GRC30200 Greek Tragedy and Myth

Academic Year 2021/2022

Greek tragedy has had a profound influence on Western culture, and many of the 32 surviving plays are still regularly performed. This module will examine the social and theatrical context of the original performances in 5th-century Athens, and discuss the dramatists’ use of myth in a selection of plays. We shall focus on six of the greatest plays by Aeschylus and Sophocles. Aeschylus’ trilogy Oresteia (comprising Agamemnon, Libation Bearers, and Eumenides) deals with fundamental issues of revenge, justice, and the role of women in the state. We shall also be examining the Oedipus myth as presented in Sophocles’ Antigone, Oedipus the King, and Oedipus at Colonus. The module does not require any prior knowledge of Greek tragedy, and all the plays are studied in translation.

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Curricular information is subject to change

Learning Outcomes:

On completion of this module students should be able to:

• synthesize information about the social and theatrical context of the prescribed plays;
• demonstrate critical understanding of the prescribed plays as works of literature;
• evaluate modern interpretations of the prescribed plays;
• contribute constructively to group discussion;
• construct relevant and analytical written work on the prescribed plays.

Indicative Module Content:

Indicative lecture list

1. Introduction to Greek tragedy
2. Aeschylus, Agamemnon (1)
3. Aeschylus, Agamemnon (2)
4. Aeschylus, Libation Bearers
5. Aeschylus, Eumenides
6. Sophocles, Antigone (Creon)
7. Sophocles, Antigone (Antigone)
8. Sophocles, Oedipus the King (myth)
9. Sophocles, Oedipus the King (Oedipus; fate)
10 Sophocles, Oedipus at Colonus
11. No lecture
12. No lecture

Indicative tutorial list

1. No tutorial
2. No tutorial
3. The social and political context of Greek tragedy
4. Aeschylus, Agamemnon (1)
5. Aeschylus, Agamemnon (2)
6. Aeschylus, Libation Bearers
7. Aeschylus, Eumenides
8. Sophocles, Antigone
9. Sophocles, Oedipus the King
10. Sophocles, Oedipus at Colonus
11. No tutorial
12. No tutorial

Prescribed texts

Aeschylus, Oresteia (tr. C. Collard, Oxford World’s Classics)
Sophocles, Antigone, Oedipus the King, Oedipus at Colonus (in The Three Theban Plays tr. R. Fagles)

Indicative secondary reading

J. Griffin, ‘The social function of Attic tragedy’, Classical Quarterly 48 (1998), 39–61
A.F. Garvie, The Plays of Aeschylus (London, 2010)
M. Lloyd (ed.), Oxford Readings in Aeschylus (Oxford, 2007)
R. Mitchell-Boyask, Aeschylus: Eumenides (London, 2009)
C. Sourvinou-Inwood, ‘Assumptions and the creation of meaning: reading Sophocles’ Antigone’, Journal of Hellenic Studies 109 (1989), 134–48
H.P. Foley, ‘Tragedy and democratic ideology: the case of Sophocles’ Antigone’, in B. Goff (ed.), History, Tragedy, Theory: Dialogues on Athenian Drama (Austin, 1995), 131–50
E.R. Dodds, ‘On misunderstanding Oedipus Rex’, Greece and Rome 13 (1966), 37–49

Student Effort Hours: 
Student Effort Type Hours
Specified Learning Activities


Autonomous Student Learning








Approaches to Teaching and Learning:
This module is taught through a combination of lectures and tutorials. The lectures give basic information about the subject, and outline the main issues of interpretation of the six plays. The tutorials discuss the plays in more in detail in small groups, typically 8-10 students. The module is assessed by two pieces of coursework, and also by a learning journal which enables students to develop their ideas through the semester. 
Requirements, Exclusions and Recommendations

Not applicable to this module.

Module Requisites and Incompatibles
GRC20040 - Greek Tragedy, GRC30080 - The Oedipus Myth

Assessment Strategy  
Description Timing Open Book Exam Component Scale Must Pass Component % of Final Grade
Continuous Assessment: Tutorial attendance and participation Throughout the Trimester n/a Graded No


Essay: 2,000-word essay Coursework (End of Trimester) n/a Graded No


Assignment: 1,000-word commentary Week 7 n/a Graded No


Carry forward of passed components
Resit In Terminal Exam
Autumn No
Please see Student Jargon Buster for more information about remediation types and timing. 
Feedback Strategy/Strategies

• Feedback individually to students, post-assessment

How will my Feedback be Delivered?

Feedback on the two written assignments will be sent to the students through Brightspace as soon as possible after submission, which will typically be within one week for this module. The lecturer will be available to give further individual feedback on request.

Timetabling information is displayed only for guidance purposes, relates to the current Academic Year only and is subject to change.
Lecture Offering 1 Week(s) - 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 28, 29, 30 Mon 15:00 - 15:50
Tutorial Offering 1 Week(s) - 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 28, 29, 30 Wed 12:00 - 12:50
Tutorial Offering 2 Week(s) - 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 28, 29, 30 Thurs 12:00 - 12:50
Tutorial Offering 3 Week(s) - 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 28, 29, 30 Tues 10:00 - 10:50