Outlines of Greek Drama

This page contains descriptions of the structures of each play read this year in Hum 110.


Lion Gate, Mycenae (Saskia, Ltd.)

(line numbers correspond to Lattimore's Chicago translation)

1. Prologue: 1-39

The watchman tells about the hardships of his long watch, and jumps for joy when he sees the beacon announcing the fall of Troy.

2. Parodos: 40-257

The chorus enters, dancing and singing. They describe the events surrounding the sailing of the fleet for Troy ten years earlier, including Agamemnon's sacrifice of his daughter Iphigeneia.

3. First Episode: 258-354

The chorus tells Clytaemestra of the fall of Troy. Clytaemestra describes how she arranged the relay of beacon fires that have brought the news.

4. First Stasimon: 355-474

Chorus tells how Zeus has punished the misdeeds of the Trojans, and reminds the audience of how much pain the war has caused the Greeks.

5. Second Episode: 475-680

The herald arrives and tells Clyaemestra and the chorus about the victory at Troy.

6. Second Stasimon: 681-781

The chorus reflects on the destructive power of Helen, and debates whether it is wealthby itself, or only acts of evil induced by wealth, that causes disaster for humans.

7. Third Episode: 767-974

Agamemnon arrives, and Clytaemestra greets him. Clytaemestra convinces him to walk on the tapestry into the house.

8. Third Stasimon: 975-1034

The chorus describes their fear about what might happen.

9. Fourth Episode: 1035-1068

Clytaemestra reappears and tries to get Cassandra to go within. She fails, and returns alone into the house.

10. Epirrhematic: 1069-1177

Cassandra sings cryptically about the history of the house of Atreus, and what is to occur.

11. Fifth Episode: 1178-1447

Cassandra stops singing, and begins to speak more clearly about the crimes of the house of Atreus, and Agamemnon's and her own impending death. Cassandra goes into the house. The chorus hears and reacts to Agamemnon's death cries, and Clytaemestra reappears and explains her actions.

12. Epirrhematic: 1448-1576

The chorus and Clytaemnestra, singing, argue. Clytaemestra tries to justify her actions.

13. Sixth Episode: 1577-1673

Aegisthus appears and argues with the chorus. Aegisthus, Clytaemestra, and the chorus leave the stage at the end.

Libation Bearers

Orestes (Harvard 1960.367 Perseus 1.0)

(line numbers correspond to Lattimore's Chicago translation)

Part I: 1-584 At Agamemnon's Tomb

1. Prologue: 1-20

Orestes and Pylades arrive at the tomb of Agamemnon.

2. Parodos: 21-83

The chorus (accompanied by Electra) enters bearing libations fro the dead Agamemnon and singing about Clytaemestra's nightmare.

3. First Episode: 84-584

 a. Recognition Scene: 83-311

   Electra recognizes Orestes

 b. Kommos: 312-465

   The Chorus, Electra, and Orestes mourn Agamemnon

 c. Dialogue/Planning: 466-582

   Electra, Orestes, and the Chorus plan the murder of their mother.

4. First Stasimon: 585-651

The chorus compares the murder of Agamemnon to other terrible natural and mythological disasters.

Part II: 652-1076 At the palace.

5. Second Episode: 652-718

The disguised Orestes tells Clytaemnestra of the death of Orestes.

6. Second Stasimon: 719-731

The Chorus prays to the goddess Earth for help.

7. Third Episode: 732-782

The Nurse grieves Orestes' death, and the chorus enlists her help.

8. Third Stasimon: 783-837

The chorus prays to Zeus and other gods for help.

9. Fourth Episode: 838-854

Aegisthus arrives and goes inside the house to be killed.

10. Fourth Stasimon: 855-868

The chorus prays to Zeus for help.

11. Fifth Episode: 870-930

Clytaemestra and Orestes argue; Orestes kills Clytaemestra

12. Fifth Stasimon: 931-971

The chorus supports Orestes' actions, and hopes the chain of retribution is over.

13. Sixth Episode: 972-1062

Orestes explains why he has acted as he did, but then is attacked by the Furies.

14. Exodos: 1062-1076

The chorus asks how this will all end.


Temple of Apollo, Delphi (Saskia, Ltd.)

(line numbers correspond to Lattimore's Chicago translation)

Part I: 1-234 At the Temple of Apollo in Delphi

1. Prologue: 1-142

The Pythia (priestess of Apollo at Delphi) prays to the goddesses and gods of Delphi. She enters the temple, and emerges immediately in a state of horror. She has seen Orestes surrounded by the Furies, who are asleep, within. The Pythia exits, and the doors of the temple open. Apollo tells Orestes to flee to Athens. Hermes leads Orestes towards Athens, and Apollo also exits. The ghost of Clytaemestra awakens the sleeping Furies

2. First Parodos: 143-177

The chorus of Furies awakens, and complain about the actions of Apollo and other Olympian gods.

