CLA2006 - Greek and Roman Drama

2020/1 Module description

StaffProfessor Matthew Wright - Convenor
Credit Value30
ECTS Value15
NQF Level5
Duration of Module Term 1: 11 weeks; Term 2: 11 weeks;

Module description

This module is aimed at anyone who wants to know more about the fascinating theatrical traditions of ancient Athens and Rome. It examines a wide range of plays, both tragic and comic, including works by authors as varied as Aeschylus, Sophocles, Euripides, Menander, Aristophanes, Terence and Plautus.  All these texts are studied in the medium of English translation, making the module widely accessible.  Students will be given an advanced critical introduction to some of the greatest and most influential works in the Western dramatic tradition, and they will be encouraged to think about such matters as the connection between drama and society, the role of ritual and religion, the nature of the tragic and comic genres, and the psychological and emotional impact of drama on its audience.

Module aims

On the basis of a selection of texts in English translation "Greek and Roman tragedies and comedies from Aeschylus to Seneca" 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. 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. Read critically individual works within a specific genre

ILO: Discipline-specific skills

  • 3. 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
  • 4. Place drama in the context of the theatre
  • 5. Comment on some aspects of its theatricality

ILO: Personal and key skills

  • 6. 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
  • 7. Work in a seminar team
  • 8. Present work in written form with a coherent argument

Syllabus plan

Whilst the content may vary from year to year, it is envisioned that it will cover some or all of the following topics:

  • Introduction and orientation
  • The origin of tragedy and Euripides' Bacchae
  • Festival and theatre
  • Tragedy and ritual
  • Tragedy and politics 
  • Tragedy and gender
  • Aeschlus' Persians and the anonymous Prometheus Bound
  • Sophocles' Antigone
  • Sophocles Electra and Euripides Electra
  • Euripides Hippolytus
  • Seneca's Phaedra
  • Comic authors, plots and themes
  • Genre II: what is comedy?
  • The ancient sense(s) of humour
  • Sex and obscenity
  • The politics of comedy
  • Comedies of ideas: Clouds and Frogs
  • Metatheatre and gender: The Poet and the Women
  • The sociology of comedy
  • New Comedy: ancient (and modern) soap opera
  • New Comedy: character, ethics and human relationships
  • Comic myth: Amphitryo

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 teaching4422 x 2 hour lectures
Scheduled learning and teaching88 x 1 hour seminars
Guided independent study248Independent study

Formative assessment

Form of assessmentSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Oral contribution to seminarWeekly1-7Oral feedback

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
Written assignment201000 words1-6, 8Written and oral feedback
Essay302500 words1-6, 8Written and oral feedback
Examination502 hours1-6, 8Written and oral feedback

Details of re-assessment (where required by referral or deferral)

Original form of assessmentForm of re-assessmentILOs re-assessedTimescale for re-assessment
Written assignmentWritten asignment1-6, 8ref/def period
EssayEssay1-6, 8ref/def period
ExaminationExamination1-6, 8ref/def period

Re-assessment notes

Deferral – if you miss an assessment for certificated reasons judged acceptable by the Mitigation Committee, you will normally be either deferred in the assessment or an extension may be granted. The mark given for a re-assessment taken as a result of deferral will not be capped and will be treated as it would be if it were your first attempt at the assessment.

Referral – if you have failed the module overall (i.e. a final overall module mark of less than 40%) you will be required to submit a further assessment as necessary. If you are successful on referral, your overall module mark will be capped at 40%.

Indicative learning resources - Basic reading

Indicative primary 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)

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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Indicative learning resources - Web based and electronic resources

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Key words search

Classics, Greek, Roman, Drama

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