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p341 Tragoedia

Article by Robert Whiston, M.A., Fellow of Trinity College, Cambridge
on pp1140‑1148 of

William Smith, D.C.L., LL.D.:
A Dictionary of Greek and Roman Antiquities, John Murray, London, 1875.

TRAGOE′DIA (τραγῳδία), tragedy. 1. Greek. The tragedy of the ancient Greeks as well as their comedy confessedly originated in the worship of the god Dionysus. It is proposed in this article (1) to explain from what element of that worship Tragedy took its rise, and (2) to trace the course of its development, till it reached its perfect form and character in the drama of the Attic tragedians, Aeschylus, Sophocles, and Euripides.

The peculiarity which most strikingly distinguishes the Greek tragedy from that of modern times, is the lyrical or choral part. This was the offspring of the dithyrambic and choral odes from which, as applied to the worship of Dionysus, Greek tragedy took its rise. This worship, we may observe, was of a twofold character, corresponding to the different conceptions which were anciently entertained of Dionysus as the changeable God of flourishing, decaying, or renovated nature, and the various fortunes to which in that character he was considered to be subject at the different seasons of the year. Hence Müller observes (Lit. of Greece, p288), "the festivals of Dionysus at Athens and elsewhere were all solemnized in the months nearest to the shortest day, coincidently with the changes going on in the course of nature, and by which his worshippers conceived the god himself to be affected." His mournful or joyous fortunes (πάθη), his mystical death, symbolizing the death of all vegetation in winter, and his birth (Plat. de Leg. III p700; Proclus in Gaisford's Hephaest. p383), indicating the renovation of all nature in the spring, p1141and his struggles in passing from one state to another, were not only represented and sympathised in by the Dithyrambic singers and dancers, but they also carried their enthusiasm so far, as to fancy themselves under the influence of the same events as the god himself, and in their attempts to identify themselves with him and his fortunes, assumed the character of the subordinate divinities, the Satyrs, Nymphs, and Panes (Nympharumque leves cum Satyris chori), who formed the mythological train of the god. Hence, as is explained under Dionysia (p410B), arose the custom of the disguise of Satyrs being taken by the worshippers at the festivals of Dionysus, from the choral songs and dances of whom the Grecian tragedy originated, "being from its commencement connected with the public rejoicings and ceremonies of Dionysus in cities, while comedy was more a sport and merriment of the country festivals." In fact the very name of Tragedy (τραγῳδία), far from signifying anything mournful or pathetic, is most probably derived from the goatlike appearance of the Satyrs who sang or acted with mimetic gesticulations (ὄρχησις) the old Bacchic songs, with Silenus, the constant companion of Dionysus, for their leader (Bode, Gesch. d. Hellen. Dichtkunst, vol. III p31). From their resemblance in dress and action to goats, they were sometimes called τράγοι, and their song τραγῳδία. Thus Aeschylus in a fragment of the Prometheus Πυρφόρος calls a Satyr Τράγος, and the Satyric chorus in the Cyclops of Euripides (l. 80) appears in the skin of a goat (χλαῖνα τράγου). The word Σάτυρος also is apparently the same as τίτυρος, a kind of goat (Phot. Lex. s.v.). According to another opinion, the "word Tragedy was first coined from the goat that was the prize of it, which prize was first constituted in Thespis' time." (Bentley, Phalar. p249). This derivation, however, as well as another, connecting it with the goat offered on the altar of Bacchus (Müller, Literat. of Greece, p291), around which the chorus sang, is not equally supported either by the etymological principles of the language, or the analogous instance of κωμῳδία, the "revel-song" (Etymol. Magn. p764; Eurip. Bacch. 131; Aelian, V. H. III.40).

