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YGK: Greek Plays

QuestionAnswer
The Frogs Aristophanes
The Birds Aristophanes
The Clouds Aristophanes
Lysistrata Aristophanes
Oedipus Rex Sophocles
Antigone Sophocles
Seven Against Thebes Aeschylus
Medea Euripides
The Bacchae Euripides
Oresteia Aeschylus
This comedy centers on the god Dionysus, who journeys to the underworld with his much smarter slave Xanthias. Dionysus is unhappy with the low quality of contemporary theater, and plans to bring the playwright Euripides back from the dead. The Frogs by Aristophanes
As the ferryman Charon rows Dionysus to the underworld (Xanthias is forced to walk), a chorus of the title creatures appears and repeatedly chants the phrase "Brekekekex, ko-ax, ko-ax." The Frogs by Aristophanes
Dionysus & Xanthais find Euripides arguing w/ Aeschylus as to which is the better author. After the dramatists “weigh” their verses on a scale, & offer advice on how to save Athens, Dionysus judges that it is Aeschylus who should be brought back to life. The Frogs by Aristophanes
Dionysus and Xanthias then have a series of misadventures, during which they alternately claim to be Heracles. The Frogs by Aristophanes
At the start of this comedy, two Athenians named Peisthetaerus and Euelpides seek out Tereus, a human king who was transformed into a a bird called a hoopoe (some translations refer to Tereus as “Epops,” the Greek word for hoopoe). The Birds by Aristophanes
Peisthetaerus convinces Tereus & his fellow birds to build a city in the sky, which would allow the birds to demand sacrifices from humans, & to blockade the Olympian gods. The Birds by Aristophanes
Peisthetaerus & Euelpides eat a root that gives them wings, and aid the birds in the construction of the city Nephelokokkygia, or “Cloudcuckooland.” The Birds by Aristophanes
Peisthetaerus also drives away objectionable visitors, such as a poet, an oracle-monger, and a dealer in decrees. After the messenger goddess Iris is found in the city, the residents of Cloudcuckooland demand concessions from the Olympians. The Birds by Aristophanes
On the advice of Prometheus, Peisthetaerus demands that Zeus give up his mistress Basileia, or Sovereignty, from whom “all things come.” Peisthetaerus marries Basileia, and is crowned king. The Birds by Aristophanes
This comedy lampoons Athenian philosophers, especially Socrates and his Sophist followers, whose insubstantial, obfuscating arguments are inspired by the title goddesses. The Clouds by Aristophanes
The protagonist Strepsiades fears that his horse-obsessed son, Pheidippides, is spending too much money. He wants Pheidippides to enroll in the Phrontisterion, or Thinkery of Socrates to learn specious arguments that can be used to avoid paying debts. The Clouds by Aristophanes
Pheidippides refuses, so Strepsiades enrolls in the Thinkery himself. There, Strepsiades learns about new discoveries, such as a technique to measure how far a flea can jump. The Clouds by Aristophanes
Pheidippides is also pressured into studying at the Thinkery, where he and Strepsiades are instructed by the beings Just and Unjust Discourse. The Clouds by Aristophanes
Strepsiades believes that the education will enable Pheidippides to foil all creditors, but Pheidippides instead uses his new-found debating skills to justify beating up his father. In response, Strepsiades leads a mob to destroy the Thinkery. The Clouds by Aristophanes
Title character of this comedy is an Athenian woman who decides to end the Peloponnesian War, which was still raging when the play premiered in 411 BC. She assembles a secret Council of Women whose members represent many parts of Greece. Lysistrata by Aristophanes
Once the women have gathered, the title character reveals her proposal: all Greek women should abstain from having sex until the men agree to stop fighting in the Peloponnesian war Lysistrata by Aristophanes
Her plan draws protests from her bawdy neighbor Calonice, and from the amorous wife Myrrhine, the Spartan Lampito reluctantly supports the idea, and helps to convince the other women. Lysistrata by Aristophanes
As Athenian women capture the Acropolis, the female representatives from other regions return home to enlist their compatriots in the plan. Lysistrata by Aristophanes
The ensuing events include conflicts between a chorus of old women and a chorus of old men, and a personal plea to Myrrhine from her husband, Cinesias. Both genders suffer from sexual deprivation, but the women of Greece remain united. Lysistrata by Aristophanes
With the aid of a beautiful girl called Diallage, or Reconciliation, the title character convinces the frenzied men to agree to an equitable peace. Lysistrata by Aristophanes
This tragedy tells the story of Oedipus, a man who became king of Thebes by defeating a monster called the sphinx. Oedipus Rex (aka Oedipus the King) by Sophocles
After a mysterious plague devastates Thebes, Oedipus sends his brother-in-law Creon to ask the Oracle at Delphi about the cause of the affliction Oedipus Rex (aka Oedipus the King) by Sophocles
The Oracle attributes the plague to the fact that the murderer of Laius, the previous king of Thebes, has never been caught & punished. Oedipus Rex (aka Oedipus the King) by Sophocles
Oedipus then seeks information from the prophet Teiresias, who is provoked into revealing that Oedipus himself was the killer. Oedipus Rex (aka Oedipus the King) by Sophocles
Oedipus initially rejects this claim, but begins to have doubts after talking with his wife Jocasta, who was once married to Laius. Oedipus Rex (aka Oedipus the King) by Sophocles
Jocasta recalls a prophecy that Laius would be killed by his own son, but she claims that this prophecy did not come true, because Laius was murdered by highwaymen. Oedipus Rex (aka Oedipus the King) by Sophocles
