Origins of Greek Tragedy

Literary/ Cultural Context Essay

Richard Seaford (University of Exeter)
Download PDF Add to Bookshelf Report an Error

Most of our evidence for ancient Greek tragedy is from Athens, which in the classical period was the most important place of its performance. Athens was also where —towards the end of the sixth century BC— it came into being; or at least it was where there occurred the final phase of its genesis. Light on this genesis is provided by notices in ancient authors, the extant plays themselves, the shape of some early theatres, vase-paintings of choruses, and the evolution of drama in other cultures. The best evidence by far is the fourth chapter of Aristotle’s



Aristotle states that tragedy had an improvisatory origin, and came into being from the exarchontes of the dithyramb. Aeschylus increased the number of actors from one to two, reduced the choral part, and made the spoken

2500 words

Citation: Seaford, Richard. "Origins of Greek Tragedy". The Literary Encyclopedia. First published 24 April 2009 [, accessed 21 June 2024.]

5811 Origins of Greek Tragedy 2 Historical context notes are intended to give basic and preliminary information on a topic. In some cases they will be expanded into longer entries as the Literary Encyclopedia evolves.

Save this article

If you need to create a new bookshelf to save this article in, please make sure that you are logged in, then go to your 'Account' here

Leave Feedback

The Literary Encyclopedia is a living community of scholars. We welcome comments which will help us improve.