Around 700 B.C.E. the Greeks began to hold many festivals for the God’s. One of these festivals, held to honor Dionysus, was called City Dionysia and was basically a competition over who could write the best play; Historians believe it was shaped after the Egyptian’s festivals for Osiris. Every year at the City Dionysia there were choruses filled by drunken men wearing goat skins as their costumes. These costumes originated as a way to honor Dionysus because goats were considered sexually potent and Dionysus is the God fertility and wine. He eventually was considered a patron of the arts, as well, because, due to his festival, Greece was the birth of dramatics in the Western world. The part of the choruses at the City Dionysia was to sing and act in the plays that were written and put on. Well-known playwrights from this era include Sophocles, Euripides, and Aeschylus for tragedies, and Aristophanes for comedies. Aeschylus was a competitor around 499 B.C.E. and takes credit for some of the world’s oldest tragedies. Of Sophocles’ tragedies, 7 have survived the long journey to modern day, including Oedipus Rex, Electra, and Antigone. Sophocles is responsible for setting the number of people in the chorus to 15 and was also the first playwright to think of a play as numerous scenes. Euripides is believed to have written 90 tragedies, 18 of which have survived-among those is Hercules, Medea, and The Trogan Woman. Euripides was the first playwright we know of to examine the psychological motivations of his character’s action, and he was often ridiculed due to his questioning of “traditional values” on stage. Lastly, Aristophanes was one of the only well-known comedic playwrights of this era, he was also rather controversial, as he continues to be today. Aristophanes wrote Lysistrata-the most controversial of the ancient scripts. Lysistrata is about a woman who leads a female coalition to end war in Greece.
These plays were still based on myths and things of that nature, but this era was where the context began to become significantly more social and political. These plays made a statement. Sochocles, for instance, wrote about extreme corruption within the king’s family in both Oedipus the King, and Antigone. For one thing, this plants the idea of corruption in the government, for lack of a better term, into the audience’s minds; the possibility that no one in charge actually care’s what happens to their people. And then Aristophanes tackled the topic of strong women. Even today a woman leading a feminine coalition to end war (Lysistrata, Aristophanes) could be construed controversial, as some people still believe women to be of lower capability than men-imagine how that could have gone around 400 B.C.E.! Of the hundreds of plays that were written in this era, for this festival, only 44 remain, and yet I could continue pointing out various satirical statements and slight suggestions of what was happening in ancient Greece from these texts for quite some time. This is where I truly believe the birthplace of commenting on life in theatrics was.