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τραγῳδία). I. Tragedy in Greece originated in the lyric dithyramb; i. e. in the song of a chorus at the rites held in honour of Dionysus (see Dionysia). This song, in accordance with the cult of the god, expressed at one time exuberant joy, at another deep sorrow. The cult of Dionysus is also indicated by the very name of tragedy, signifying goat-song; i. e. (according to the usual explanation) the hymn sung by the chorus in their dance round the altar at the sacrifice of the goat (τράγος), dedicated to Dionysus. Others derive the name from the fact that, to represent Satyrs, the chorus were clad in goat-skins, and hence resembled goats. These choral songs seem to have received a certain dramatic form as early as the time of Arion , to whom the dithyramb owes its artistic development. The true drama, including tragic and satyric plays, was evolved subsequently in Athens.

Tradition ascribes the origin of tragedy to a contemporary of Solon named Thespis (q.v.), of Icaria, which was a chief seat of the cult of Dionysus. The date assigned to this is B.C. 540. Thespis was at the same time poet, leader of the chorus, and actor. According to the testimony of the ancients, his pieces consisted of a prologue, a series of choral songs standing in close connection with the action, and dramatic recitations introduced between the choruses. These recitations were delivered by the leader of the chorus, and were partly in the form of monologues, partly in that of short dialogues with the chorus, whereby the action of the play was advanced. The reciter was enabled to appear in different rôles by the aid of linen or wooden masks, which are also said to have been introduced by the poet himself. (See Persona.) The invention of Thespis , whose own pieces soon lapsed into oblivion, won the favour of Pisistratus and the approval of the Athenian public. Tragedy thus became an important element in the Attic festival of Dionysus. Thespis's immediate followers were Choerilus, Pratinas (the inventor of the Satyric Drama), his son Aristias , and Phrynichus. Phrynichus especially did good service towards the development of tragedy by introducing an actor apart from the leader of the chorus, and so preparing the way for true dialogue. He further improved the chorus, which still, however, occupied a disproportionate space in comparison with the action of the play.

Tragedy was really brought into being by Aeschylus, when he added a second actor (called the δευτεραγωνιστής) to the first, or πρωταγωνιστής, and in this way rendered dialogue possible. He further subordinated the choruses to the dialogue. See Aeschylus.

Sophocles, in whom tragedy reaches its culminating-point, added to Aeschylus's two actors a third, or τριταγωνιστής: and Aeschylus accepted the innovation in his later plays. Thenceforward three actors were regularly granted by lot to each poet, at the public expense. Only rarely, and in exceptional cases, was a fourth employed. Sophocles also raised the number of the chorus from twelve to fifteen. The only other important innovation due to him was that he gave up the internal connection, preserved by Aeschylus, among the several plays of a tetralogy which were presented in competition by the tragic poets at the festival of Dionysus. See Sophocles; Tetralogia; Trilogia.

The third great master of tragedy is Euripides, in whom, however, we already observe a decline in many respects from the severe standard of his predecessor (see Euripides). During and after the age of these masters of the art, from whom alone have complete dramas come down to us, many other tragic poets were actively employed, whose works are known to us by name alone, or are only preserved in fragments.

It is remarkable that, in the case of the great tragic writers, the cultivation of tragic compositions seems to have been hereditary among their descendants, and among those of Aeschylus in particular, for many generations. His son Euphorion, his nephew Philocles, his grand-nephews Morsimus and Melanthius, his grandson Astydamas, and his great-grandsons Astydamas and Philocles, were poets of more or less note. In the family of Sophocles may be mentioned his son Iophon and his grandson Sophocles; and in that of Euripides, his son or nephew of the same name.

Among the other poets of the fifth century B.C., Ion, Achaeus, Aristarchus, and Neophron were accounted the most eminent. Agathon may also be included as the first who ventured to treat a subject of his own invention, whereas hitherto mythical history, especially that of Homer and the Cyclic Poets (q.v.), or, in rare instances, authentic history, had furnished the materials of the play. After the Peloponnesian War, tragedy shared the general and ever-increasing decline of political and religious vitality. In the fourth century, besides the descendants of Aeschylus, we must mention Theodectes, Aphareus, and Chaeremon, who partly wrote for readers only.

