Greek 202: 

Attic Tragedy and Comedy


Radcliffe G. Edmonds III

Office: Thomas 245

Office Phone: 526-5046


Carpenter 13

MWF 12:00-1:00

Office Hours: MWF 10:00-11:00 

or by appointment


Required Texts:

Euripides Bacchae - Bryn Mawr Commentary, Causey

Euripides Bacchae - Dodds

Nietzsche, The Birth of Tragedy

Aristophanes Frogs - Stanford

Aristophanes Frogs - Dover


Course Description:

                  This course is designed to introduce students to Greek tragedy and comedy through a study of Euripides' Bacchai and Aristophanes' Frogs.  A close reading of the poets' verses, with careful attention to their use of the language and the poetic forms, will be supplemented by an examination of the religious context in which they created their dramas.  Greek dramas were performed in religious festivals held in honor of the god Dionysos.  In the Bacchai, Euripides puts on stage the god of tragedy himself, Dionysos, and draws upon his Athenian audience's understanding of Dionysos and his place within Greek society.  Dionysos is the stranger god, who is always coming from the outside, but who nevertheless has his place at the very heart of the city or the individual.  This course will examine the ways Euripides engages this paradox in his tragedy of the foreign god who invades his native city, with special attention to the oppositions of men and women, sane and mad, traditional and new, civilized and wild.  In the nearly contemporary Frogs, Aristophanes also puts the god on stage, but as a comic buffoon determined to save war-torn Athens by bringing back a tragic poet from the underworld.  Aristophanes uses the god, as patronage of tragedy, to engage in hilarious critiques of Athenian politics and art, including the famous contest in the underwrold between Aeschylus and Euripides. Selected secondary readings will illuminate specific issues in the play and the social and religious contexts in which it was performed.

                  This course will also introduce the students to the tools and techniques of reading ancient Greek texts.  Students will learn to make effective use of Greek lexica and scholarly commentaries, utilizing resources both in print and on-line.  The texts surviving to the present day from ancient Greece are the products of a process of transmission that has left many unresolved questions about not only the meaning but even the words of the text.  Students will learn to make use of the critical apparatus as well as the commentaries to understand the controversies and scholarship that have gone into the modern editions of the text. 


Course Requirements:


Class participation:

                  Participation, of course, includes attendance, since you cannot participate if you are not in class.  If, for some reason, you cannot attend class, please inform me in advance.  In each class session, we will translate aloud from the portions of the text assigned for the week.  Please be prepared to translate any of the readings specified in the previous class session.  If, for some reason, you cannot prepare for class, please attend anyway - you will be better prepared for the next class. 

                  We will also spend time discussing the characters and ideas that animate these texts, as well as the contexts of Athenian drama.  We will look at some secondary reading on the section of text covered in the classes for the week.  For each reading, one student will be responsible for introducing and starting discussion on the material, but every student is expected to contribute intelligently to the discussion.  The readings will be available on blackboard, and they can also be reached by link from the on-line version of the syllabus at:


Writing Assignments: 

                  Two short writing assignments (4-6 pages) will be assigned for the class, one on each work. Students are encouraged to submit draft versions for comment before turning them in for a grade.



                  There will be a short (10 minute) quiz every Monday on the material covered in the previous week.  One quiz may be missed without penalty, but there are no make-up quizzes.  If no quiz is missed, the lowest quiz grade may be dropped.  The quizzes are intended to ensure that you keep up with the readings and give you further practice to build your Greek syntax and vocabulary.



                  There will be a mid-term and a final for this class on all the materials covered to that date in class.  The Midterm will be in class in the week before the break.  The Final Exam will be self-scheduled during the Exam period. 