But the Dionysian dithyrambs were not always of a gay and joyous character: they were capable of expressing the extremes of sadness and wild lamentation as well as the enthusiasm of joy; and it was from the Dithyrambic songs of a mournful cast, probably sung originally in the winter months, that the stately and solemn tragedy of the Greeks arose. That there were Dithyrambs of such a character, expressive of the sufferings of Dionysus (τὰ τοῦ Διονύσου πάθη), appears from the statement in Herodotus (V.67), that at Sicyon in the time of Clisthenes (B.C. 600) it was customary to celebrate (γεραίρειν) the sufferings of that god with "tragic choruses." But it must be remarked that in the most ancient times the Dithyrambic song was not executed by a regular chorus. Thus Archilochus says in Trochaic verse, "I know how when my mind is inflamed with wine to lead off the Dithyramb, the beautiful song of Dionysus," whence we may infer that in his time (B.C. 700) the Dithyramb was sung by a band of revellers led by a flute-player. Lyrical choruses, indeed, had been even then established, especially in the Dorian states of Greece, in connection with the worship of Apollo, the cithara or φόρμιγξ being the instrument to which the choreutae sang and danced (Müller, Literat. of Greece, p204; Dorians, IV.7 § 8). In fact the connection of the Dorian choral poetry with the worship of Apollo, the direct opposite to that of Dionysus, and its consequent subjection to established rules and forms, admitting too, from the Dorian character but little innovation, affords the most obvious explanation of the striking circumstance that nothing decidedly dramatic sprang from it, as from the dithyrambic performances (Bode, p16). Still there were some points in which the Dorian worship of Apollo resembled that of Dionysus, e.g. the dances with which the former god was honoured, and the kind of mimicry which characterised them. Other circumstances also, on which we cannot here dwell, would probably facilitate the introduction of the Dionysian Dithyramb amongst the Dorian states, especially after the improvements made in it by Arion (B.C. 600), which were so great, that even the invention of that species of poetry is ascribed to him, though it had been known in Greece for a century before his time. The worship of Dionysus was celebrated at his native place, Methymnae in Lesbos, with music and orgiastic rites; and as Arion travelled extensively in the Dorian states of Hellas, he had ample opportunities of observing the varieties of choral worship, and of introducing any improvements which he might wish to make in it (Bode, p22). He is said to have been the inventor of the "tragic turn" (τραγικοῦ τρόπου), a phrase of doubtful signification, but which seems to mean, that he was the inventor of a grave and solemn style of music, to which his Dithyrambs were danced and sung (Hermann, Opusc. vol. VII p216). Suidas (s.v.) adds of him, λέγεται καὶ πρῶτος χορὸν στῆσαι, καὶ διθύραμβον ᾆσαι καὶ ὀνομάσαι τὸ ᾀδόμενον ὑπὸ τοῦ χοροῦ, καὶ Σατύρους εἰσενεγκεῖν ἔμμετρα λέγοντας. From the first clause, in connection with other authorities (Schol. in Aristoph. Aves, 1403), we learn that he introduced the cyclic chorus (a fact mythologically expressed by making him the son of Cycleus); i.e. the Dithyramb, instead of being sung as before his time in a wild irregular manner, was danced by a chorus of fifty men around a blazing altar; whence in the time of Aristophanes, a dithyrambic poet and a teacher of cyclian choruses were nearly synonymous (Müller, p204). As the alteration was made at Corinth, we may suppose that the representation of the Dithyrambic was assimilated in some respects to that of the Dorian choral odes. The clause to the effect that Arion introduced Satyrs, i.e. τράγοι, speaking in verse (trochaic), is by some thought another expression for the invention of the "tragic style." A simpler interpretation is, that he introduced the Satyrs as an addition and contrast in the dance and song of the cyclic chorus of the Dithyramb, thus preserving to it its old character as a part of the worship of Bacchus. The phrase ὀνομάσαι (compare Herod. I.23) alludes to the different titles given by him to his different Dithyrambs according to their subjects, for we need not suppose that they all related directly to Bacchus (Welcker, Nachtrag. p233). As he was the first cithara player of his age (Herod. I.23), it is probable that he made the lyre the principal instrument in the musical accompaniment.

From the more solemn Dithyrambs then, as improved by Arion, with the company of Satyrs, who probably kept up a joking dialogue, ultimately p1142sprang the dramatic tragedy of Athens, somewhat in the following manner. The choruses which represented them were under the direction of a leader or exarchus, who, it may be supposed, came forward separately, and whose part was sometimes taken by the poet himself (Plato, Rep. III p394C). We may also conjecture that the exarchus in each case led off by singing or reciting his part in a solo, and that the chorus dancing round the altar then expressed their feelings of joy or sorrow at his story, representing the perils and sufferings of Dionysus, or some hero, as it might be. Accordingly some scholars have recognized in such choral songs, or in a proximate deviation from them, what has been called a "lyrical tragedy," performed without actors distinct from the chorus, and conceived to be a transition step between the Dithyramb and the dramatic Tragedy. The title, however, does not occur in ancient writers, and therefore, if it means anything, can only refer to representations of the character we have just archived to the Dithyrambs of Arion, modified from time to time, according to circumstances or the fancy of the writer. That the names τραγῳδία and τράγῳδος are applied, indeed, to works and writers before the time of Thespis, and that the "tragedy" of that age was entirely choral, without any regular formal dialogue, is evident from many authorities. Thus Athenaeus (XIV p630C) observes that the satyrical poetry formerly consisted of choruses, as did the "tragedy" of old times (ἡ τότε τραγῳδία). Again, Diogenes Laërtius (III.56) states that formerly the chorus alone acted (διεδραματίζεν) or performed a drama, on which Hermann (Opusc. VII.218) observes, "after the Dithyramb was sung, some of the chorus in the guise of Satyrs came forward and improvised some ludicrous stories; but in exhibitions of this sort," he adds, "we see rather dramaticae tragoediae initia, quam ullum Lyrici cujusdam generis vestigium." Lyric poets also seem to have been spoken of as Tragedians; thus according to Suidas (s.v.) Pindar wrote 17 δράματα τραγικά ("but not lyrical tragedies," Hermann, l.c.), and Simonides of Ceos wrote tragedies, or a tragedy, as some manuscripts have it. But whatever may be inferred from this, it only proves that Dithyrambic poets were also called Tragedians, just as in the Scholia on Aristophanes (Plut. 290) a writer is described as διθυραμβοποιὸς ἢ τραγῳδιδάσκαλος. For the arguments on both sides see Hermann, l.c.; and Böckh on the Orchomenian Inscriptions (Greek Theatre, p28).