3. First Episode: 179-234

Apollo reappears, and he and the Furies argue about the guilt of Orestes. The Furies depart for Athens to find Orestes.

Part II: 235-1047 At the Temple of Athene on the acropolis in Athens.

4. Second Episode, part 1: 235-253

Orestes the suppliant calls on Athene for help. The Furies arrive.

5. Second Parados: 254-275

The Chorus searches for Orestes and finds him.

6. Second Episode, part 2: 276-306

Orestes says that he has been purified of his blood guilt by Apollo, and expresses hope that Athene and her city will stand by him against the Furies.

7. First Stasimon: 307-396

The chorus prays and describes their powers as goddesses of justice and revenge.

8. Third Episode: 397-488

Athene appears, and listens to the complaints of the Furies and Orestes' defense. Athene sets up a court of citizens (the Court of the Areopagus) to hear the case.

9. Second Stasimon: 490-565

The Furies again describe their view of justice, and argue that fear of justice and revenge is good for a city.

10. Fourth Episode, part 1: 566-777

Athene opens the trial. The chorus of Furies speaks first, and interrogates Orestes. Apollo comes to Orestes aid, and argues that a mother does not share a blood tie with her child. Athene calls for the verdict. The jury splits down the middle, and Athene votes "on the side of the male." Orestes is acquitted, and sets out to return to Argos.

11. Third Stasimon: 778-792

The Furies are stunned, and threaten to unleash destruction on Athens.

12. Fourth Episode, part 2: 793-915

Athene begins to persuade the Furies to give up their anger. She quietly reminds them of the power she possesses (Zeus' thunderbolts), and then persuades them to take on a new role in Athens: that of the Eumenides, who will help the city prosper and be honored by all Athenians.

13. Exodos: 916-end

The chorus accepts Athene's offer, and they and Athene describe the role they will play at Athens. Athene's asks her attendants to escort the Eumenides to their new home in the caves below the Acropolis.


(JGC0409.gif Saskia, Ltd.)

(Line numbers correspond to David Grene's translation (Chicago, 1991))

1. Prologue: 1-117

Antigone asks for her sister Ismene's help in burying their brother Polyneices. Ismene refuses, and Antigone rejects her sister.

2. Parodos: 118-178

The chorus enters, rejoicing and thanking the gods that the attack of Polyneices has been defeated and Thebes is safe.

3. First Episode: 179-367

Creon enters, and reveals his plan to bury Eteocles but leave Polyneices unburied. A sentry enters, and reports that someone has tried to bury Polyneices. Creon is angered, and threatens the sentry.

4. First Stasimon: 368-420

The chorus dances and sings its Ode to Man ("Many are the wonders, none is more wonderful than what is man.")

5. Second Episode: 421-639

Antigone is brought before Creon, and confesses that she buried her brother. She and Creon argue, and Creon decrees she will die. Ismene is led in, and claims she helped her sister. Antigone rejects her help.

6. Second Stasimon: 640-682

The chorus relects on the destiny of Antigone's house, fate, and the nature of a divine curse.

7. Third Episode: 683-848

Haemon argues with his father Creon, and leaves. Creon decrees that Antigone be entombed alive in a cave.

8. Third Stasimon: 849-869

The chorus sings a song about the power of the god Eros.

9. Fourth Episode: 870-1001

Antigone, lamenting her fate to the chorus, is led to the cave.

10. Fourth Stasimon: 1002-1041

The chorus compares Antigone's fate and imprisonment to that of three others: Danae, Lycurgus, and Cleopatra.

11. Fifth Episode: 1042-1192

Teiresias enters, and tells Creon he has made a grave mistake. Creon realizes his mistake, and rushes to bury Polyneices and release Antigone.

12. Fifth Choral Ode: 1193-1225

The chorus invokes Dionysus, the god who protects Thebes.

13. Exodus: 1226-1444

A messenger reports the deaths of Antigone and Haemon. Euridyce, Creon's wife, commits suicide. Creon laments his losses.

Oedipus the King

(Oedipus and the Sphinx, Vatican Museums)

All line numbers correspond to David Grene's translation (Chicago, 1942)

1. Prologue: 1-150

The people, speaking through a priest, ask Oedipus' help in relieving the plague which is afflicting the city. Oedipus has already taken steps to help, including sending Creon to Delphi to ask Apollo's advice. Creon returns and reports that Apollo has commanded that the Thebans expell a pollution from their land: the murderer of the former King, Laius. Oedipus pledges to find the murderer and expell him.

2. Parodos: 151-215

The chorus calls on Apollo, Athena, and Artemis to help, and describes the horrors of the plague.

