This course has concessions available

Greek Tragedy 1 – The Heroic Plays

Heracles and Jason are names that conjure heroic tales of battling monsters, and undertaking dangerous voyages. But when we meet these characters on the ancient Greek stage, they are far from heroic. Jasons neglect drives Medea to a terrible tragic rage, while Heracles is afflicted by a horrifying madness. The heroes of the ancient tragic stage are complex, flawed characters whose fate encourages us to examine our own lives. This course explores a range of plays to give a rounded sense of the different ways Greek tragedy approached questions of legendary history, myth, and how they resonate today.

Who is this course for

The course is suitable for anyone with an interest in tragic drama, myth, and the relevance of ancient works for today. No prior knowledge is required. If you do have some experience of seeing or reading Greek tragedies you should also find this course a suitable extension and deepening of your knowledge and understanding of the plays.

What does this course cover

We will read and discuss a selection of Greek Tragedies in translation, focusing on plays which deal with legends from the time before the Trojan War, including Euripides' Heracles, Medea, and Bacchae; Aeschylus' Suppliants; and the varied presentation of Thebes in Sophocles' Oedipus and Antigone plays and Aeschylus' Seven Against Thebes. The tragedies deal unflinchingly with themes of madness, murder, war, and all manner of primal traumas; and yet these themes are not dealt with in a gratuitous or sensationalist way. Instead, they are springboards for an enriching investigation into the nature of existence.

By the end of the course, you should be able to
' understand the circumstances of the performance of ancient drama
' identify and interpret typical themes in tragedy
' discuss with confidence the plots of some of the most famous surviving Greek Tragedies

What will it be like

The course will be run online using Zoom for the live class sessions and either the Moodle page for the course or some other system for the distribution of the electronic resources for the session sitting alongside this. Although there will be some adjustments that need to be made for the online version of this course, we will aim to keep the experience as close as possible to that of a face to face course taught in the Centre.

Classes will typically consist of an introduction to the topic and relevant themes by the tutor; close reading of extracts from the plays; open discussion of the themes evoked by the play; small group work.

We will assess your expectations of the course in the first session, and we will monitor your progress through class discussion.

What else do you need to buy or do

The course will be run on Zoom, please make sure you have installed it in advance of your first class on your computer or mobile device. You can sign up for free here:

You will need a microphone (it's fine to use whatever is built into your device) and camera, so we can see you via video. You may also want to use headphones during the session.

You can participate in class sessions through the use of a computer, laptop, tablet or other similar internet enabled device. Please note that if you only have access to a smartphone, you will be able to attend the class sessions and participate in them but you will find it more difficult to benefit from the full range of materials and activities involved in the course if this is your only means of connection.

Make sure you have a small space to work in during the session and that as far as possible that you can keep this space quite and clear of interruption so that you can concentrate on what is happening in the class.

By signing up to the course you are consenting to being on camera. The content of the lesson may occasionally be recorded by the tutor for internal education and training purposes but any such recordings will not be made available to anyone outside of the Mary Ward Centre organisation without us asking you again for further permission to do so.

It is not essential to buy copies of the texts we study, but you may find it helpful. The tutor will circulate a guide to recommended editions by the first meeting. Extracts from the texts, and further supporting material, will be made available to you. Where possible, you will be directed to productions of the plays that you can view online.

What this course could lead to

This course is followed by 'Greek Tragedy: Trojan Plays' at Mary Ward Centre from January 2022.

mwc logo

I've been to many Centres to study in London and the Mary Ward Centre is one of the nicest I've studied in.

MWC student


This course has concessions available for people who meet certain criteria

Got a Question about this Course?

Contact The Departmental Administrator.

Unavailable Classes:

Why choose Mary Ward?

Mary Ward Centre is the adult education centre with a difference. We provide a wide range of subjects for people at all levels and run courses during the day, evening and weekends to suit your timetable. You can learn face to face at one of our centres (Bloomsbury or Waterloo) or take an online course

Get inspired and enjoy excellent teaching in an environment where each individual’s learning experience is valued. That’s what makes Mary Ward Centre ‘the friendly place to learn.’