Grade Distribution:

Class Participation                              15%

Written Assignments                       10%

Quizzes                                                     40%

Midterm Exam                                     15%

Final Exam                                             20%




Week I: Introduction and Prologue -  1-63

Easterling, "A show for Dionysos"

Scullion, "Nothing to Do with Dionysos"


Week II: Parodos - 64-166 and Scene I - 167-369

Births of Dionysos (handout)

Vernant, "The Masked Dionysos of Euripides' Bacchae"

Versnel, "The Tragic Paradox of the Bacchae," pp. 96-155


Week III: Scene I - 167-369; Stasimon I 370-433, Scene II 434-518, & Stasimon II 519-575

Bacchanalian Affair (handout)

Henrichs, "Changing Dionysiac Identities"

Versnel, "Ambiguities in the Bacchae" pp. 156-205


Week IV: Scene III - 576-861

Kraemer, "Ecstasy and possession. The attraction of women to the cult of Dionysus"

Segal, "Arms and the Man:  Sex Roles and Rites of Passage"


Bacchae paper due Friday



Week V:  Stasimon III 862-911, Scene IV 912-976, Stasimon IV 977-1023, Scene V 1024-1152

Smith, "The Devil in Mr. Jones"

Girard, "Dionysus"


Week VI: Stasimon V 1153-1167, Exodos 1168-1392

Nietzsche, Birth of Tragedy

Henrichs, "Nietzsche on Greek Tragedy and the Tragic"


Week VII: Picking up the pieces - review and midterm



Week VIII: Spring Break



Week IX: Introduction and Scene at Herakles' House 1-166

Bowie, Aristophanes:  Myth, Ritual, and Comedy

Dover, Introduction


Week X:  Scenes with Corpse, Charon, the Croaking Chorus, Empousa & Parodos 167-311, 312-459

Campbell, "The Frogs in the Frogs"

Sourvinou-Inwood, "Festival and Mysteries: aspects of the Eleusinian Cult"  


Week XI: Role reversals at the Gates, Parabasis 460-673, 674-737

Edmonds, "Who in Hell is Heracles?  Dionysos' Disastrous Disguise in Aristophanes' Frogs"

Marshall, "Status Transactions in Aristophanes' Frogs"


Week XII: Scenes in Hades and the Agon  738-829, 830-1117

Rosen, Aristophanes' "Frogs" and the "Contest of Homer and Hesiod"

Henderson, "The DÉmos and the Comic Competition"


Frogs paper due Friday


Week XIII: Agon continued:  Prologues and Lyrics 1007-1363

Silk, "Comedy and Tragedy"

Scharffenberger, "Parody, Satire, Irony, and Politics"


Week XIV:  Agon Continued:  Weighty Questions; Conclusion & Exodos 1363-1499, 1500-1533

Goldhill, "Comic Inversion and Inverted Commas" 

Sommerstein, "Kleophon and the restaging of Frogs"


Week XV:  Happy Ending - review and conclusions



Bowie, A.M. (1993) Aristophanes:  Myth, Ritual and Comedy, Cambridge University Press.

Campbell, D.A. (1984), "The Frogs in the Frogs," Journal of Hellenic Studies civ:163-5.

Causey, Beth (1995) Euripides' Bacchae. Bryn Mawr Commentaries.

Clinton, Kevin (1994) "The Eleusinian Mysteries and Panhellenism in Democratic Athens," The Archaeology of Athens and Attica under the Democracy, eds. Coulson, Palagaia, Shear, Shapiro, and Frost, Oxford: 161-172.

Devereux, G. (1970). "The psychotherapy scene in Euripides' Bacchae." Journal of Hellenic Studies XC: 35-48.

Dodds, E. R. (1987) Euripides Bacchae. Oxford University Press.

Dover, K. J. (1972) Aristophanic Comedy, University of California Press: Berkely and Los Angeles.

Dover, Kenneth (1993) Aristophanes:  Frogs, Clarendon Press: Oxford.

Easterling, P. E. (1997) "A Show for Dionysos" The Cambridge Companion to Greek Tragedy. Ed. P. E. Easterling. Cambridge University Press: 36-53.

Edmonds, R. (2003) "Who in Hell is Heracles?  Dionysos' Disastrous Disguise in Aristophanes' Frogs," Initiation in Ancient Greek Rituals and Narratives:  New Critical Perspectives, eds. Dodds & Faraone, Routledge: 181-200.

Girard, R. (1977). Dionysus. Violence and the sacred. Baltimore, Johns Hopkins University Press: 119-142.

Goldhill, Simon (1991) "Comic inversion and inverted commas: Aristophanes and parody." The Poet's Voice:  Essays on Poetics and Greek Literature.  Cambridge University Press: 167-222.