The choral Dithyrambic songs, accompanied with mimetic action (the lyrical tragedy?), prevailed to some extent, as all choral poetry did, amongst the Dorians of the Peloponnesus (Müller, Dorians, II.10 § 6); whence their derivative, the choral element of the Attic tragedy, was always written in the Dorian dialect, thus showing its origin. The lyrical poetry was, however, especially popular at Sicyon and in Corinth. In the latter city Arion made his improvements; in the former "tragic choruses," i.e. dithyrambs of a sad and plaintive character, were very ancient (Herod. V.67; Welcker, Nachtrag, p235), and the Sicyonians are also said to have been the inventors of the τραγῳδία (τραγῳδίας εὑρέται μὲν Σικυώνιοι, τελεσιουργοὶ δὲ Ἀττικοὶ ποιηταί, Themist. XXVII. p406, Dindorf); but of course this can only mean, that the dramatic tragedy was a derivative, through many changes, of the old satyrical τραγῳδία, i.e. of the songs sung with mimetic dancing by the goatlike Satyrs, or as others would say, round the altar, on which lay the burnt sacrifice of a goat. It appears then that there is a good and intelligible foundation for the claims which, according to Aristotle (Poet. III.3), were made by the Peloponnesians, and especially by the Sicyonians, to the invention of a "tragedy," understanding by it a choral performance, which as has been described above. Now the subjects of this Dithyrambic tragedy were not always, even in ancient times, confined to Dionysus. Even Arion wrote Dithyrambs, relating to different heroes (Herod. I.23), a practice in which he was followed by succeeding poets, who wrote Dithyramb-like odes (whence they were classed among the τραγικοὶ ποιηταί), which they called Centaurs, Ajaces, or Memnons, as might be (Zenob. V.40). Thus, Epigenes the Sicyonian is said to have written a tragedy, i.e. a piece of dithyrambic poetry on a subject unconnected with Dionysus, which was consequently received with the cry of οὐδὲν πρὸς τὸν Διόνυσον, or "this had nothing to do with Bacchus" (Apostolius, XV.13). If this anecdote be true, and Epigenes preceded Arion, the introduction of the Satyrs into the Dithyrambic chorus by the latter, may possibly have been meant to satisfy the wishes of the people; but whether it was so or not, there is scarcely any doubt that from the time of Arion, the tragic dithyramb gradually became less satyrical and sportive in its character, till the creation of the independent Satyric drama and the Attic dramatic tragedy (Bode, p23).

As to the steps by which this was effected, Aristotle (Poet. IV.14) says, "Tragedy was at the first an extemporaneous effusion (ἀπ᾽ ἀρχῆς αὐτοσχεδιαστική), and was derived ἀπὸ τῶν ἐξαρχόντων τὸν Διθύραμβον, i.e. from the leaders or the chief singers of the Dithyramb, who probably sang or recited their parts in the trochaic metre, while the main body of the ode was written in irregular verse. It is easy to conceive how the introduction of an actor or speaker independent of the chorus might have been suggested by the exarchs or coryphaei coming forward separately and making short off-hand speeches (Welcker, Nachtrag, p228), whether learnt by heart beforehand, or made on the spur of the moment [Chorus]. But it is also possible, if not probable, that it was suggested by the rhapsodical recitations of the epic and gnomic poets formerly prevalent in Greece: the gnomic poetry being generally written in Iambic verse, the metre of the Attic dialogue, and which Aristotle (Poet. 4) says was used by Homer in his Margites, though its invention is commonly ascribed to Archilochus. In fact the rhapsodists themselves are sometimes spoken of as actors (ὑποκριταὶ) of the pieces they recited, which they are also said to act (ὑποκρινάσθαι, Athen. XIV. p629D; Müller, Literature, &c., p34). But if two or more rhapsodes were called upon to go through an episode of a poem, a regulation which obtained at the Panathenaea, and attributed to Solon or Hipparchus (Wolf, Proleg. p97; Plato, Hippar. p228), it is clear that they would present much of a dramatic dialogue. In fact (Bode, p6) the principal scenes of the whole Iliad might in this way have been represented as parts of a drama. These recitations then being so common, it was natural to combine with the representation p1143of the Dithyramb, itself a mixture of recitative and choral song, the additional element of the dialogue, written in Iambic verse, a measure suggested perhaps by the gnomic poetry, and used by Solon about this time of the origin of the dialogue (Solon, Frag. 28, Gaisford), more especially as it is the most colloquial of all Greek metres (λεκτικὸν) and that into which common conversation most readily falls. It is indeed only a conjecture that the dialogue or the Ionian element of Attic tragedy was connected with the rhapsodical recitations, but it is confirmed by the fact that Homeric rhapsodes were common at Sicyon (Herod. V.67), the cradle of the Dorian tragedy, and also at Brauron in Attica, where the worship of Dionysus existed from ancient times (Hesych. s.v. Βραυρωνίοις). this however is certain, that the union of the Iambic dialogue with the lyrical chorus took place at Athens under Peisistratus, and that it was attributed to Thespis, a native of Icarus, one of the country demes or parishes of Attica where the worship of Dionysus had long prevailed. The introduction of this worship into Attica, with its appropriate choruses, seems to have been partly owing to the commands of the Dorian oracle (Dem. c. Mid. p531), in very early times. Thus it is stated (Plato, Minos, p321; Plut. Sol. 29), that tragedy (i.e. the old Dithyrambic and Satyrical tragedy) was very ancient in Attica, and did not originate with Thespis or his cotemporaries. This alteration made by him, and which gave to the old tragedy (ἀρχομένων τῶν περὶ Θέσπιν ἤδη τὴν Τραγῳδίαν κινεῖν) a new and dramatic character (making it an ignotum tragicae genus, Hor. Art. Poet. 275), was very simple but very important. He introduced an actor, as it is recorded, for the sake of giving rest to the chorus (Diog. Laërt. III.56) and independent of it, in which capacity he probably appeared himself (Plut. Sol. 29), taking various parts in the same piece, under various disguises, which he was enabled to assume by means of the linen masks, the invention of which is attributed to him. Now as a chorus, by means of its leader, could maintain a dialogue with the actor, it is easy to see how with one actor only "a dramatic action might be introduced, continued, and concluded, by the speeches between the choral songs expressive of the joy or sorrow of the chorus at the various events of the drama." Thus Müller observes that in the play of Pentheus, supposed to have been composed by Thespis, "a single actor might appear successively as Dionysus, Pentheus, a messenger, Agave the mother of Pentheus, and in these characters express designs and intentions, or relate events which could not be represented, as the murder of Pentheus by his mother: by which means he would represent the substance of the fable as it appears in the Bacchae of Euripides." (Müller, p29; Bode, p57.) With respect to the character of the drama of Thespis there has been much doubt: some writers, and especially Bentley (Phalar. p218), have maintained that his plays were all satyrical and ludicrous, i.e. the plot of them was some story of Bacchus, the chorus consisted principally of satyrs, and the argument was merry — an opinion indeed which is supported by the fact that in the early part of his time, the satyric drama had not acquired a distinctive character. It may also appear to be confirmed by the statement (Aristot. Poet. 4) that at first the Tragedians made use of the trochaic tetrameter, as being better suited to the satyrical and saltatorial nature of their pieces. But perhaps the truth is that in the early part of his career Thespis retained the satyrical character of the older tragedy, but afterwards inclined to more serious compositions, which would almost oblige him to discard the Satyrs from his choruses. That he did write serious dramas is intimated by the titles of the plays ascribed to him, as well as by the character of the fragments of Iambic verse quoted by Plutarch as his (Bentley, Phalar. p214), and which en if they are forgeries of Heracleides Ponticus, at least prove what was the opinion of a scholar of Aristotle on the subject. Besides the assertion that Sophocles (Suidas, in vit.) wrote against the chorus of Thespis seems to show that there was some similarity of character between the productions of the two poets (Bode, p47). A summary of the arguments in favour of the serious character of the tragedy of Thespis is given by Welcker (Nachtrag, pp257‑276). The invention of the prologue and rhesis of tragedy (an expression clearly in some measure identical with the introduction of an actor) is also ascribed to Thespis by Aristotle (Themist. p382, ed. Dind.). By the former word is meant the first speech of the actor (Aristot. Poet. 12), or the prooemium with which he opened the piece; the chorus then sang the first ode or πάροδος, after which came the ῥῆσις or dialogue between the actor and the principal choreutae. The invention of this dialogue is also alluded to in the phrase λέξεως δὲ γενομένης (Id. 4). It is evident that the introduction of the dialogue must also have created an alteration in the arrangement of the chorus, which could not remain cyclic or circular, but must have been drawn up in a rectangular form about the thymele or altar of Bacchus in front of the actor, who was elevated on a platform or table (ἐλεός), the forerunner of the stage. The statement in Pollux (IV.123), that this was the case before Thespis seems incorrect (Welcker, Nachtrag, p268). If we are right in our notion of the general character of the Thespian drama, the phrase οὐδὲν πρὸς Διόνυσον, which was certainly used in his time, was first applied to his plays at Athens, as being unconnected with the fortunes of Dionysus, and as deviations from the μικροὶ μῦθοι καὶ λέξις γελοία of his predecessors. Plutarch however (Symp. I.5) supposes that its first application was later: he says "when Phrynichus and Aeschylus continued to elevate tragedy to legends and tales of sufferings (εἰς μύθους καὶ πάθη προαγόντων), the people missing and regretting the old Satyric chorus, said, "What is this to Bacchus?" Hence the expression was used to signify what was mal-à‑propos, or beside the question.

