The Treasury of Atreus

Don't pass the mouse over this picture unless you really want to open the can of worms ............

From Homer we move on to Greek Tragedy. It is a natural progression. The playwrights take Homer's stories and bring them to life on the stage.

We take our time introducing theatre. There is the mythological background to explore first. What is the connection between Dionysos, the god of wine and the drama?

Then we look at actual Greek theatres, the layout and structure. Theatre was important to the Greeks. They invented it and they built theatres wherever they settled.

They had festivals and competitions to decide on the best play and the best playwright. It was entertaining, but it was also a religious event.

Bee-hive roof

Once the background is put in place we tackle the texts. The first play we read concerns that family : Agamemnon, Clytemnestra, Aegisthus, and Orestes.

The two pictures, above and alongside show the tomb of Atreus, Agamemnon's father, and reminds us that horror was not confined to just one generation. The whole line of Atreus is a catalogue of murder and cannibalism!

The top picture shows the entrance. The middle picture shows the superb craftsmanship of the bee-hive shaped roof - from the inside.

The Theatre at Dodona

The picture on the left shows the theatre at Dodona in NW Greece. There was also a famous oracle of Zeus here.

Be sure not to pass the mouse over the thumbnail picture of the theatre, unless you really do want to see the Furies emerging from the bowels of the earth!

Scope of the Topic

We study the myths behind the plays first and then look at the role of the gods, the roles of both men and women in society. We compare ancient and modern theatre, discussing the music and dance, and especially the use of masks. The playwrights themselves are also located in their physical setting.

The Examination

We study three plays in the AS year. One essay has to be written from a choice of one from two titles. One context has to be answered from a choice of two.

The prescribed plays for January 2005 to January 2006 are:

  • Aeschylus - Agamemnon
  • Sophocles - Oedipus the King
  • Sophocles - Electra

Passages for comment will be as follows:
January 2005 - Agamemnon and Electra
June 2005, January 2006 - Oedipus the King, Electra


In the A2 year you have to study further plays, by Euripides, and the examination is synoptic. You must understand the connections between Euripides and Aeschylus and Sophocles

The prescribed plays from January 2005 - January 2006 are:

  • Euripides - Medea
  • Bacchae
  • Hippolytus

Passages for comment will be as follows:
January 2005 - Medea, Bacchae
June 2005, January 2006 - Hippolytus, Bacchae

To find out more about Greek Tragedy, try here