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Function of Drama in the Ancient World

Dramatic art has been subjected to various changes during its process of development. It has been identified that dramatic art has thousands of year’s history that takes birth in Athens. Some of the studies elucidate, “Between 600 and 200 BC, the ancient Athenians created a theatre culture whose form, technique and terminology have lasted two millennia.” (The Ancient Greek Theatre Page). It is crystal clear from the previous studies that the influence of the Athenian drama was too much on present-day literature. There have been many studies on the evolution of ancient Athenian theater, and the majority of them point to the religious rites of 1200 B.C., which caused its development. The tribes or the so-called primitive people were the inhabitants of a Thrace and worshiped Dionysus, the god of fertility and procreation. The cult or the group of worshipers of Dionysus followed a particular form of worship. The online article entitled The Ancient Greek Theatre Page writes, “[the cult of Dionysus] included alcoholic intoxication, orgies, human and animal sacrifices, and perhaps even hysterical rampages by women called maenads.” (The Ancient Greek Theatre Page). The worship of Dionysus was celebrated as a festival called the City of Dionysia. From their prayer method, the words like ‘ecstasy’ and ‘catharsis’, which are pretty standard in modern literature, were originated. History identifies that the cult spread into Greece, and there the worship assumed a new form; dithyramb, ‘choric song’. The dithyramb was the concoction of mimic and song later accompanied with a band of revelers and a group of dancers; dressed in satyr. As the popularity of dithyramb increased, from religious nature, it diverted to other realms of Greek mythology and evolved into stories in ‘play’ form: drama.

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As the first form of drama was religious nature, the primary function was religion that aimed to teach moral lessons to religious worshippers. It is the same that later paved the way for morality plays that teach an honest class. Regarding the ancient Athenian plays, it is inferred that they had served other than religious functions. “As the ancient drama was an institution of Democracy, the great tragic poets Aeschylus, Sophocles, Euripides, as well as the comedian Aristophanes elevated public debate and political criticism to a level of aesthetic achievement.” (Ancient Greek drama, Origins, History, and Examples). It clarifies that ancient drama was capable of discussing political themes and roused the aesthetic appreciation of its spectators. Those plays later changed from morality to pieces selected from day-to-day life with creative coloring.

The play had a tremendous influence on the social and cultural life of the Greeks that they felt the drama was part of their life. It is evident in their religious life that they conducted different drama festivals as part of their spiritual functions. They presented plays honoring Dionysia, the god of fertility and procreation, and even drama competitions were held. Some of the plays presented during that time followed a highly formal structure and were likely to be derived from the ancient fertility rites. The comedies or the comic situations in the plays adopted a satirical attack on contemporary public figures, and they presented the parodies of gods. All these elements or the presentation of these elements in the dramas of that time clarifies the influence of drama in the public of Athens and Greece. To conclude, one can infer that ancient theater, which evolved in Athens, has exerted its predominant influence in world literature. Even now, it attracts the attention of poets and dramatists of world literature.

Works Cited

  1. Ancient Greek drama, Origins, History, and Examples: Origins of Ancient Greek Drama. Echeat: It’s Not Cheating, It’s Collaborating. 2007.

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StudyCorgi. (2021, October 30). Function of Drama in the Ancient World.

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"Function of Drama in the Ancient World." StudyCorgi, 30 Oct. 2021,

1. StudyCorgi. "Function of Drama in the Ancient World." October 30, 2021.


StudyCorgi. "Function of Drama in the Ancient World." October 30, 2021.


StudyCorgi. 2021. "Function of Drama in the Ancient World." October 30, 2021.


StudyCorgi. (2021) 'Function of Drama in the Ancient World'. 30 October.

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