Greek and Roman Drama (CLA2006)

Staff - Lecturer
Credit Value30
ECTS Value15.00
NQF Level6
Duration of Module Term 1: 11 weeks; Term 2: 11 weeks;

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
  • 4. An ability to place drama in the context of the theatre
  • 5. To be able to comment on some 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
  • 7. An ability to work in a seminar team
  • 8. An ability to present work in written form with a coherent argument

Syllabus plan

Indicative syllabus

First Term:

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

Term 2:

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 teaching activities44Lectures (22 x 2 hours)
Scheduled learning and teaching activities8Seminars (8 x 1 hour)
Guided independent study248Independent study

Formative assessment

Form of assessmentSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Oral contribution to seminarWeekly1-7Verbal 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
Exam502 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
ExamExam1-6, 8ref/def period

Indicative learning resources - Basic reading

1. 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).

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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Key words search

Classics, Greek, Roman, Drama