Greek theater, as it was employed by the Athenians, could serve different roles depending on what genre of theater it fell into. Let's look at each of the main three types in turn.
Comedies were originally satires meant to mock the powerful people in Athenian society and point out their follies. You can compare this to most late-night comedy shows today in their purpose. This served as an outlet for the frustrations of the people. Often, the men being mocked were in attendance themselves. The very existence of this genre, often referred to as Old Comedy, indicates that open political discourse and free speech were permitted in ancient Athens. Aristophanes is perhaps the most famous playwright of this genre.
Later, a different kind of comedy, New Comedy, developed. This still took on a satirical nature but was less heavy-handed in the delivery. New Comedy dealt with domestic issues in society and was purely fictional. You might compare this genre of comedy to a sitcom.
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