Heroines of Greek Drama: Women in a Man's World
Although real women were excluded from participation in Athenian political life, they play major roles in the most famous Athenian dramas. After an introduction to the dramatic festival as a creation of the new democracy, we will examine how the theater became a literal 'seeing place,' offering male citizens insight into issues affecting those who could not make policy. We will use Aeschylus' Oresteia, to begin our exploration of how tragedy reinterpreted ancient myth for contemporary spectators. In Euripides’ Trojan Women, we will meet the major heroines, Hecuba, Andromache, Cassandra, and Helen. After reading other plays about mothers, wives, and daughters in the Trojan War, we will move on to Sophocles’ Antigone, and the notorious Phaedra and Medea. We will change focus to end with a comic Athenian Wonder-Woman, Lysistrata, who creates world peace in the theater during a real and devastating war. Throughout the course, we will discuss not only the dramas, but also the topical issues raised by the playwrights, and the influence of these famous women on later literature and culture.