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Humanities LibreTexts

A Gift from Dionysus

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  • The term drama is translated from a Greek word meaning “to act” and in drama that has come to mean ”to imitate life.”  It is thought that drama began in the oral retelling of myths and heroic folk legends by primitive peoples and in rituals and worship intended to enhance the hunt or placate the gods.  The concept of theater came with the emergence of these rites as entertainment. 

    Theaters are known to exist as early as 700 B.C.E. in Greece.  It is also thought that tragedy was the first distinct form of drama to emerge from primitive beginnings, probably inspired by the deaths of rulers, kings or queens.  Drama appears in many forms but its essence remains the same: humans unending conflicts with fate, nature, family, neighbor, world and self.  Tragedy exalts in the worth of individuals, even in their struggles.

    What is comedy? Besides being another genre of drama, it could be said that comedy affectionately laughs at the shortcomings of the individual.  

    Aeschylus was a playwright and director who was the first to paint actors' masks with features that displayed the emotions of the character.

    Paraphrased from Humanities Through the Arts by Martin and Jacobus

    Photos of ancient Greek theater at Epidaurus

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