotions.  
Chorus Bystanders in a Greek play who present odes on the action. A parode (or parados) is a song sung by the chorus when it enters. A stasimon is a song sung during the play, between episodes of action. The chorus generally had the following roles in the plays of Sophocles and other Greek playwrights: (1) to explain the action, (2) to interpret the action in relation to the law of the state and the law of the Olympian gods, (3) to foreshadow the future, (4) to serve as an actor in the play,  (5) to sing and/or dance, and (6) to give the author's views. In some ways, the chorus is like the narrator of a modern film or like the background music accompanying the action of


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