CLA2006 - Greek and Roman Drama

2021/2 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

  • 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. 
  • To explore 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.
  • To complement the study of Athenian tragedy with the very different tragedy of Seneca (first century AD), which raises issues of text, performance and the cultural setting of drama. 
  • To explore 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).
  • To investigate Roman approaches to comedy through the plays of Plautus and Terence. 

ILO: Module-specific skills

  • 1. Demonstrate an advanced understanding of (a) the development of Greek tragedy and comedy in the fifth and fourth centuries BC and (b) Roman comedy and Senecan tragedy
  • 2. Demonstrate high-level critical analysis of individual works of Greek and Roman Drama
  • 3. Demonstrate a nuanced understanding of ancient drama in the context of theatre and evaluate key aspects of its theatricality

ILO: Discipline-specific skills

  • 4. Analyse and critically evaluate ancient texts in relation to their socio-cultural context
  • 5. Identify, evaluate, and engage effectively with relevant theoretical approaches to ancient texts

ILO: Personal and key skills

  • 6. Demonstrate an enhanced capacity for nuanced and independent judgement
  • 7. Work effectively in a seminar team and discuss issues in a constructive and responsive way
  • 8. Present work in written form with a cogent and 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:


  • Athenian dramatic festivals
  • Music, dancing, costume, masks, props
  • Religion and ritual
  • Politics and ideology
  • Rhetoric, language and style
  • Myth and intertextuality
  • Lost plays of Greek tragedy
  • Tragedy and philosophy
  • Roman theatre: continuity and change


  • Approaches to comedy and humour
  • Comic politics
  • Fantasy and utopia
  • From ‘old’ to ‘new’ comedy
  • The rivals of Aristophanes and Menander
  • Characters, masks and ethics
  • From Greek to Roman comedy
  • Comic sex
  • Comic closure and approaches to plot

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 seminarOngoing1-7Oral 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
Term 1 commentary exercise301800 words1-6, 8Written and oral feedback
Term 2 commentary exercise301800 words1-6, 8Written and oral feedback
Term 3 examination (essay-based)402 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
Term 1 commentary exerciseCommentary exercise1-6, 8Referral/Deferral period
Term 2 commentary exerciseCommentary exercise1-6, 8Referral/Deferral period
ExaminationExamination1-6, 8Referral/Deferral 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

Basic reading:

(a)   Prescribed texts:

  • Aeschylus, Persians
  • Sophocles, Antigone
  • Euripides, Helen
  • Seneca, Phaedra
  • Aristophanes, Birds
  • Menander, Samia
  • Plautus, Menaechmi
  • Terence, Eunuch

(b) Prescribed editions of the texts above:

  • Greek Plays: 16 Plays by Aeschylus, Sophocles, and Euripides (ed. M. Lefkowitz and J. Romm: Modern Library Classics, Ballantine Books, New York, 2016).
  • Seneca: Four Tragedies and Octavia (tr. E.F. Watling, Penguin Classics, London, 2005).
  • Classical Comedy (ed. E. Segal, Penguin Classics, London, 2006).

(c) Selected introductory/background reading:

  • J. Gregory (ed.), A Companion to Greek Tragedy (Oxford/Malden, 2005).
  • E. Csapo and W.J. Slater, The Context of Ancient Drama (Ann Arbor, 1995).
  • P.E. Easterling (ed.), The Cambridge Companion to Greek Tragedy (Cambridge, 1997).
  • M. Revermann (ed.), The Cambridge Companion to Greek Comedy (Cambridge, 2014).
  • T.J. Moore, Roman Theatre (Cambridge, 2012).
  • M. Dinter (ed.), The Cambridge Companion to Roman Comedy (Cambridge, 2020).
  • J. Robson, Aristophanes: An Introduction (London, 2009).
  • D. Rosenbloom, Aeschylus: Persians (London, 2007).
  • D. Cairns, Sophocles: Antigone (London, 2016).
  • S. Mills, Euripides: Hippolytus (London, 2002).
  • R. Mayer, Seneca: Phaedra (London, 2002).
  • M.E. Wright, Menander: Samia (London, 2021).

Module has an active ELE page?


Indicative learning resources - Web based and electronic resources

Web based and electronic resources:

Available as distance learning?


Origin date


Last revision date


Key words search

Classics, Greek, Roman, Drama, Tragedy, Comedy, Theatre

Important please note

Whilst every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of the module descriptors for the Online Module Selection process, please be aware that on rare occasions it may be necessary to remove proposed modules for reasons beyond our control. In addition, there are still some new modules going through the accreditation process. These will be offered in due course by the relevant discipline.

All modules displayed below have been approved by the approval process but may require further minor amendments before the commencement of teaching.

We are committed to providing an outstanding education and high quality teaching. You can find out details of your modules and any potential changes on these pages. If you are a returning student, joining after the first year or a postgraduate student details of your module changes will be provided in August. Find out more about the overall teaching and learning approach on your course, and please be aware that this information may supersede the specified teaching and learning activities within individual modules.

Foreign Language Centre modules 2020/21

Term 1 module codes listed above ending with C, i.e. FLF1115C, are only available to outbound students who are away in Term 2. Students studying all year must select the standard module across both Term 1 and 2.