In ancient Greece, tragedies addressed the relationship between the individual, the community, and the gods. 

Ancient Greek philosopher Aristotle mapped it out as follows:

Tragedy is an imitation of an action involving incidents that arouse fear and pity

Tragedy deals with how catastrophic events work to affect individuals: 

How does the protagonist react to the situation?

What choices does he or she make?

How does she or he confront life when faced with difficult choices?

There is a specific moment of friction in the play that produces the dramatic action.

The tragic action should involve an error in judgment made by the tragic figure (hero) in the play.


The tragic hero (also called "tragic figure") should be a better-than-ordinary, yet imperfect, individual with 

whom the audience may sympathize. The tragic hero commits an error in judgment that inevitably leads to his 

or her downfall and sometimes to greater wisdom.

The tragic hero should have a tragic flaw (hamartia), a weakness or imperfection that brings the protagonist 

into conflict with fate or with the antagonist, and ultimately leads to his/her downfall. 

Often the tragic hero's hamartia is hubris (= excessive pride).  

A tragedy must effect a catharsis in the spectators. Catharsis is an emotional release that comes from the 

spectators identifying with the suffering of the tragic hero. 

Sophocles' tragedies are concerned with flawed but virtuous human heroes:

What drives them? 

How do they behave in the face of impossible situations? 

How do they choose between two equally valid options? 

How do they explain (or justify) their choices and actions? 

Are they willing to assume responsibility for their choices and actions? 

What are the consequences for those choices and actions, for themselves, their family members, their fellow 


Above: The theatre of Epidaurus, designed by ancient Greek architect Polyclitus the Younger, seats about 12 000 spectators in its 55 rows.


After a prologue spoken by one or more characters, the chorus enter, singing and dancing. 

Scenes then alternate between spoken sections between characters and sung sections 
between the characters 

and the chorus. 


The prologue is spoken by one or two characters. It usually gives background necessary for understanding the 

events of the play.

Parode or Parodos (Entrance Ode)

This is the song sung by the chorus as they first enter the orchestra. 

Episodes and Stasima (singular: stasimon)

For the rest of the play, there is alternation between episodes and stasima, until the final scene (exode).

There are typically 3-5 episodes in which one or two actors interact with the chorus. 

A stasimon is a choral ode sung by the chorus. It often comments on or reacts to the preceding episode, and 

puts the episode into a larger, mythological framework (as in Antigone).

Exode / Exodos (Exit Ode)

The exode, or exodus, is sung by the chorus after the last episode,
usually offering words of wisdom 

concerning the actions and outcome of the play.

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