Ancient Greek Theater

Contributor: Brian Anthony. Lesson ID: 12611

Isn't it a tragedy that there are few good comedies in modern entertainment? There are lots of dramas, but not in the Ancient Greek sense. Learn the history and characteristics of comedy and tragedy!


Theatrical Arts, World

learning style
personality style
Otter, Golden Retriever
Grade Level
Middle School (6-8)
Lesson Type
Dig Deeper

Lesson Plan - Get It!


What do these two strange faces represent? Who would wear them?

One of the important features of a family is that the members of the family get together, at least from time-to-time.

They especially get together for the “big” life occasions. Even in our modern times when families can sometimes live far apart, people often make time to travel great distances for an important family event or holiday.

  1. Make a list of events that a family would get together for over a lifetime.
  2. Write your thoughts down on a t-chart like the one below.
  3. In the left-hand column, list the event.
  4. In the right-hand column, write down some features or descriptions of that event that would help you know if it was a happy event or a sad one.
  5. Try to come up with at least five or six events:
What is the life event? What physical signs would tell you if it is happy or sad?








Share your reflections with a parent, teacher, or friend, and see if you can come up with any other life events. Whatever events you came up with, you will notice that at least some of these events have some kind of ritual connected with them in many cultures.

Birth is a big deal, and many cultures and religions mark a birth with some kind of ritual. Rituals like infant baptism, circumcision, shaving the head, and other rituals are meant to purify the newborn and welcome them to their lifetime on Earth. Marriages are marked with important rituals, too, and the community comes out to bless the new couple and help them get started with a life of health, wealth, and happiness — and children! Sadly, too, we have to bury the dead, and most cultures mark the lives lost with some kind of ritual that reminds us that we don’t get to stay here forever.

That, in a nutshell, is where drama comes from. Drama here means the use of a scripted play performed for an audience to tell a story. In ancient Greek times, drama could be neatly divided into two categories.

  • Can you guess from the picture of the masks above what those two categories are?

If you guessed "comedy" and "tragedy," you were correct!

Write a reflection in your notebook or journal in response to the following questions:

  • How can you distinguish between a comedy and tragedy?
  • If you knew nothing about a play that you were about to see, what specific features would tell you that it was a comedy or tragedy?

The Ancient Greeks started the tradition of drama that was followed in the Western world for many centuries.

In the Got It? section, learn more about the history of comedy and tragedy. See if you can tell the difference between the two using the summaries of real Ancient Greek plays.

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