3. First Episode: 216-461

Oedipus proclaims measures to find the murderer, and calls down curses on him and whoever tries to hide him. The chorus advises Oedipus to consult with the seer Tiresias, but Oedipus, at Creon's suggestion, has already sent for him. Teiresias is unwilling to identify the murderer, and Oedipus, angered, accuses him of having helped in the murder of Laius. Teiresias then accuses Oedipus of being the murderer. Oedipus begins to suspect that Creon is plotting against him. Teiresias sets out what will happen to Oedipus, who cannot understand his words.

4. First Stasimon: 462-512

The chorus dances and sings about the life of the murderer of Laius now that he is a hunted criminal, and then expresses trust in Oedipus' skill, since he was the one who rescued the city before when he solved the riddle of the Sphinx.

5. Second Episode: 513-633

Creon arrives, and Oedipus accuses him of plotting to overthrow him. Creon denies it.

6. First Kommos (emotional song of sorrow): 634-696

Jocasta enters, asks what the quarrel is about, and tries to stop the dispute. The chorus and Oedipus sing a brief kommos, or emotionally charged song (lines 649-667), followed shortly by a kommos sung by Jocasta and the chorus (lines 679-696).

7. Third Episode: 697-862

Jocasta tells Oedipus about the events surrounding Laius' murder. Oedipus relates how he had murdered a stranger on a road.

8. Third Stasimon: 863-910

The chorus sings about the importance of divine laws, the dangers of impiously ignoring them, and prays that the impious be punished.

9. Fourth Episode: 911-1086

A messenger arrives from Corinth, announcing that Oedipus' "father" Polybus is dead, and Oedipus has been elected king of Corinth. When Oedipus expressing joy that his "father" has died a natural death, and not been killed by Oedipus, the messenger tells more. Oedipus was not the natural son of Polybus, but had been found on the slopes of Mt. Cihaeron. Oedipus tries to find out more, but Jocasta warns him against seeking further.

10. Fourth Stasimon: 1087-1109

The chorus speculates on who Oedipus' parents are. A mountain nymph and Pan? Some other divinities?

11. Fifth Episode: 1110-1185

A herdsman arrives, and reveals to Oedipus that he is the son of Jocasta and Laius. He was to be abandoned on the mountain, but was saved by the herdsman and given to another herdsman who worked for King Polybus of Corinth.

12. Fifth Stasimon: 1186-1223

The chorus sings of how Oedipus' fall and wretched state is representative of all human life.

13. Sixth Episode: 1224-1297

A second messenger reports that Jocasta has hung herself, and Oedipus has put out his eyes.

14. Second kommos and final scene: 1298-1530

The chorus and Oedipus sing a kommos (song of lamentation) about Oedipus fate (lines 1298-1368), and then Oedipus speaks and explains why he blinded himself. Creon enters, and he and Oedipus discuss what should happen to Oedipus.


Head of a Maenad, Munich 2416 (Perseus 1.0)

(Line numbers correspond to William Arrowsmith's translation (Chicago, 1959))

1. Prologue: 1-63

The god Dionysus announces that he has come to Thebes to establish his worship and punish those who have opposed it.

2. Parodos: 64-169

The chorus of Asian Bacchae describe their worship of Dionysus, and what the life of a bacchant is like.

3. First Episode: 170-369

Teiresias and Cadmus, dressed as bacchae, head for the mountain to worship Dionysus. Pentheus, the young king of Thebes, tries to stop them. Pentheus orders Teiresias' prophetic center destroyed, and orders the stranger (the disguised Dionysus) to be imprisoned.

4. First Stasimon: 370-433

The chorus sings, denouncing the hybris of Pentheus and describing the nature of true wisdom.

5. Second Episode: 434-519

Pentheus interrogates the stranger (Dionysus in disguise), and orders him to be chained and imprisoned.

6. Second Stasimon: 520-575

The chorus makes an appeal to Thebes, and asks that it not reject Dionysus. The chorus also asks Dionysus to come and punish Pentheus.

7. Third Episode: 576-861

Dionysus produces an earthquake, and topples the prison. Dionysus describes Pentheus' futile actions, and then Pentheus appears. A messenger arrives and describes the beauty and terror of the life of the bacchae on the mountain. Pentheus wants to spy on the bacchae, and Dionysus persuades Pentheus to dress as a bacchant.

8. Third Stasimon: 862-911

The chorus sings about the life of the bacchae, and the nature of true wisdom and happiness.

9. Fourth Episode: 912-976

Pentheus comes out of the palace dressed as a bacchant. Dionysus leads him to the mountain to spy on the bacchae.

10. Fourth Stasimon: 977-1022

The chorus sings excitedly about justice, vengeance, and wisdom, praying that Pentheus be punished savagely.

11. Fifth Episode: 1024-1152

A messenger describes the horrible death and dismemberment of Pentheus.

