606c – The Theater of Humanity: Classical Drama

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Credits: 1
Instructor: Frank Russell

The great treasury of Greek drama, the vast majority of which has now been lost, was written by a small handful of writers, in a single Greek city, with a population in the tens of thousands, emerging from the illiterate depths of bronze-age prehistory. One might be forgiven for guessing that the products of these writers would not survive the test of time. And yet—the treatment of the human condition by Aeschylus and Sophocles, Euripides and Aristophanes, has proved to hold enduring interest across centuries and cultures. In this course we will read about Agamemnon and the vengeance of his murder by his son Orestes. We will read about the pitiful plight of Oedipus, and reflect on the paradoxes of freedom and fate. We will read about the comic portrayal of Socrates in the Clouds, and we will ask what all these very old Greek things have to do with human beings today.

We will read: Prometheus Bound, Agamemnon, The Libation Bearers, The Eumenides, Ajax, Oedipus Rex, Oedipus at Colonus, Antigone, The Bacchae, Medea, Hippolytus, Helen, The Birds, The Clouds, and The Frogs.