This leads Oedipus to recall killing a man who resembled Laius, and a prophecy which had claimed that Oedipus would kill his own father, and marry his own mother. Oedipus Rex (aka Oedipus the King) by Sophocles
A shepherd from Mount Cithaeron reveals the awful truth: in response to the prophecy about their son, Laius and Jocasta had tried to expose the infant Oedipus in the wilderness. Oedipus Rex (aka Oedipus the King) by Sophocles
Not knowing his true heritage, Oedipus eventually left home to avoid harming the people whom he believed to be his parents, but unknowingly fulfilled the prophecy by killing Laius and marrying Jocasta Oedipus Rex (aka Oedipus the King) by Sophocles
Upon learning this, Jocasta commits suicide, and Oedipus blinds himself with Jocasta’s brooches. Creon assumes control of Thebes as Oedipus begs to be exiled along with his daughters, Ismene and Antigone. Oedipus Rex (aka Oedipus the King) by Sophocles
Along with Oedipus Rex and Oedipus at Colonus, this is one of the three surviving “Theban plays” by Sophocles that center on the family of Oedipus. Antigone by Sophocles
The tragedy takes place in the immediate aftermath of a battle in which Oedipus’s two sons, Polyneices and Eteocles, killed each other while struggling to control Thebes. Antigone by Sophocles
The current ruler of the city, Creon, has declared that Eteocles will be given an honorable funeral, but Polyneices will be treated as a rebel and left unburied. Antigone by Sophocles
Oedipus’s daughter Antigone disobeys Creon’s order, and buries her brother Polyneices against the advice of her frightened sister, Ismene. Antigone by Sophocles
Despite the intervention of Creon’s son Haemon, who is betrothed to Antigone, Creon sentences Antigone to be entombed alive. Antigone by Sophocles
Soon after she is imprisoned, Antigone hangs herself. Haemon then commits suicide out of grief, and Creon’s wife Eurydice kills herself when she learns that Haemon is dead. Antigone by Sophocles
The once-proud Creon blames himself for the loss of his wife and son, and prays for death. Antigone by Sophocles
This early Greek tragedy tells the story of Oedipus’s two sons, Polyneices and Eteocles, who initially agreed to rule Thebes together before Eteocles seized the kingship for himself. Seven Against Thebes by Aeschylus
Most of the play consists of a conversation between Eteocles, the chorus, & a spy who describes the 7 captains who have arrived to besiege the seven gates of Thebes. After each man is described, Eteocles selects the warrior who will face that attacker. Seven Against Thebes by Aeschylus
When the seventh attacker is revealed to be Polyneices, Eteocles sets off to confront his brother. At the conclusion of the play, it is announced that although Eteocles’s forces have turned back the invaders, the brothers have slain each other. Seven Against Thebes by Aeschylus
Antigone, the sister of Eteocles and Polyneices, vows to defy the laws of Thebes by giving Polyneices a proper burial. Seven Against Thebes by Aeschylus
This Euripides play retells the myth of a sorceress from Colchis who saved Jason and the Argonauts during their quest for the Golden Fleece. Medea by Euripides
Set after the Argonauts’ quest, the play depicts Medea’s vengeance against Jason as he prepares to marry the Corinthian princess Glauce. Medea by Euripides
Medea uses poisoned robes to kill Glauce and Glauce’s father Creon (a different character than the Creon who appears in Sophocles’s Theban plays). Medea by Euripides
Medea seeks to hurt Jason further by killing the sons she bore him. When Jason tries to confront her, she appears above the stage in a chariot pulled by dragons, & exchanges bitter words with him before departing to seek refuge with King Aegeus of Athens. Medea by Euripides
The play’s ending is a classic example of a deus ex machina, a literary device in which plot problems are suddenly resolved by an unexpected contrivance. Medea by Euripides
At the start of this tragedy, the god Dionysus arrives in Thebes to seek vengeance against his aunt Agave, who has denied his immortality, and her son Pentheus, who as King of Thebes bans worship of Dionysus. The Bacchae by Euripides
The god first drives the women of the city mad, causing them to act as wild Maenads. He then convinces Pentheus to disguise himself in animal skins, and spy on the maddened women. The Bacchae by Euripides
However, the demented Agave mistakes Pentheus for a mountain lion, and dismembers her own son. The climax of the play occurs when Agave presents the head of Pentheus to her horrified father, Cadmus. The Bacchae by Euripides
As Agave realizes what she has done, Dionysus chastises her for her lack of respect, and foretells how Cadmus will spend his final days. The Bacchae by Euripides
Originally a four-play cycle, only three works (Agamemnon, The Libation Bearers, and The Eumenides) survive. (A “satyr play” entitled Proteus has been lost.) Oresteia by Aeschylus
Agamemnon, the first play in the trilogy, describes the murder of Agamemnon and his concubine Cassandra by Agamemnon’s adulterous wife, Clytemnestra, and her lover, Aegisthus. Oresteia by Aeschylus
The Libation Bearers continues the story, describing how Agamemnon’s children, Orestes & Electra, avenge their father by murdering Aegisthus & Clytemnestra. However, the Furies relentlessly pursue Orestes for his matricide. Oresteia by Aeschylus
In this 3rd play, Orestes appeals to Athena, who organizes a trial for him (w/Apollo as defense counsel). Apollo argues that man is more important than wife in a marriage, Orestes is acquitted & the Furies are renamed the Eumenides, or “The Kindly Ones.” Oresteia by Aeschylus
The cycle has been retold numerous times in modern literature, notably by Eugene O’Neill in Mourning Becomes Electra and by Jean-Paul Sartre in The Flies. Oresteia by Aeschylus
Created by: Mr_Morman