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Emma Cole

Ancient drama has had a vast influence upon the literary, performance, and intellectual culture of modernity. From ancient Greece thirty-two tragedies, eleven comedies, and one satyr play survive, and from ancient Rome ten tragedies and twenty-seven comedies remain, alongside countless fragments from all genres. Many of the surviving plays are staged in contemporary theatre in both literal translation and more liberal adaptation, and today more ancient drama is seen in professional theatres than at any point since antiquity. Although all ancient dramatic genres have a rich reception history, Greek tragedy dominates the field, particularly in the 20th and 21st centuries. Productions of Greek tragedy today range from masked performances in the original language through to radical, avant-garde, immersive, and postdramatic reinventions. Greek tragedy is also frequently used as a touchstone within literary theory and broader intellectual discourse, from the theorisation of the ideal form of performance (Wagner’s Gesamtkuntswerk) to the development of psychoanalytic theory (Freud’s Oedipus complex) and structuralism (Lévi-Strauss). Ancient drama has also provided inspiration for entirely new dramatic forms; the influence of Roman tragedy, for example, can be felt within the revenge tragedies of the Elizabethan and Jacobean eras, while traces of Roman comedy can be felt in slapstick comedy and Italian commedia dell’arte. Current growth areas within both artistic practice, and academic research into the reception of ancient drama, include the performance reception of dramatic fragments, an increased interest in forms such as burlesque and pantomime, and the use of ancient drama as a tool of resistance against oppressive political regimes.


Isabelle Torrance

Euripides was a key figure in the development of ancient drama, and the continuing impact of his work on modern forms of theatre cannot be underestimated. His tragedies were dramaturgically innovative and intellectually challenging. Divine epiphanies, emotionally charged debate scenes, and novel musical performances are all typical in Euripides. Several of his plays exploit the sort of disaster-averted scenario that was one of Aristotle’s favourite plot types and that flourished in operatic adaptations of classical myths. Pointed theological and philosophical questions are raised by characters in Euripides’ plays, and this radical aspect of Euripidean drama explains both why he was a target for contemporary comedians, notably Aristophanes, and why he was dismissed by Nietzsche and others in the nineteenth century. The past century, however, has seen a renewed and reinvigorated appreciation for Euripides, whose dramas have provided a valuable medium not only for artistic expression and experimentation but also for engaging with pressing contemporary social and political issues such as racial discrimination, warfare, postcolonialism, gender fluidity, and PTSD.


Jacob Latham

A procession (πομπή/pompa), at a basic level, is the ritualized escort of someone or something from one place to another by some group before some audience—an ordinary walk transformed by means of performance traditions and customary rules into a more or less spectacular pageant, whose significance derives, in part, from a variable calculus of honoree, cortege, itinerary, audience, and performance. The honoree(s), triumphant generals, the deceased, images of the gods, sacrificial animals, etc., were accompanied by a processional cortege, typically a specific social group (like the worshippers of Isis in a particular city) or a collection of groups imagined as a civic cross-section. The procession then traversed an itinerary, creating a symbolically charged pathway that transformed urban space into significant place. Processions may be produced with varying degrees of theatricality, while the same procession could vary from one performance to the next. Despite such variation, a shared set of production techniques and values, a kind of processional koine, spanned the Mediterranean. Processions were thus constrained by custom and open to innovation—and audiences could be attentive to both. In the end, ritualized walking (one way of understanding a procession) impacted both the urban imaginary, creating community, and urban practices, marking spatial significance.