The reader may have observed that we have not noticed the lines of Horace (Ar. Poet. 276):

"Dicitur et plaustris vexisse poemata Thespis,

Quae canerent agerentque peruncti faecibus ora."

The fact is that they are founded on a misconception of the origin of the Attic Tragedy, and that the tale about the wagons of Thespis probably arose out of a confusion of the wagon of the comedian Susarion with the platform of the Thespian actor. The first representation of Thespis was in B.C. 535. His immediate successors were the Athenian Choerilus and Phrynichus, the former of whom represented p1144plays as early as B.C. 524. He is said by Suidas to have written 150 pieces: from the title of one of them, the "Alope," its subject seems to have been a legend of Attic origin (Paus. I.14 § 3; Bode, p60). That he excelled in the Satyrical drama invented by Pratinas, is indicated by the line of an unknown author,

Ἡνίκα μὲν βασιλεὺς ἦν Χοιρίλος ἐν Σατύροις,

and if he wrote anything like the number of dramas ascribed to him, it is also evident that the custom of contending with Tetralogies must have been of early origin, for there were only two dramatic festivals during the year.

Phrynichus was a pupil of Thespis, and gained his first victory in the dramatic contests B.C. 511. In his works, the lyric or choral element still predominated over the dramatic, and he was distinguished for the sweetness of his melodies, which in the time of the Peloponnesian war were very popular with the admirers of the old style of music. The esteem in which his "ambrosial songs" were then held is shown in several passages of Aristophanes (Aves, 748, Thesm. 164), and in the line (Vesp. 219) where the Dicasts are made to chaunt the old Sidonian sweet songs of Phrynichus,

Καὶ μινυρίζοντες μέλη

Ἀρχαιομελισιδωνοφρυνιχήρατα.

"Sidonian" being an allusion to the play which he wrote called the Phoenissae. The first use of female masks is also attributed to him (Suidas, in vit.), and he so far deviated from the general practice of the Attic tragedians as to write a drama on a subject of cotemporary history, the capture of Miletus by the Persians, B.C. 494 (Herod. VI.21).

