Tragedy and Comedy

Image of Dionysus

If I am Sophocles, I am not mad; and if I am mad, I am not Sophocles." - Sophocles

We have copies of the complete plays of Aeschylus, Sophocles, and Euripides. We guarantee that these are authentic copies with no additions or deletions made by later authors.

Aeschylus of Athens (525 - 455 B.C.) is best known for his trilogies. He added a second actor to the action. We have his famous Oresteia (Agamemnon, Libation Bearers, and Eumenides) and his Prometheus trilogy (Prometheus Bound, Prometheus Unbound, and Prometheus the Fire-Bringer), as well as many other of his fine plays.

Sophocles (497 - 405 B.C.) wrote many fine plays. He is especially known for his Oedipus plays, Electra, and his Antigone. His Nausicaa is not as well known but is a fun one because the playwright is known to have acted in that play.

We have many fine titles from Euripides (480 - 406 B.C.). Some of the titles include: Andromeda, perhaps one of his finest works, where Perseus saves the lovely Andromeda out of a sense of romantic love; The Cresphontes, with its famous and riveting recognition scene where the mother, Merope, is told that the young man she is about to kill is, in fact, her long-lost and presumed murdered son, Cresphontes; The Eurystheus, a funny satyr play about how the wicked king, Eurystheus, sent Heracles to his Labors but was then terrified of the monsters Heracles brought back; The Phaethon, the tragic tale of a young man, Phaethon, who is about to marry a divine woman and so feels the need to prove himself. Upon being told that he is the son of the Sun, he asks to drive the solar chariot, with fatal consequences. This play is known for its beautiful poetry about the dawning day.

Aeschylus, Sophocles, and Euripides did not, of course, invent tragedy. We have plays from the "Father of Drama", Thespis of Attica. These plays include Phorbas, The Priests, the Youths, and Pentheus. Thespis (c 550 - 500 B.C.) was the first to add an actor to the chorus.

Other early playwrights also contributed to the development of drama. Choerilus of Athens (c 523 - 468 B.C.) is said to have invented the theatrical masks. He wrote Alope and 160 other plays. Phrynichus of Athens (c 511 B.C.) introduced the use of female characters and female masks. He wrote Sack of Miletus, Phoenician Women, Egyptians, Alcestis, Actaeon, Antaeus, Daughters of Danaus, Women of Pleuron, Tantalus, and Troilus. Pratinus of Phlius (wrote c 500 B.C.) is said to have invented satyr plays. He wrote Palaestrae.

Great writers from the 5th century B.C. include Ion of Chios, who wrote The Sentinels, Argives, Alcmene, Omphale, Agamemnon, Laertes, and Teucer, Achaeus of Eretria, who wrote Philoctetes, and Aristarchus of Tegea, who wrote Asclepius and Achilles. We also have plays by Agathon of Athens, who is known for his rhetorical plays that are based on original plots rather than on myths. Some of his plays include The Flower and Fall of Troy. One unusual play is Timotheus of Miletus' Persians, where foreigners speak broken Greek.

Playwrights from the 4th century B.C. include Astydamas, Carcinus, Chaeremon, Moschion, Polyidus, and Theodectes. Astydamas wrote Antigone, Hector, and Parthenopaeus. Carcinus is known for his Aerope, Alope, Medea, Oedipus, and Thyestes. Chaeremon wrote Centaur and Oeneus. Moschion wrote historical plays, such as Themistocles. Polyidus is known for his Iphigenia while Theodectes is known for his Lyncaeus and his Oedipus Rex.

In addition, we have many fine comedies. Aristophanes is our premiere writer and we have many of his plays. We have some of his easily found works, such as Frogs, where Dionysus braves Hades in an attempt to bring back Euripides, Lysistrata, where women force men to seek peace, Women Celebrating Thesmophoria, where Euripides gets his father-in-law to dress as a woman and defend Euripides from angry women, and Women in Parliament, where women take over the government. Some of his harder-to-find works include Amphiareus, Babylonians, Banqueters, Centaur, Cocalus, Daedalus, Daughters of Danaus, Farmers, Frying Pan Club, Gerytades, Heroes, The Islands, Lemnians, Merchant Ships, Old Age, Phoencian Women, Poetry, Rehearsal, Seasons, The Storks, Telemesses, Triphales, and Women Under Canvas.