The number of tragedies produced at Athens is marvellous. According to the not altogether trustworthy records of the number of plays written by each poet, they amounted to 1400. The works of the foremost poets were represented over and over again, especially in the theatres of Asia Minor, under the successors of Alexander. During the first half of the third century Ptolemy Philadelphus built a great theatre in Alexandria, where he established competitions in exact imitation of those at Athens. This gave a new impetus to tragic poetry, and seven poets became conspicuous, who were known as the Alexandrian Pleiad, Alexander Aetolus, Philiscus, Sositheus, Homerus, Aeantides, Sosiphanes, and Lycophron. The taste of the Alexandrian critics deemed them worthy to occupy a place beside the five great tragic poets of Athens, Aeschylus, Sophocles, Euripides, Ion, and Achaeus. See Canon Alexandrinus; Pleias.

Inasmuch as tragedy developed itself out of the chorus at the Dionysiac festivals, so, in spite of all the limitations which were introduced as a result of the evolution of the true drama, the chorus itself was always retained. Hence Greek tragedy consisted of two elements: the one truly dramatic, the prevailing metre of which was the iambic trimeter; the other consisting of song and dance (see Chorus) in the numerous varieties of Dorian lyric poetry. The dramatic portion was generally made up of the following parts: the πρόλογος, from the beginning to the first entry of the chorus; the ἐπεισώδιον, the division between each choral song and the next; and the ἔξοδος, or concluding portion which followed the last chorus. The first important choral part was called the πάροδος: and the song following an episodium, a στάσιμον (sc. μέλος). There were further songs of lamentation by the chorus and actors together, which were called κόμμοι. A solo was sometimes sung by the actor alone; and this became especially common in the later tragedies.

II. Roman tragedy was founded entirely on that of the Greeks. In early times there existed crude dramatic productions (see Satira), which provided an opening for the translation from the Greek dramas brought on the stage by Livius Andronicus. He was a Greek by birth, but was brought to Rome as a captive about B.C. 200. It is to him that Roman tragedy owes its origin. His dramas and those of his successors were more or less free versions of Greek originals. Even the tragedies, or historical plays, drawn from national Roman materials, called fabulae praetextae or praetextatae (see Praetexta), the first writer of which was his immediate successor Naevius (about B.C. 235), were entirely modelled on the Greek. The most noteworthy representatives of tragedy under the Republic were Ennius (B.C. 239-170), Pacuvius (220- 130), and Attius (170-84), besides whom only a few other poets produced any works about this time. It is true that the scanty fragments we possess of these dramas admit of no positive judgment as to their merit, but there is no doubt that they rank far below the original creations of the Greeks. It may also be clearly inferred from the fragments that declamation and pathos formed a characteristic attribute of Roman tragedy, which was intensified by a studied archaism of expression. Moreover, the titles of their plays that have come down to us show that preference was given to subjects relating to the Trojan epic cycle; this is to be explained by the Trojan origin claimed by the Romans. (See Trojan War.) Next to this the most popular were the myths of the Pelopidae, of the Theban cycle, and of the Argonauts. Euripides was the favourite model; after him Sophocles; rarely Aeschylus. Roman tragedy, like Greek, was made up of spoken dialogue in iambic trimeters and musical portions called cantica. See Canticum, and on the chorus in Roman tragedy see Chorus (near the end).

In the time of Augustus the representatives of tragedy were Asinius Pollio, Varius, and Ovid; under Tiberius, Pomponius Secundus; under Nero and Vespasian, Curiatius Maternus, of whose works scarcely a line has been preserved. The only tragedies of Roman antiquity which we possess are those of the philosopher Seneca, which show great mastery of form and a fertile imagination, but suffer from an intolerable excess of rhetorical declamation. It is doubtful whether they were intended for the stage at all, and not rather for public recitation and for private reading. See Seneca 2.

See Schlegel, Dramatic Literature, Eng. trans. (London, 1844); Klein, Griech. und röm. Drama, 2 vols. (1865); Weissenfels, Entwickelung der Tragödie der Griechen (1892); Wecklein, Ueber d. Stoff und Wirkung der griech. Tragödie (1891); Günther, Beiträge zur Geschichte und Aesthetik der antiken Tragödie (1880); Kluge, Die antike Tragödie in ihrem Verhältnisse zur modernen (1880); Fritzsche, De Origine Tragoediae (1863); Armbruster, Das Tragische und die Entwickelung der Tragödie (1885); Walford, Handbook of the Greek Drama (London, 1856); Donaldson, The Theatre of the Greeks (8th ed. London, 1875); Bergk, Griechische Litteraturgeschichte, vol. iii. (Berlin, 1884); and the articles Drama; Histrio; Satyric Drama; Theatrum.

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