We now come to the first writer of Satyrical dramas, Pratinas of Phlius, a town not far from Sicyon, and which laid claim to the invention of tragedy as well as comedy (Bode, p35). For some time previously to this poet, and probably as early as Thespis, tragedy had been gradually departing more and more from its old characteristics, and inclining to heroic fables, to which the chorus of Satyrs was not a fit accompaniment. But the fun and merriment caused by them were too good to be lost, or displaced by the severe dignity of the Aeschylean drama. Accordingly the Satyrical drama, distinct from the recent and dramatic tragedy, but suggested by the sportive element of the old Dithyramb, was founded by Pratinas, who however appears to have been surpassed in his own invention by Choerilus. It was always written by tragedians, and generally three tragedies and one Satyrical piece were represented together, which in some instances at least formed a connected whole, called a tetralogy (τετραλογία). The Satyrical piece was acted last, so that the minds of the spectators were agreeably relieved by a merry after-piece at the close of an earnest and engrossing tragedy. The distinguishing feature of this drama was the chorus of Satyrs, in appropriate dresses and masks, and its subjects seem to have been taken from the same class of the adventures of Bacchus and of the heroes as those of tragedy; but of course they were so treated and selected, that the presence of rustic satyrs would seem appropriate. In their jokes and drollery and naïveté consisted the merriment of the piece; for the kings and heroes who were introduced into their company were not of necessity thereby divested of their epic and legendary character (Horace, Ar. Poet. 222, speaks of the "incolumi gravitate"), though they were obliged to conform to their situation and suffer some diminution of dignity, from their position. Hence Welcker (Nachtrag, p331) observes, the Satyrical drama, which, so to speak, was "the Epos turned into prose, and interspersed with jokes made by the chorus," is well spoken of as a "playful tragedy" (παίζουσα τραγῳδία), being both in form and materials the same as tragedy. Thus also Horace (Ar. Poet. 231) says:

Effutire leves indigna Tragoedia versus

Intererit Satyris paulum pudibunda protrevis,

alluding in the first line to the mythic or epic element of the Satyric drama, which he calls Tragoedia, and in the second representing it as being rather ashamed of its company. The scene was of course laid in the supposed haunts of the Satyrs, as we learn from Vitruvius (V.8): satyricae scenae ornantur arboribus, montibus reliquisque agrestibus rebus," all in keeping with the incidents of the pieces, and reminding the spectators of the old Dithyramb and the god Dionysus, in whose honour the dramatic contests were originally held. We must however observe that there were some characters and legends, which as not presenting any serious or pathetic aspects, were not adapted for tragedy, and therefore were naturally appropriated to the Satyric drama. Such were Sisyphus, Autolycus, Circe, Callisto, Midas, Omphale, and the robber Skiron. Hercules also, as he appears in Aristophanes (Ranae) and the Alcestis of Euripides, was a favorite subject of this drama, as being no unfit companion for a drunken Silenus and his crew (Müller, 295). The Odyssee also, says Lessing (Leben des Sophocles, § 115), was in general a rich storehouse of the Satyrical plays; but though the Cyclops of Euripides, the only satyrical play extant, was taken from it, the list of Satyric pieces given by Welcker (Nachtrag, p284‑322) hardly confirms this assertion.

We now come to the improvements made in tragedy by Aeschylus, of which Aristotle (Poet. IV § 16) thus speaks:— "He first added a second actor and diminished the parts of the chorus, and made the dialogue the principal part of the action" (Τὸν λόγον πρωταγωνιστὴν παρεσκεύασε). He also availed himself of the aid of Agatharchus, the scene-painter, and improved the costume of his actors by giving them thick-soled boots (ἐμβάται), as well as the masks, which he made more expressive and characteristic. Horace (Ar. Poet. 278) thus alludes to his improvements:—

"personae pallaeque repertor honestae

Aeschylus, et modicis instravit pulpita tignis

Et docuit magnumque loqui, nitique cothurno"

The custom of contending with trilogies (τριλογίαι), or with three plays at a time, is said to have been also introduced by him. In fact he did so much for tragedy, and so completely built it up to its "towering height," that he was considered the father of it. The subjects of this drama, as we have before intimated from Plutarch, were not connected with the worship of Dionysus; but rather with the great cycle of Hellenistic legends and some of the myths of the Homeric Epos. Accordingly he said of himself (Athen. VIII p347E) that his dramas were but scraps and fragments from the great feasts of p1145Homer. Another instance of his departure from the spirit and form of the old tragedy, as connected with Dionysus, is shown in his treatment of the Dithyrambic chorus of fifty men, which in his trilogy of the Oresteia he did not bring on the stage all at once, but divided it into separate parts making a different set of choreutae for each of the three pieces (Müller, Eumenid.). In the latter part of his life Aeschylus made use of one of the improvements of Sophocles, namely the τριταγωνιστής, or third actor. This was the finishing stroke to the dramatic element of Attic tragedy, which Sophocles is said to have matured by further improvements in costume and scene-painting. Under him tragedy appears with less of sublimity and sternness than in the hands of Aeschylus, but with more of calm grandeur and quiet dignity and touching incident. His latter plays are the perfection of the Grecian tragic drama, as a work of art and poetic composition in a thoroughly chastened and classic style, written when as he says of himself he had put away the boyish pomp of Aeschylus (τὸν Αἰσχύλου διαπεπαιχὼς ὄγκον), and the harsh obscurity of his own too great refinements, and attained to that style which he thought the best, and most suited for portraying the characters of men (Plut. de Pro. V. S. p79B). The introduction of the third actor enabled him to do this the more effectually, by showing the principal character on different sides and under different circumstances, both as excited by the opposition of one and drawn out by the sympathies of another [Histrio, p611]. Hence though the plays of Sophocles are longer than those of Aeschylus, still there is not a corresponding increase of action, but a more perfect delineation of character. Creon for instance in the Antigone, and Ajax are more perfect and minutely drawn characters than any in Aeschylus. The part of the chorus is, on the other hand, considerably diminished in his plays. Another distinguishing feature in them is their moral significance and ethical teaching. Though the characters in them are taken from the old subjects of national interest, still they do not always appear as heroes, or above the level of common humanity, but in such situations and under the influence of such motives, passions, and feelings as fall to the lot of men in general; so that "every one may recognise in them some likeness of himself."