Habash, M. (2002) "Dionysos' Roles In Aristophanes' Frogs" Mnemosyne, Vol. LV, Fasc. 1: 1-17.

Henderson, Jeffrey (1996) "The DÉmos and the Comic Competition," Oxford Readings in Aristophanes, ed. Erich Segal, Oxford University Press: Oxford: 65-97. 

Henrichs, A. (1983). Changing Dionysiac identities. Jewish and Christian self-definition, III : Self-definition in the Greco-Roman world. B. F. a. E. P. S. Meyer. London, SCM Press: 137-237.

Henrichs, A. (1984). "Loss of self, suffering, violence: the modern view of Dionysus from Nietzsche to Girard." Harvard Studies in Classical Philology 88: 205-240.

Henrichs, A. (2005) "Nietzsche on Greek Tragedy and the Tragic" A Companion to Greek Tragedy. Ed. Justina Gregory. Blackwell: 444-458.

Kraemer, Ross, (1979), "Ecstasy and Possession: The attraction of women to the cult of Dionysus," The Harvard Theological Review, Vol. 72, No. 1: 55-80.

Littlefield, David J., ed., (1968) Twentieth Century Interpretations of The Frogs,  Prentice-Hall, Inc.:  New Jersey.

Marshall, C. W. (1993) "Status Transactions in Aristophanes' Frogs" Text and Presentation:  Journal of the Comparative Drama Conference 14: 57-61.

Nietzsche, Friedrich (1995) Birth of Tragedy, trans. Fadiman, Dover Books.

Rosen, R. (2004) Aristophanes' "Frogs" and the "Contest of Homer and Hesiod" Transactions of the American Philological Association Vol. 134, No. 2: 295-322.

Scharffenberger, E. (1998) "Parody, Satire, Irony, and Politics: From Euripides' Orestes to Aristophanes' Frogs." Text and Presentation:  Journal of the Comparative Drama Conference 19: 111-122.

Scullion, S. (2002) "Nothing to Do with Dionysos: Tragedy Misconceived as Ritual" Classical Quarterly 52.1: 102-137.

Segal, C. (1997) "Arms and the Man:  Sex Roles and Rites of Passage" Dionysiac Poetics and Euripides Bacchae. Princeton University Press: 158-214.

Segal, C. P. (1961) "The Character of Dionysos and the Unity of the Frogs," Harvard  Studies in Classical Philology 65: 207-17, 227-30.

Silk, Michael (2000) "Comedy and Tragedy" Aristophanes and the Definition of Comedy. Oxford University Press: 42-97.

Smith, Jonathan Z., (1982) "The Devil in Mr. Jones." Imagining Religion, University of Chicago Press: 102-134.

Sommerstein, Alan, (1993) "Kleophon and the restaging of Frogs," Tragedy, Comedy and the Polis: Papers from the Greek Drama Conference,  Nottingham, 18-20 July 1990, eds. Sommerstein, Halliwell, Henderson, and Zimmerman, Levante Editori: Bari, Italy: 461-476.

Sourvinou-Inwood, Christiane (2003) "Festival and Mysteries: aspects of the Eleusinian Cult," Greek mysteries : the archaeology and ritual of ancient Greek secret cults. Ed. Michael B. Cosmopoulos, Routledge: 25-49.

Stanford, W. B., (1983) Aristophanes:  Frogs, reprint of 1963 2nd ed., Bristol Classical Press: Bristol.

Vernant, J. P. (1990a) "The God of Tragic Fiction" Myth and Tragedy in Ancient Greece. trans. Janet Lloyd, Zone Books:  New York: 181-188.

Vernant, , J. P. (1990b) "The Masked Dionysos of Euripides' Bacchae" Myth and Tragedy in Ancient Greece. trans. Janet Lloyd, Zone Books:  New York: 381-412.

Versnel, H. S. (1998a) "ΕΙΣ ΔΙΟΝΥΣΟΣ:  The Tragic Paradox of the Bacchae" Ter Unus:  Isis, Dionysos, Hermes - Three Studies in Henotheism. Brill: 96-154.

Versnel, H. S. (1998b) "Ambiguities in the Bacchae" Ter Unus:  Isis, Dionysos, Hermes - Three Studies in Henotheism. Brill: 156-205.