Taught course

The Theatre

National and Kapodistrian University of Athens · National and Kapodistrian University of Athens

Entry requirements

This programme is addressed not only to those interested in ancient Greek drama who wish to explore its scenic realization through time, but also to those interested in performance history in general, given that ancient Greek drama has always been an intrinsic part of Western European theatrical culture, and thus can be regarded as a barometer of theatrical developments.

Months of entry

September, February

Course content

In what context was ancient Greek drama written and produced in classical Athens?

What was a performance of tragedy and comedy like?

What factors did contribute to the survival of a small number of ancient plays to present day?

When did the first modern public production take place?

What are the most significant trends and tendencies observed in the staging of ancient Greek drama in modern times?

Focusing on landmark performances and influential theatre practitioners, this programme will trace the fascinating journey of ancient Greek drama from the time and place of its creation until its contemporary prominence on Greek and European stages.

Programme Description

Ancient Greek theatre in 5th Century BC

An attempt to re-create the theatre-going experience of an average Athenian citizen in the 5th century BC

Lesson 1 Recomposing a theatrical event
Theatrical practice in classical Athens was primarily a public institution. All extant dramatic plays were composed and performed within the framework of religious festivals in honour of Dionysus under the auspices of the city-State and with the participation of its citizens. Placing our focus on the performance and not the texts, we attempt to reconstruct the classical theatre-going experience based on the fragmentary material at hand. Thus, we offer an account that is narrative and descriptive, attempting a re-composition which is based on scholarly research combined with fictional supplementations. Instead of describing the general physiognomy of the theatre-going public in classical Athens, we introduce Anthemokritos an average Athenian citizen who attends the dramatic competitions at the City Dionysia sometime in fifth century BC.

Lesson 2 Attending a performance
We follow Anthemokritos as he makes his way through Athens to attend the dramatic competition at the theatre of Dionysus and share with him the experience of watching a performance in classical Athens. He serves as a proper guide offering a wealth of information about every aspect of the ancient Greek theatrical practice, from the people involved to the elements of the performance and the institutional context in which they were presented.

Performing Ancient Greek Drama in modern times I: Europe (16th-21st centuries)

Tracing the landmarks in the modern performance history of ancient Greek drama across Europe

Lesson 1 Ancient Greek drama emerging anew in Europe (16th-19th cent.)
Fifth-century Athenian drama was given a new lease of life in the Renaissance with the printing of the surviving texts of Aeschylus, Sophocles, Euripides and Aristophanes. We take a brief look at the fascinating journey of these dramatic texts through the centuries until the time of their editiones principes, which ignited a new interest in this ancient art form. At first, ancient Greek drama attracted the interest of humanists for educational purposes, thus amateur and school productions offered the occasional opportunity for the presentation of ancient Greek drama at the time. However, there are two interesting exceptions which can, in retrospect, be regarded as inaugural events in the history of staging ancient Greek drama in modern times: Aeschylus’ Persians in Zante in 1571 and Sophocles’ Oedipus King in in Vicenza on March in 1585. Α renewed admiration for antiquity triggered by archaeological findings in the middle of the 18th century, in combination with prominent writings on classical art created an idealized image of ancient Greek culture that would prevail in the German-speaking countries and beyond throughout the 19th century. Thus, beginning from Germany in the late 18th century, Greek tragedy came to be regarded as the supreme achievement of Hellenic culture prompting an intense academic interest, which combined with theatre-related demands created a fertile ground for the establishment of a performance practice of ancient Greek drama, which was to spread across Europe. In this respect, we selectively look into theatre practitioners and performances that help us outline the context and aesthetics of ancient Greek drama performance in the 19th century.

Lesson 2 Contemporary European productions of ancient Greek drama: From revival to repertoire (20th-21st cent.)
Since the beginning of the 20th century, performances of ancient Greek drama have attracted the vivid interest of theatre practitioners and have enjoyed a remarkable popularity among contemporary audiences, proven by the sheer volume of productions mounted annually across Europe. In this respect, any aspiration for a comprehensive account would be almost impossible. Therefore, in this part we attempt to illustrate trends and point to tendencies that have shaped the modern European performance history of ancient Greek drama. Based on an indicative selection of path-breaking performances, we shall try to summarize the contribution of ancient Greek drama in the development of European theatrical practice and culture, highlighting its role as a means of experimenting, proposing or affirming concepts, ideas, values and aesthetics.

Performing Ancient Greek Drama in modern times: Greece (20th-21st cent.)

Tracing the landmarks in the history of ancient Greek drama performances in modern Greece.

Lesson 1 Ancient Greek drama emerging anew in modern Greece (19th cent.)
As one can imagine, the volume of ancient Greek drama productions in modern Greece has been utterly impressive, reflecting their key place in the country’s theatrical practice. And even though one might be tempted to highlight the ‘organic relation’ with this ancient Greek art form as a contributing factor for its modern performance history, in reality the practice of staging ancient Greek drama is intrinsically linked with the establishment of the Greek State in the 19th century and efforts to consolidate the national identity of the people of this newly-founded national entity. In this part, we will outline the first attempts to produce ancient Greek drama in this context, while exploring the impact of a Western European performance tradition that had been developing independently on the modern Greek approach to ancient Greek drama.

Lesson 2 Contemporary Greek productions of ancient Greek drama: From revival to repertoire (20th-21st cent.)
Given the impressive number of ancient Greek drama performances in modern Greece that have been proliferating since the beginning of the 20th century, we shall attempt to outline the staging practice that has been established in Greece guided by the most influential Greek theatre practitioners whose work reflects the most significant trends in the modern Greek staging approach to ancient Greek drama. As pointed out, modern Greek performances of classical drama in all their artistic variations have always been associated, in a sense, with ideological issues. In this regard, special emphasis will be placed on the establishment of the Epidaurus Festival (existent until today), as part of the State’s official cultural policy, and its impact on both the local staging practice and the audience reception of ancient Greek drama in Greece.

Fees and funding

UK students
International students

Qualification and course duration


distance learning
1,5 months

Course contact details

Admissions Office