In the hands of Euripides the tragedy deteriorated not only in dignity, but also in its moral and religious significance. He introduces his heroes in rags and tatters, and busies them with petty affairs, and makes them speak the language of every-day life. As Sophocles said of him (Arist. Poet. 25), he represented men not as they ought to be, but as they are, without any ideal greatness or poetic character — thoroughly prosaic personages. His dialogues too were little else than the rhetorical and forensic language of his day cleverly put into verse: full of sophistry and quibbling distinctions. One of the peculiarities of his tragedies was the πρόλογος, an introductory monologue, with which some hero or god opens the play, telling who he is, what is the state of affairs, and what had happened up to the time of his address, so as to put the audience in possession of every fact which it might be necessary for them to know: a very business-like proceeding no doubt, but a poor makeshift for artistical skill. The "Deus ex machina," also, though not always, in a "nodus, tali vindice dignus," was frequently employed by Euripides to effect the dénoûment of his pieces. The chorus too no longer discharged its proper and high functions either as a representative of the feelings of unprejudiced observers, or, "as one of the actors, and a part of the whole," joining in the development of the piece. Many of his choral odes in fact are but remotely connected in subject with the action of the play. Another novelty of Euripides was the use of the "monodies" or lyrical songs, in which not the chorus, but the principal persons of the drama, declare their emotions and sufferings. They were amongst the most brilliant parts of his pieces, and being sung by persons on the stage, are sometimes described as ᾠδαὶ ἀπὸ σκηνῆς (Phot. Lex. s.v.). Aristophanes often parodied them, and makes Euripides say of himself (Ranae, 944), that he "nurtured tragedy with monodies, introducing Cephisophon," his chief actor, to sing them.

Εἶτ᾽ ἀνέτρεφον μονῳδίας, Κηφισοφῶντα μιγνύς.

Euripides was also the inventor of tragi-comedy, which cannot improbably suggested, as it certainly resembled, the Ἱλαροτραγῳδία of the Alexandrian age, the latter being a half-tragic, half-comic drama, or rather a parody or travesty of tragical subjects. A specimen of the Euripidean tragi-comedy is still extant in the Alcestis, acted B.C. 438, as the last of four pieces, and therefore as a substitute for the Satyrical drama. Though tragic in its form and some of its scenes, it has a mixture of comic and satyric characters (e.g. Hercules) and concludes happily.

It remains to make some remarks on the nature and object of Greek tragedy in general, and on the parts into which it was divided. According to Plato (Leg. VII p817) the truest tragedy is an imitation of the noblest and best life: μίμησις τοῦ καλλίστου καὶ ἀρίστου βίου. Aristotle's definition is more comprehensive and perhaps perfect. "Tragedy is an imitation of an action that is important (σπουδαίας), and entire, and of a proper magnitude, in pleasurable language, by means of action, not of narration, and effecting through terror and pity the refinement and correction of such passions" (τὴν τοιούτων παθήματων κάθαρσιν). He then adds, Tragedy contains six parts: the story, i.e. the combination of incidents or plot, manners, expression, sentiment, decoration, and music (μῦθος καὶ ἤθη, καὶ λέξις, καὶ διάνοια, καὶ ὄψις, καὶ μελοποιΐα). Of these the story is the principal part, developing the character of agents, and being in fact the very soul of tragedy. The manners come next, and manifest the disposition of the speakers. The sentiments take the third place, and comprehend whatever is said, whether proving anything, or expressing some general reflection. Afterwards he adds, Fables are of two sorts, simple and complicated (οἵ μὲν ἁπλοῖ, οἵ δὲ πεπλεγμένοι), the catastrophe of the former produced without a revolution or discovery, of the latter with one or both. Now a revolution (περιπέτεια) is a change to the reverse of what is expected from the circumstances of the action: a discovery (ἀναγνώρισις) is a change from known or unknown, happening between characters whose happiness or unhappiness forms the catastrophe of the drama. The best sort of discovery is accompanied by a revolution, as in the Oedipus. Aristotle next enumerates the parts of quantity (κατὰ τὸ ποσὸν) or division in tragedy: these are, the prologue, episode, exode, and choral p1146songs; the last divided into the parode and stasimon. The πρόλογος is all that part of a tragedy which precedes the parodos of the chorus, i.e. the first act. The ἐπεισόδιον is all the part between whole choral odes. The ἔξοδος that part which has no choral ode after it. Of the choral part the πάροδος is the first speech of the whole chorus (not broken up into parts): the stasimon is without anapaests and trochees. These two divisions were sung by all the choreutae (κοινὰ ἁπάντων), but the "songs on the stage" and the κόμμοι by a part only (ἴδια δὲ τὰ ἀπὸ τῆςº σκηνῆς καὶ κόμμοι). The commus, which properly means a wailing for the dead, was generally used to express strong excitement, or lively sympathy with grief and suffering, especially by Aeschylus. It was common to the actors and a portion only of the chorus (κομμὸς δὲ θρῆνος, κοινὸς χοροῦ, καὶ ἀπὸ σκηνῆς), whence its derivative κομματικά is used to designate broken and interrupted songs sung either by individual choreutae or divisions of the chorus (Müller, Eumen. p84). Again the πάροδος was so named as being the passage-song of the chorus sung while it was advancing to its proper place in the orchestra, and therefore in anapaestic or marching verse: the στάσιμον, as being chaunted by the chorus when standing still in its proper position (Suid. and Etym. Magn.).

