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Study information

Greek and Roman Drama

Module titleGreek and Roman Drama
Module codeCLA1006
Academic year2019/0
Module staff

Dr Nicolo' D'Alconzo (Convenor)

Duration: Term123
Duration: Weeks



Number students taking module (anticipated)


Module description

This module is aimed at anyone who wants to know more about the fascinating theatrical traditions of ancient Athens and Rome. It examines a wide range of plays, both tragic and comic, including works by authors as varied as Aeschylus, Sophocles, Euripides, Menander, Aristophanes, Terence and Plautus.  All these texts are studied in the medium of English translation, making the module widely accessible.  Students will be given an advanced critical introduction to some of the greatest and most influential works in the Western dramatic tradition, and they will be encouraged to think about such matters as the connection between drama and society, the role of ritual and religion, the nature of the tragic and comic genres, and the psychological and emotional impact of drama on its audience.

Module aims - intentions of the module

On the basis of a selection of texts in English translation "Greek and Roman tragedies and comedies from Aeschylus to Seneca" we attempt to come to a general understanding of the origin and development of ancient drama, the importance of types of plot and character, the relationship of drama with society and the emotional effect of tragedy. We study Athenian tragedy of the fifth century BC over a period of some sixty years, paying attention both to the texts of the plays and the way they develop with time and in line with changes in the city. Complementary study of the very different tragedy of Seneca (first century AD) raises issues of text, performance and the cultural setting of drama. We study comedy, considering the place of Greek Old Comedy (for example Aristophanes) in the Athenian democratic city, and ways in which it differed from the New Comedy of the late fourth century (for example Menander). Roman approaches to comedy (plays by Plautus and Terence) are investigated.

Intended Learning Outcomes (ILOs)

ILO: Module-specific skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 1. Describe and analyse (a) the development of Greek tragedy and comedy in the fifth and fourth centuries BC and (b) Roman comedy and Senecan tragedy
  • 2. Read critically individual works within a specific genre

ILO: Discipline-specific skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 3. With guidance, distinguish and assess critically literature in a foreign culture and to place that literature in its cultural context
  • 4. Place drama in the context of the theatre
  • 5. Comment on some aspects of its theatricality

ILO: Personal and key skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 6. Demonstrate some capacity for independent judgement
  • 7. Work in a seminar team
  • 8. Present work in written form with a coherent argument

Syllabus plan

Indicative syllabus

Term 1:

  • Introduction and orientation
  • The origin of tragedy and Euripides' Bacchae
  • Festival and theatre
  • Tragedy and ritual
  • Tragedy and politics 6
  • Tragedy and gender
  • Aeschylus' Persians and the anonymous Prometheus Bound
  • Sophocles' Antigone
  • Sophocles Electra and Euripides Electra
  • Euripides Hippolytus
  • Seneca's Phaedra

Term 2:

  • Comic authors, plots and themes
  • Genre II: what is comedy?
  • The ancient sense(s) of humour
  • Sex and obscenity
  • The politics of comedy
  • Comedies of ideas: Clouds and Frogs
  • Metatheatre and gender: The Poet and the Women
  • The sociology of comedy
  • New Comedy: ancient (and modern) soap opera
  • New Comedy: character, ethics and human relationships
  • Comic myth: Amphitryo

Learning activities and teaching methods (given in hours of study time)

Scheduled Learning and Teaching ActivitiesGuided independent studyPlacement / study abroad

Details of learning activities and teaching methods

CategoryHours of study timeDescription
Scheduled learning and teaching44Lecture (22 x 2 hour)
Scheduled learning and teaching10Seminars (10 x 1 hour)
Guided independent study246Independent Study

Formative assessment

Form of assessmentSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Oral contribution to seminar1-7Verbal feedback

Summative assessment (% of credit)

CourseworkWritten examsPractical exams

Details of summative assessment

Form of assessment% of creditSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Written assignment208001-6, 8Written and oral feedback
Essay 302000 words1-6, 8Written and oral feedback
Exam502 hours1-6, 8Written and oral feedback

Details of re-assessment (where required by referral or deferral)

Original form of assessmentForm of re-assessmentILOs re-assessedTimescale for re-assessment
Written assignmentWritten assignment1-6, 8ref/def period
Essay 1Essay 11-6, 8ref/def period
ExamExam1-6, 8ref/def period

Indicative learning resources - Basic reading

1. Prescribed texts:

Aeschylus, Persians and Prometheus Bound

Sophocles, Antigone and Electra

Euripides, Hippolytus, Electra,and Helen

Seneca, Phaedra; Aristophanes, Lysistrata, Acharnians, Clouds, The Poet and the Women and Frogs

Menander, The Bad-Tempered Man and The Girl from Samos

Terence, The Brothers; Plautus, The Rope and Amphitryo

N.B. Teaching, seminars and examinations will be based on the following prescribed translations: Aeschylus: (Collard Oxford World's Classics); Sophocles: (Kitto, Oxford World's Classics); Euripides: (Morwood, Oxford World's Classics); Seneca: Four Tragedies and Octavia (Watling, Penguin Classics); Aristophanes: Lysistrata and Other Plays (Sommerstein, Penguin), The Wasps and Other Plays (Barrett, Penguin); Menander: The Plays and Fragments (Balme, Oxford World's Classics); Terence: The Comedies (Radice, Penguin); Plautus: The Rope and Other Plays (Watling, Penguin).

2. Selected introductory reading: P.E.Easterling (ed.), The Cambridge Companion to Greek Tragedy (Cambridge 1997) M. Wright, Euripides' Escape Tragedies (Oxford, 2005) O. Taplin, Greek Tragedy in Action (London, 1978) R. Rehm, The Greek Tragic Theatre (London, 1992) A. Pickard-Cambridge, The Dramatic Festivals of Athens (ed. 2, Oxford 1968) Aristotle, Poetics, translated by Malcolm Heath (Penguin Classics: Harmondsworth,1996) K. Dover, Aristophanic Comedy (Berkeley 1974) M. Silk, Aristophanes and the Invention of Comedy (Oxford 2000) W.G. Arnott, Menander, Plautus, Terence (Greece and Rome New Surveys in the Classics no 9) N. Zagagi, The Comedy of Menander (London 1994)

Key words search

Classics, Greek, Roman, Drama

Credit value30
Module ECTS


Module pre-requisites


Module co-requisites


NQF level (module)


Available as distance learning?


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Last revision date