A drama or literary work in which the main character is brought to ruin or suffers extreme sorrow, especiallyas a consequence of a tragic flaw, moral weakness, or inability to cope with unfavorable circumstances.


The chorus in Classical Greek drama was a group of actors who described and commented upon the main action of a play with song, dance, and recitation. Greek tragedy had its beginnings in choral performances, in which a group of 50 men danced and sang dithyrambs—lyric hymns in praise of the god Dionysus. In the middle of the 6th century bc, the poet Thespis reputedly became the first true actor when he engaged in dialogue with the chorus leader. Choral performances continued to dominate the early plays until the time of Aeschylus (5th century bc), who added a second actor and reduced the chorus from 50 to 12 performers. Satire and political satireuse ironic comedy used to portray persons or social institutions as ridiculous or corrupt. Sophocles, who added a third actor, increased the chorus to 15 but reduced it to a mainly commentarial role in most of his plays.

The classical Greeks valued the power of spoken word, and it was their main method of communication and storytelling. Bahn and Bahn write, “To Greeks the spoken word was a living thing and infinitely preferable to the dead symbols of a written language.” Socrates himself believed that once something was written down, it lost its ability for change and growth. For these reasons, among many others, oral storytelling flourished in Greece.

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