With respect to the ends or purposes of Tragedy, Aristotle observes that they are best effected by the representation of a change of fortune from prosperity to adversity, happening to a person neither eminently virtuous nor just, nor yet involved in misfortune by deliberate vice or villany, but by some error of human frailty, and that he should also be a person of high fame and eminent prosperity, like Oedipus or Thyestes. Hence, he adds, Euripides is not censurable, as is generally supposed; for tragedies with an unhappy termination like his, have always the most tragic effect; and Euripides is the most tragic of all poets, i.e. succeeds best in producing pity: an expression especially true of some scenes in the Medea. In Aeschylus, the feelings of pity and melancholy interest are generally excited by the relation in which his heroes stand to destiny. He mostly represents them as vainly struggling against a blind but irresistible fate, to whose power (according to the old Homeric notion) even the father of gods and men is forced to yield, and it is only occasionally, as in the splendid chorus of the Eumenides (522), that we trace in him any intimations of a moral and retributive government mot world. Hence there is a want of moral lessons in his works. In Sophocles, on the contrary, we see indications of a different tone of thought, and the superintendence of a directing and controlling power is distinctly recognized: "the great Zeus in heaven, who superintends and directs all things." (Electr. 174; Thirlwall, Phil. Mus. vol.2 p492).

The materials of Greek tragedy were the national mythology,

"Presenting Thebes, or Pelops' line,

Or the tale of Troy divine."

The exceptions to this were the two historical tragedies, the "Capture of Miletus," by Phrynichus, and the "Persians" of Aeschylus; but they belong to an early period of the art. Hence the plot and story of the Grecian tragedy were of necessity known to the spectators, a circumstance which strongly distinguishes the ancient tragedy from the modern, and to which is owing in some measure the practical and quiet irony in the handling of a subject, described by Thirlwall (Phil. Mus. II p483, &c.) as a characteristic of the tragedy of Sophocles.

The functions of the Chorus in Greek Tragedy were very important, as described by Horace (Ar. Poet. 193),

"Actoris partes chorus officiumque virile

Defendat: neu quid medios intercinat actus

Quod non proposito conducat, et haereat apte," &c.

We must conceive of it, says A. W. Schlegel, as the personification of the thought inspired by the represented action; in other words, it often expresses the reflections of a dispassionate and right-minded spectator, and inculcates the lessons of morality and resignation to the will of heaven, taught by the occurrence of the piece in which it is engaged. Besides this, the chorus enabled a poet to produce an image of the "council of elders," which existed under the heroic governments, and under whose advice and in whose presence the ancient princes of the Greek tragedy generally acted. This image was the more striking and vivid, inasmuch as the chorus was taken from the people at large, and did not differ at all from the appearance and stature of ordinary men so that the contrast or relation between them and the actors was the same as that of the Homeric λαοί and ἄνακτες. Lastly, the choral songs produced an agreeable pause in the action, breaking the piece into parts, while they presented to the spectator a lyrical and musical expression of his own emotions, or suggested to him lofty thoughts and great arguments. As Schlegel says, the chorus was the spectator idealised. With respect to the number of the chorus, Müller (Lit. of Greece, 300) thinks that out of the dithyrambic chorus of 50 a quadrangular chorus of 48 persons was first formed, and that this was divided into sets of 12, one for each play of a tetraloge; but in the time of Sophocles, the tragic chorus amounted to 15, a number which the ancient grammarians always presuppose in speaking of its arrangements, though it might be that the form of the Aeschylean tragedy afterwards became obsolete.

The preceding account should be read in connection with the articles Chorus, Dionysia, Histrio, and Theatrum.

The explanation of the following phrases may be useful.

Παραχορήγημα: this word was used in case of a fourth actor appearing on the stage; probably because the choragus was required to be at an extra expense in supplying him with costume, &c.; sometimes actors so called spoke, as the character of Pylades does (Aesch. Choeph. 900‑902); sometimes they were mutes.

Παρασκήνιον: this phrase was used when one of the choreutae spoke in song, instead of a fourth actor, probably near or behind the side-scenes. Παρηγορήματα were voices off the stage, and not seen, as the frogs in the Ranae (Pollux, IV.109; Schol. in Aristoph. Pac. 113).

Παραχωρήματα, persons who came forward but once, something like the πρόσωπα προτατικά, or introductory persons who open a drama and never appear again; as the watchman in the Agamemnon, and Polydorus in the Hecuba. Terence also p1147frequently uses the persona protatica (Donat. Ter. Prolog. ad Andr.).

The διχορία was a double chorus, formed of the choruses of two separate plays: thus at the end of the Eumenides of Aeschylus the Furies of one play and the festal train of another come on the stage together (Müller, Literat. &c. p300).

The principal modern writers on the Greek Tragedy are mentioned in the course of the article. The reader may also consult Wachsmuth, vol. II pt. II pp467, 421; Gruppe, Ariadne, Die Tragische Kunst der Griechen in ihrer Entwicklung und in ihrem Zusammenhange mit der Volkspoesie, Berl. 1834; Museum Criticum, vol. II p69, &c.; Coppleston, Praelectiones Academicae; Schneider, Ueber das Attische Theaterwesen, an exceedingly valuable book.