12. Fifth Stasimon: 1153-1164

The chorus sings a song of triumph celebrating Pentheus' punishment.

13. Exodos: 1165-end

Agave (the mother of Pentheus) and the Theban women return to Thebes, celebrating their hunting on the mountain. Agave holds the head of Pentheus impaled on a thyrsus, thinking that it is the head of a mountain lion. Cadmus enters and slowly reveals to Agave what she has done, and whose head she holds on the thrysus. Dionysus then appears, and orders Agave and her sisters to leave Thebes, and Cadmus and his wife Harmonia to be changed to serpents.


The Clouds was first performed at the festival of the Greater Dionysia at Athens in March, 423 BC. It came in third (last). Aristophanes rewrote the play, but it was never performed. The play we have is the rewritten version. Page numbers refer to the translation of William Arrowsmith (Ann Arbor, 1969)

1. Prologue (1-262) (Arrowsmith pp. 11-29)

Strepsiades and his son Pheidippides are sleeping. Strepsiades wakes up, worried about how he will pay the debts his son, who loves horses, owes. Strepsiades asks Pheidippides to go and study with the philosopher Socrates at his school, the Thinkery, where he can learn how to win arguments, so that they can get out of their debts. Pheidippides refuses, and Strepsiades goes to the Thinkery himself. He there meets a student of Socrates, and gets a tour of the school. He meets Socrates himself, who is suspended in a basket high above the school studying astronomy. Strepsiades asks to be admitted to the school so he can learn how to make the weaker argument the stronger and escape his debts, and Socrates agrees to accept him as a pupil. Socrates then calls on the Clouds.

2. Parodos (263-363) (Arrowsmith 29-34)

The Chorus of Clouds appears, and Socrates explains that they are the patron goddesses of philosophers, quacks, orators, etc.

3. Quasi-Agon and Transition Scene (364-509) (Arrowsmith 34-42)

Socrates and Strepsiades debate about the nature of the gods; Socrates claims that there is no Zeus or other Olympian gods. The only gods that exist are the Clouds, the Void (Chaos), and the Tongue (Bamboozle). Strepsiades is convinced, and Socrates takes Strepsiades inside to initiate him into the school.

4. Parabasis I (510-626) (Arrowsmith 43-49)

The Chorus, speaking for Aristophanes, criticizes the audience for not appreciating the first version of the play, which Aristophanes considers the best he has written. The Chorus then speaks as the Clouds, explaining the benefits they bring to Athens and complaining that they are not adequately appreciated by the Athenians. They also complain about how the Athenians treat the moon and let their lunar calendar get so far out of whack.

5. Dialogue Scenes and Choral Songs (627-888) (Arrowsmith 49-66)

Socrates and Strepsiades emerge from the Thinkery. Socrates is exasperated by StrepsiadesŐ stupidity, and gives him some further tests. Strepsiades fails miserably, and Socrates goes inside in disgust. The Chorus of Clouds tells Strepsiades to bring his son so that he can enroll in StrepsiadesŐ place. Strepsiades convinces Pheidippides to come to the school, and Socrates accepts him as his pupil. Socrates then stages a debate between Philosophy (the Better Argument) and Sophistry (the Weaker Argument) for Pheidippides.

6. Agon (889-1113) (Arrowsmith 67-81)

Philosophy and Sophistry appear. Each states his case, and cross-examines the other. Sophistry defeats Philosophy, and leads Pheidippides into the Thinkery to be instructed in how to be a sophist, that is, how to make the weaker argument the stronger.

7. Parabasis II (1114-1130) (Arrowsmith 81)

Chorus of Clouds addresses the judges of the play, and tells the judges that if they vote for this play, they will be kind to them, but if not, the Clouds will be out to get them.

8. Dialogue Scenes and Choral Songs (1131-1451) (Arrowsmith 81-107)

Strepsiades returns to the Thinkery to pick up Pheidippides, who has completed his course with Socrates. Pheidippides tells Strepsiades about all of the ways they can get out of their debts by using twisted logic. Pasias, a creditor, appears to collect his loan, and Strepsiades uses sophistry to chase him away. Amynias, a second creditor appears, and Strepsiades sends him away in a haze of twisted argumentation. Strepsiades goes back into the house, and the Clouds reveal that Strepsiades is in for a shock. Strepsiades runs out of the house, while Pheidippides chases him with a stick and beats him. Pheidippides justifies beating his father by using sophistic logic, and then says he can justify beating his mother, too.

9. Final Scene (1452-1510) (Arrowsmith 107-113)

This is too much for Strepsiades, who asks the Clouds what to do. Strepsiades then goes to the Thinkery, climbs on the roof, and sets fire to it. He chases after Socrates and his pupil, intent on killing them.