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Greek Tragedies as Plays for Performance

David Raeburn

ISBN: 978-1-119-08989-6 November 2016 Wiley-Blackwell 216 Pages



This is a unique introduction to Greek tragedy that explores the plays as dramatic artifacts intended for performance and pays special attention to construction, design, staging, and musical composition.

  • Written by a scholar who combines his academic understanding of Greek tragedy with his singular theatrical experience of producing these ancient dramas for the modern stage
  • Discusses the masters of the genre—Aeschylus, Sophocles, and Euripides—including similarities, differences, the hybrid nature of Greek tragedy, the significance that each poet attaches to familiar myths and his distinctive approach as a dramatic artist
  • Examines 10 plays in detail, focusing on performances by the chorus and the 3 actors, the need to captivate audiences attending a major civic and religious festival, and the importance of the lyric sections for emotional effect
  • Provides extended dramatic analysis of important Greek tragedies at an appropriate level for introductory students
  • Contains a companion website, available upon publication at, with 136 audio recordings of Greek tragedy that illustrate the beauty of the Greek language and the powerful rhythms of the songs

Related Resources

Preface ix

About the Companion Website xi

1 Introduction 1

2 Aeschylus 15

3 Persae 21

4 The Oresteia 33

5 Sophocles 81

6 Antigone 87

7 Oedipus Tyrannus 105

8 Electra (Sophocles) 123

9 Euripides 137

10 Medea 143

11 Electra (Euripides) 157

12 Bacchae 173

Appendix A: Glossary of Greek Tragic Terms 189

Appendix B: Rhythm and Meter 191

Index 195

"A remarkable guide to recapturing the sights and sounds of Greek tragedy.  David Raeburn draws on his long experience as teacher, translator and director to show in detail how a selection of famous plays can be studied – in English or the original Greek – as scripts for performance. He has plenty of thought-provoking discussion of the stage action to offer, and a special feature is his guidance on the rhythms of the original poetry, especially the choral lyrics, with audio recordings easily accessible online." - Pat Easterling, Cambridge University (Emeritus Regius)

"An invaluable book written with love and detailed understanding. It is based on a lifetime’s unique experience of producing each of these classical plays as a teacher and scholar at the highest level, therefore without equal in its field. Again and again Raeburn sees what these plays need for their staging and interpretation, largely because he has faced the challenge of putting them on the stage, whereas most classical commentators have not. He goes clearly and concisely to the heart of them in a style which all who read,produce, or have to study them will appreciate. A landmark both for our theatres’ actors and directors and for those in schools and universities who want to be taken to the central issues of each play and the ways in which character, speech, movement, and setting interrelate." - Robin Lane Fox, Oxford University