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Satyr Play

(368 words)

Author(s): Zimmermann, Bernhard
[German Version] At the Great Dionysia (Dionysus), the most important festival of Athens, each of the final three days was marked by the performance of three tragedies followed by a satyr play as a burlesque conclusion. In the case of Aeschylus, the satyr play shared subject matter with the trilogy, but this does not seem to have been the case with Sophocles and especially Euripides, who sometimes substituted a tragedy for the satyr play ( Alcestis, 438 bce). Archaeological evidence indicates that the satyr play was introduced into the festival program between 520 and 510 bce; the first a…

Comic Drama

(1,095 words)

Author(s): Zimmermann, Bernhard | Bartsch, Eva
[German Version] I. Antiquity – II. Middle Ages to the Present I. Antiquity In the so-called Old Attic Comedy of the 5th century bce, as represented by the 11 extant comedies of Aristophanes (c. 450–385; the comedies produced in Sicily and Megara [so-called Megarian farces] are lost), the role of religion is a twofold one. First, dramas (Drama: I, 2) performed in the context of the festivals dedicated to Dionysus were considered to be spiritual offerings to the god and could therefore only be staged once (until 386 bce). Secondly, religion and cult were recurrent themes of…


(1,701 words)

Author(s): Zimmermann, Bernhard | Bartsch, Eva
[German Version] I. Antiquity 1. The etymology of the word τραγῳδία/ tragōdía indicates the genre’s cultic roots. Contrary to the traditional interpretation (“goat song”), Burkert understands the term to mean a song (ᾠδή/ ōdé; Ode) accompanying the sacrifice of a ram (τράγος/ trágos). Preliterary evidence of the performance of tragedies has been found in conjunction with the introduction of the cultic hymn to Dionysus (dithyramb; Drama: I) by Arion in Corinth (c. 600 bce) and in Sicyon (northern Peloponnese). Herodotus (5.67) speaks of the choruses of tragedies in Si…


(269 words)

Author(s): Zimmermann, Bernhard
[German Version] (497/496, Athens – 406 bce), Athenian tragedian, who had his debut in 470. Seven of his plays (out of probably 113) have survived: Ajax and the Trachinian Women, written in the 450s, Antigone (c. 440), Oedipus the King (436–433), Electra (a late work), Philoctetes (409), and Oedipus at Colonus (performed posthumously in 401). His tragedies present individuals in extreme situations, whose behavior can overstep the limits of hubris. The protagonists are contrasted with figures representing the average person (Chrysothemis, Ismene…


(3,916 words)

Author(s): Zimmermann, Bernhard | Sundermeier, Theo | Siebald, Manfred
[German Version] I. Greco-Roman Antiquity – II. Drama and Religion – III. Drama and the Christian Tradition I. Greco-Roman Antiquity 1. Concept The noun δρᾶμα/ dráma, derived from the verb δρᾶν ( drán, “do, act”), seldom means “action, deed” in the general sense. Especially in the tragedies of Aeschylus, the verb and noun form the antithesis of παϑεῖν ( patheín, “suffer”) and πάϑος ( páthos, “suffering”), for example in Aesch. Ag. 533. Predominant is the special meaning “drama, play” (Theater), in which the aspect of staging and stage action stands out (e.g. Arist., Ranae 920). Deriv…

Tragic, The

(265 words)

Author(s): Zimmermann, Bernhard
[German Version] Derived from the Greek adjective τραγικός/ tragikós, tragic originally suggested nothing more than association with the art of tragedy. According to Aristotle ( Poet. 13, 1453 a 30), Euripides was the “most tragic” playwright, since his plays reflect most closely the purpose of tragedy: to evoke pity and fear and lead to purification (Catharsis) of or from these emotions. In the modern period, several different conceptions of the tragic can be identified. At the center of the moralistic and theological …


(4,394 words)

Author(s): Zimmermann, Bernhard | Bartsch, Eva | Friedrich, Marcus A.
[German Version] I. History of Religion 1. Cultic originsa. a. Theatrical performances are attested long before the institutionalization of the dramatic genres in Athens (536/533: tragedy [I], 486: comic drama [I]): Dorian forerunners of tragedy in Sicyon and Corinth; 6th-century Attic vases testifying to the existence of animal choruses comparable to those of the 5th-century comedies. The roots of theater lie in the sacrificial rites (Sacrifice: II, 2) associated with the cult of Dionysus. The inhibition…

Tragedy, Greek

(8,079 words)

Author(s): Zimmermann, Bernhard
A. Ancient contexts and principles From the very establishment (probably 535–531 BC) of Greek T. as a constituent element in the City Dionysia (the festival founded by Peisistratus in honour of the god Dionysus and central to life in democratic 5th-cent. Athens), T. as a literary genre was to the utmost degree determined by processes of reception and intertextual references. The reasons for this are to be found on various levels. As a choral genre [45], it developed out of choral lyrical forms (accor…