Drama and Spectacle

Drama and Spectacle


Students learn about:  Greek tragedy, The context of Greek tragedy, The Colosseum, the Circus Maximus and Roman spectacle. 


In this strand, students engage with Greek drama and Roman spectacle, extraordinary experiences in the ordinary life of the inhabitants of Athens and Rome. They study a Greek tragedy, to be selected from a choice of plays offered for exploration, and analyse the values, attitudes and beliefs which this play explores (including questions of gender, class, age, and other relationships) and what this exploration might reveal about Classical Athenian society. They also learn about the context in which tragedies were performed, the Theatre of Dionysus and the Dionysia festival, an occasion of great civic as well as religious importance in the democratic state of Athens.


 Students furthermore learn about two central venues in Rome’s public life, the Circus Maximus (racing stadium) and Colosseum (amphitheatre). They take these buildings’ material remains and architecture as points of departure for an analysis of their use and significance in Roman society. Combining archaeological and visual evidence with contemporary written sources, they explore the events that took place in these venues, the sponsors who organised them, the experience of the citizens who attended them, and the empire that formed the wider context of Rome’s spectacles.


Students will study one play from a pairing of tragedies which will be prescribed. The initial pairings, which will be rotated periodically, are:


  •  Euripides’ Medea and Sophocles’ Philoctetes
  •  Sophocles’ Oedipus the King and Euripides’ Trojan Women
  •  Aeschylus’ Prometheus Bound and Sophocles’ Antigone


The prescribed texts for Leaving Certificate 2023 (Higher and Ordinary Levels) are:


  • Medea by Euripides and Philoctetes by Sophocles.
  • Students are required to study one of these texts.