CLA2006 - Greek and Roman Drama

2013/4 Module description

StaffProfessor Matthew Wright - Convenor
Credit Value30
ECTS Value15.00
NQF Level6
Duration of Module Term 1: 11 weeks; Term 2: 11 weeks;

Module description

Building on your knowledge from CLA1005 – Greek and Roman Narrative - this module will explore the origin and development of ancient drama.  You will focus on Greek tragedy and comedy in the fifth and fourth centuries BC and the Roman comedy and Senecan tragedy (first century AD).  You will study Athenian tragedy of the fifth century BC, examining both the texts of the plays and the way they develop with time and in line with changes in the city.  The complementary study of Seneca whose nine tragedies are modelled on the Greek tragedies will raise issues of text, performance and the cultural setting of drama.  During the second term you will study comedy, considering the place of Greek Old Comedy in the Athenian democratic city and how it differs from New Comedy of the late fourth century.

Module aims

On the basis of a selection of texts in English translationâ??Greek and Roman tragedies and comedies from Aeschylus to Senecaâ??we attempt to come to a general understanding of the origin and development of ancient drama, the importance of types of plot and character, the relationship of drama with society and the emotional effect of tragedy.
We study Athenian tragedy of the fifth century BC over a period of some sixty years, paying attention both to the texts of the plays and the way they develop with time and in line with changes in the city. Complementary study of the very different tragedy of Seneca (first century AD) raises issues of text, performance and the cultural setting of drama.
We study comedy, considering the place of Greek Old Comedy (for example Aristophanes) in the Athenian democratic city, and ways in which it differed from the New Comedy of the late fourth century (for example Menander). Roman approaches to comedy (plays by Plautus and Terence) are investigated.
The module builds on the Greek and Roman Narrative module, CLA1005.

ILO: Module-specific skills

  • 1. On the completion of this module, students should be able to describe and analyse (a) the development of Greek tragedy and comedy in the fifth and fourth centuries BC and (b) Roman comedy and Senecan tragedy.
  • 2. They should also be able to read critically individual works within a specific genre.

ILO: Discipline-specific skills

  • 3. Students should demonstrate an ability to distinguish and assess critically literature in a foreign culture and to place that literature in its cultural context, an ability to place drama in the context of the theatre, and to be able to comment on aspects of its theatricality.

ILO: Personal and key skills

  • 4. Students should demonstrate a capacity for independent judgement, an ability to work in a seminar team, and an ability to present work in written form with a strong and coherent argument.

Syllabus plan

First Term: 1. Introduction and orientation; 2. The origin of tragedy and Euripides' Bacchae 3. Festival and theatre 4. Tragedy and ritual 5. Tragedy and politics 6. Tragedy and gender 7. Aeschlus' Persians and the anonymous Prometheus Bound 8. Sophocles' Antigone 9. Sophocles Electra and Euripides Electra 10. Euripides Hippolytus 11. Seneca's Phaedra.

Second term: 1. Comic authors, plots and themes; 2. Genre II: what is comedy?; 3. The ancient sense(s) of humour; 4. Sex and obscenity; 5. The politics of comedy; 6. Comedies of ideas: Clouds and Frogs; 7. Metatheatre and gender: The Poet and the Women; 8. The sociology of comedy; 9. New Comedy: ancient (and modern) soap opera; 10. New Comedy: character, ethics and human relationships; 11. Comic myth: Amphitryo; 12. Revision.

Learning activities and teaching methods (given in hours of study time)

Scheduled Learning and Teaching ActivitiesGuided independent studyPlacement / study abroad

Details of learning activities and teaching methods

CategoryHours of study timeDescription
Scheduled learning and teaching activities4444 x 1 hour lectures
Scheduled learning and teaching activities88 x 1 hour seminars
Guided independent study248Independent study

Summative assessment (% of credit)

CourseworkWritten examsPractical exams

Details of summative assessment

Form of assessment% of creditSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Oral presentations1010 mins1-4mark and written comments
Essay 1202000 word1-4mark and written comments
Essay 2202000 word1-4mark and written comments
Exam503 hour1-4mark and written comments

Indicative learning resources - Basic reading

1. Prescribed texts:

Aeschylus, Persians and Prometheus Bound; Sophocles, Antigone and Electra; Euripides, Hippolytus, Electra,and Bacchae; Seneca, Phaedra; Aristophanes, Lysistrata, Acharnians, Clouds, The Poet and the Women and Frogs; Menander, The Bad-Tempered Man and The Girl from Samos; Terence, The Brothers; Plautus, The Rope and Amphitryo; N.B. Teaching, seminars and examinations will be based on the following prescribed translations: Aeschylus: (Collard Oxford World's Classics); Sophocles: (Kitto, Oxford World's Classics); Euripides: (Morwood, Oxford World's Classics); Seneca: Four Tragedies and Octavia (Watling, Penguin Classics); Aristophanes: Lysistrata and Other Plays (Sommerstein, Penguin), The Wasps and Other Plays (Barrett, Penguin); Menander: The Plays and Fragments (Balme, Oxford World's Classics); Terence: The Comedies (Radice, Penguin); Plautus: The Rope and Other Plays (Watling, Penguin).

2. Selected introductory reading:

P.E.Easterling (ed.), The Cambridge Companion to Greek Tragedy (Cambridge 1997) M. Wright, Euripides' Escape Tragedies (Oxford, 2005) O. Taplin, Greek Tragedy in Action (London, 1978) R. Rehm, The Greek Tragic Theatre (London, 1992) A. Pickard-Cambridge, The Dramatic Festivals of Athens (ed. 2, Oxford 1968) Aristotle, Poetics, translated by Malcolm Heath (Penguin Classics: Harmondsworth,1996) K. Dover, Aristophanic Comedy (Berkeley 1974) M. Silk, Aristophanes and the Invention of Comedy (Oxford 2000) W.G. Arnott, Menander, Plautus, Terence (Greece and Rome New Surveys in the Classics no 9) N. Zagagi, The Comedy of Menander (London 1994).

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Origin date


Last revision date

07 March 2013

Key words search

Classics, Greek, Roman, Drama

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