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What's one difference between modern and Greek tragedy?

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retrokidd | Student, Grade 9

Posted September 14, 2010 at 1:53 AM via web

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What's one difference between modern and Greek tragedy?

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scarletpimpernel | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted September 14, 2010 at 8:29 AM (Answer #1)

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There are, of course, many differences between modern and Greek tragedy.  Here are several of them:

1. Greek tragedies involve a Chorus. The Chorus often provides background detail, poetic elements, and summaries of events in between scenes. Sometimes the Chorus serves as a type of moral judge over characters' actions and words; Sophocles' Antigone is a good example of this type of Chorus. Modern tragedies do not have a chorus or really anything similar to it.

2. Modern tragedies in written form provide readers with stage directions and usually detailed descriptions of the play's sets. While the Greeks did use masks to show character change, they performed their tragedies on a bare stage, where elaborate sets would have been insignificant even if they were available.

3. Most importantly, while Greek tragedies feature their heroes or heroines realizing their flaws and sometimes repenting of them, modern tragedies often do not. In Death of a Salesman, a modern play, Willie Loman commits suicide, but it is not the noble death of a Greek tragic hero; rather, he takes his life out of hopelessness. Admittedly, many Greek tragic heroes commit suicide, but they do so after realizing that their flaw has brought down them and the ones they love--their deaths would have been viewed as moral and noble by an Ancient Greek audience.

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