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Study information

Greek and Roman Drama

Module titleGreek and Roman Drama
Module codeCLA1006
Academic year2023/4
Module staff

Dr Chiara Meccariello (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

  • 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.
  • To explore 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.
  • To complement the study of Athenian tragedy with the very different tragedy of Seneca (first century AD), which raises issues of text, performance and the cultural setting of drama.
  • To explore 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).
  • To investigate Roman approaches to comedy through the plays of Plautus and Terence.

Intended Learning Outcomes (ILOs)

ILO: Module-specific skills

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

  • 1. Describe and demonstrate a basic understanding of (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 of Greek and Roman Drama
  • 3. Place ancient drama in the context of theatre and comment on some aspects of its theatricality

ILO: Discipline-specific skills

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

  • 4. Analyse and evaluate ancient texts in relation to their socio-cultural context
  • 5. Identify and engage effectively with relevant theoretical approaches to ancient texts

ILO: Personal and key skills

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

  • 6. Demonstrate capacity for independent judgement
  • 7. Work in a seminar team and discuss issues in a peer group
  • 8. Present work in written form with a coherent argument

Syllabus plan

While the content may vary from year to year, it is expected that it will cover the following topics:


  • Athenian dramatic festivals
  • Music, dancing, costume, masks, props
  • Religion and ritual
  • Politics and ideology
  • Rhetoric, language and style
  • Myth and intertextuality
  • Lost plays of Greek tragedy
  • Tragedy and philosophy
  • Roman theatre: continuity and change


  • Approaches to comedy and humour
  • Comic politics
  • Fantasy and utopia
  • From ‘old’ to ‘new’ comedy
  • The rivals of Aristophanes and Menander
  • Characters, masks and ethics
  • From Greek to Roman comedy
  • Comic sex
  • Comic closure and approaches to plot

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 seminarOngoing1-7Verbal 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
Term 1 commentary exercise301500 words1-6, 8Written and oral feedback
Term 2 commentary exercise301500 words1-6, 8Written and oral feedback
Term 3 examination (essay-based)402 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
Commentary exercise 1Commentary exercise1-6, 8Referral/deferral period
Commentary exercise 2Commentary exercise1-6, 8Referral/deferral period
ExamExam1-6, 8Referral/deferral period

Re-assessment notes

Deferral – if you miss an assessment for certificated reasons judged acceptable by the Mitigation Committee, you will normally be either deferred in the assessment or an extension may be granted. The mark given for a re-assessment taken as a result of deferral will not be capped and will be treated as it would be if it were your first attempt at the assessment.

Referral – if you have failed the module overall (i.e. a final overall module mark of less than 40%) you will be required to submit a further assessment as necessary. If you are successful on referral, your overall module mark will be capped at 40%.

Indicative learning resources - Basic reading

(a)   Prescribed texts:

  • Aeschylus, Persians
  • Sophocles, Antigone
  • Euripides, Helen
  • Seneca, Phaedra
  • Aristophanes, Birds
  • Menander, Samia
  • Plautus, Menaechmi
  • Terence, Eunuch

(b)   Prescribed editions of the texts above:

  • Greek Plays: 16 Plays by Aeschylus, Sophocles, and Euripides (ed. M. Lefkowitz and J. Romm: Modern Library Classics, Ballantine Books, New York, 2016).
  • Seneca: Four Tragedies and Octavia (tr. E.F. Watling, Penguin Classics, London, 2005).
  • Classical Comedy (ed. E. Segal, Penguin Classics, London, 2006).

(c)   Selected introductory/background reading:

  • J. Gregory (ed.), A Companion to Greek Tragedy (Oxford/Malden, 2005).
  • E. Csapo and W.J. Slater, The Context of Ancient Drama (Ann Arbor, 1995).
  • P.E. Easterling (ed.), The Cambridge Companion to Greek Tragedy (Cambridge, 1997).
  • M. Revermann (ed.), The Cambridge Companion to Greek Comedy (Cambridge, 2014).
  • T.J. Moore, Roman Theatre (Cambridge, 2012).
  • M. Dinter (ed.), The Cambridge Companion to Roman Comedy (Cambridge, 2020).
  • J. Robson, Aristophanes: An Introduction (London, 2009).
  • D. Rosenbloom, Aeschylus: Persians (London, 2007).
  • D. Cairns, Sophocles: Antigone (London, 2016).
  • S. Mills, Euripides: Hippolytus (London, 2002).
  • R. Mayer, Seneca: Phaedra (London, 2002).
  • M.E. Wright, Menander: Samia (London, 2021).

Indicative learning resources - Web based and electronic resources

ELE - 

Key words search

Classics, Greek, Roman, Drama, Tragedy, Comedy, Theatre

Credit value30
Module ECTS


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NQF level (module)


Available as distance learning?


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