The influence of Greek tragedy on Elizabethan Age drama

Greek tragedy is a form of theatre from Ancient Greece and Greek inhabited Anatolia. It reached its most significant form in Athens in the 5th century BC, the works of which are sometimes called Attic tragedy.

What is Greek origin of tragedy?

A play in which the protagonist, usually a person of importance and outstanding personal qualities, falls to disaster through the combination of a personal failing and circumstances with which he or she cannot deal.

Influence of Greek Tragedy

The tragedy of Elizabethan Age was not exhaust by Senecan tragedy, which looks back to the ancient Greece for the spirit and theory of western tragedy.

Hence the Greek tragic theory and vision helped Christopher Marlow and William Shakespeare enormously in achieving great complexity and depth in their plays. The dramatic form of tragedy owes to a lyric sung in honour of ‘Dionysus’, “The Greek God” of vegetation and wine in the course of the fertility feasts made to commemorate the harvest and vintage. The original Greek word, tragedia comes from another word meaning a goat-singer, possibly the ritual song and dance known as dithyramb attended by the sacrifice of a goat. The dithyramb evoked ideas of death and renewal of life, a process evoked by harvest and vintage.

The point is that death is an inescapable positive fact of life preceding fresh lease or renewal of life. In the hands of the Greek dramatists like Aeschylus (525-426 BC), Sophocles (996-406 BC) and Euripedes (485-406 BC) tragedy focused on the aesthetic beauty though it varied in emphasis from dramatist to dramatist.

Aeschylus to whom tragedy as a dramatic form owes its existence strove to elevate tragedy to the realm of fundamental truths, Sophocles gave the concept of dramatic unities and cherished tragedy as an art from unencumbered to achieve or present anything.

Hence, Euripedes used tragedy to reflect upon the darker aspects of life.

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