2. Roman. The tragedy of the Romans was, for the most part, an imitation of, of rather a borrowing from, the Greek, the more imperfect and unnatural, as the construction of the Roman theatre afforded no appropriate place for the chorus, which was therefore obliged to appear on the stage, instead of in the orchestra. the first tragic poet and actor at Rome (Gellius, XXI.17)º was Livius Andronicus, a Greek by birth, who began to exhibit in B.C. 240. From the account in Livy (VII.2), it would seem that in his monodies (or the lyrical parts sung, not by a chorus, but by one person), it was customary to separate the singing from the mimetic dancing, leaving the latter only to the actor, while the singing was performed by a boy placed near the flute-player (ante tibicinem); so that the dialogue only (diverbia) was left to be spoken by the actors. One of the plays written by him was an "Andromeda;" and he also made a Latin prose translation of the Odyssee. The next tragic poet at Rome was Naevius, who however appears to have written comedies as well as tragedies (Hieron. in Euseb. Olymp. 144.3), and a history of the first Punic war; so that the writing of tragedies was not a distinct profession at Rome, as at Athens. An "Alcestis" seems to have been written by him. To the same epoch as Livius Andronicus, and Naevius, belongs Ennius, who resembled the latter in being an epic poet as well as a tragedian. Amongst the plays written by him are mentioned, a Medea, an Ajax, a Phoenissae, an Iphigenia, an Andromache, and a Hecuba. The metre used by him and Naevius was iambic or trochaic in the dialogue, and anapaestic for the lyrical parts (Gellius, XI.4). The next distinguished tragedian was Pacuvius, a nephew of Ennius, and a painter also. His style was more remarkable for spirit and vigour of expression than polish or refinement, a deficiency attributable to his age and provincial origin, as he was born at Brundisium. Among his plays occur an Antiope, a Chryses, and a Dulorestes (Quintil. X.1; Cicero, Orat. III.29), and his tragedies found admirers even in the time of Persius (I.77). Cicero (l.c.) quotes from him a spirited translation of the concluding lines of the Prometheus Vinctus of Aeschylus. Attius or Accius the younger was junior to Pacuvius by about fifty years. His earlier plays were, as he himself admitted, harsh and obscure (Gellius, XIII.2); but his style probably altered with increasing years. Many fragments of his plays occur in Cicero and the Latin grammarians, Diomedes, Nonius, and Varro. He was also a writer of annals in hexameter verses (Macrob. Sat. I.7). The five poets mentioned above belong to the earlier epoch of Roman tragedy, in which little was written but translations and imitations of the Greek, with occasional insertions of original matter. How they imitated the structure of the choral odes is doubtful, perhaps they never attempted it. Ennius, Pacuvius, and Accius are contrasted by Cicero (de Orat. III.7), with Aeschylus, Sophocles, and Euripides; and of the two last Quintilian (X.1 § 97) says, "Virium Accio plus tribuitur; Pacuvium videri doctiorem, qui esse docti affectant, volunt."

In the age of Augustus the writing of tragedies, whether original or imitations, seems to have quite a fashionable occupation. The emperor himself attempted an Ajax, but did not succeed; and when his friends asked him, "Quidnam Ajax ageret?" his reply was "Ajacem suum in spongiam incubuisse." (Suet. Aug. 85). One of the principal tragedians of this epoch was Asinius Pollio, to whom the line (Virg. Eclog. VIII.10)

"Sola Sophocleo tua carmina digna cothurno,"

is supposed to apply: he also excelled in other literary accomplishments (Hor. Carm. II.1). Ovid (Trist. II.556) also wrote a tragedy, of which Quintilian (X.1 § 98) says, "Ovidii Medea videtur mihi ostendere, quantum ille vir praestare potuerit si ingenio suo temperare quam indulgere maluisset." His "armorum judicium" (Metamorph. XIII) between Ajax and Ulysses, on which Pacuvius and Accius also wrote dramas, proves that he might have rivaled Euripides in rhetorical skill. Quintilian also says of Varius, who was distinguished in epic as well as tragic poetry (Hor. Carm. I.6, Ar. Poet. 55; Tacit. Dial. XII.1), that his Thyestes might be compared with any of the Greek tragedies. Some fragments of this Thyestes are extant, but we have no other remains of the tragedy of the Augustan age. The loss perhaps is not great; for the want of a national and indigenous mythology must have disabled the Roman poets from producing any original counterparts of the Greek tragedy; besides which, in the later days of the republic, and under the empire, the Roman people were too fond of gladiatorial shows, and beast-fights, and gorgeous spectacles, to encourage the drama. Moreover, it is also manifest that a tragedy like that of the Greeks could not have flourished under a despotism.

The only complete Roman tragedies that have come down to us are the ten attributed to the philosopher Seneca. But whether he wrote any of them or not is a disputed point. It is agreed that they are not all from the same hand, and it is doubtful whether they are all of the same age even. In one of them, the Medea, the author made his heroine kill her children on the stage, "coram populo," in spite of the precept of Horace. Schlegel (Lect. VIII) thus speaks of them: "To whatever age they belong, they are beyond description bombastic and frigid, utterly unnatural in character and action, and full of the most revolting violations of propriety, and barren of all theatrical effect. With the old Grecian tragedies they have nothing in common but the name, the exterior form, and the matter. Their persons are neither ideal nor real men, but misshapen giants of puppets, and the wire that moves them is at one time an unnatural heroism, at another a passion alike p1148unnatural, which no atrocity of guilt can appal." Still they have had admirers: Heinsius calls the Hippolytus "divine," and prefers the Troades to the Hecuba of Euripides: even Racine has borrowed from the Hippolytus in his Phèdre.

Roman tragedians sometimes wrote tragedies on subjects taken from their national history. Pacuvius, e.g., wrote a Paulus, L. Accius a Brutus and a Decius (Cic. de Div. I.22). Curiatius Maternus, also a distinguished orator in the reign of Domitian, wrote a Domitius and a Cato, the latter of which gave offence to the rulers of the state (potentium animos offendit, Tacit. Dial. 2; Lang. Vind. Trag. Roman. p14). The fragments of the Thyestes of Varius are given by Bothius, Poet. Scen. Lat. Frag. p279.


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