We also have other playwrights who wrote in the Classical "Old Comedy" style. We have Cratinus of Athens' Busiris, Caught in a Storm, Chirons, Descendants of Euneus, Dionysalexandros, Nemesis, Odysseus and his Comrades, Satyrs, Softies, and Thracian Women. We also have Pherecrates of Athens' Ant-Men, Chiron, Deserters, Forgetful Men, Old Women, Persians, Pseudo-Heracles, Resident Aliens, School for Slaves, Tyranny, Vigil, and Worthies, as well as Eupolis of Athens' Autolycus, Chieftains, The Cities, Days of the New Moon, Demes, Dippers, Friends, Golden Race, and Slackers. Other plays include Phrynichus of Athens' Cronus, Hermit, Muses, Mystics, and Tragedians, and Platon of Athens' Adonis, Alliance, Ambassadors, Europa, Festivals, Hyperbolus, Islands, Spartans, and Zeus Reviled.

The 4th century B.C. was dominated by the transitional form known as "Middle Comedy". We have plays from that time period, such as Axionicus' The Man Who Was Fond of Euripides.

Menander was the premier author of "New Comedy" and we have his Brothers, Eunuch, Double Deceiver, Hero, Hated Man, Farmer, Ghost, Girl from Samos, Flatterer, Flute Player, Maiden Possessed, Necklace, Physician, Selfish Person, Self-Tormentor, Soldier, Twins, Woman of Andros, Woman of Perinthos, and Women at Luncheon. Other plays in the New Comedy style include Philemon of Syracuse's The Ghost, Merchant, Myrmidons, Palamedes, and Treasure and Diphilus of Sinope's Heracles, Sappho, and Theseus.

The earliest Roman works are those of Livius Andronicus and Q. Ennius from Calabria, who adapted Greek tragedies and comedies for Roman tastes. Livius Andronicus' first plays appeared in 240 B.C., just after the First Punic War ended. Some of his titles include Achilles, Aegisthus, Ajax, Andromeda, Bearing a Whip, Danae, Hermiona, Tereus, and Trojan Horse. Ennius' numerous plays include Achilles, Ajax, Alcmeo, Alexander, Andromacha, Athamas, Cresphontes, Erechtheus, Eumenides, Hecuba, Iphigenia, Medea, Melanippe, Nemea, Phoenix, Ransoming of Hector, Telamo, Telephus, Thyestes, and the historical play, Sabine Women.

Later Roman playwrights include Naevius, Seneca the Younger, Lucius Accius, Plautus, and Terence. Gnaeus Naevius wrote historical dramas, such as Clastidium and Romulus. He also wrote Andromache, Danae, Hector Departing, Hesione, Iphigenia, Lycurgus, and Trojan Horse. Seneca the Younger wrote nine tragedies. Some of his titles include Agamemnon, Hercules on Oeta, Mad Hercules, Medea, Oedipus, Phaedra, Phoenician Women, Thyestes, and Trojan Women. Lucius Accius wrote Astyanax. Plautus is known for his inventive comedies. His easily found works include The Carthaginian, The Twin Menaechmi, and Three Penny Day. Some of his rarer works include Astraba, Bacaria, Blind Man, The Little Garden, The Parasite Doctor, The Traveling Trunk, The Triplets, and The Woman of Boeotia. Terence's comedies, such as Hecyra ('The Mother-in-Law'), Heauton Timoroumenos ('The Self-Tormentor'), and Andria ('The Woman from Andros'), were marked by a controversial sense of realism.

Finally, we have well-known commentaries on the great works of literature. The Didymus Commentary is one such work that we have. You may also look for historical information about the authors in our history section.


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Updated November 20, 2009