This course has concessions available

Greek Tragedy 2 – The Trojan Plays

The tragic dramatists of Athens in the fifth century BC repeatedly returned to events around the Trojan War as topics for their plays. This course explores the variety of ways in which the war and its aftermath provided rich material for Greek Tragedy: from king Agamemnons horrific sacrifice of his daughter, and Philoctetes exiled with his stinking leg wound, to the fate of the enslaved women of Troy, an alternative story for Helen, and the murder of Agamemnon by Clytemnestra, his wife. This course explores a range of plays to give a rounded sense of the different ways Greek tragedy approached questions of legendary history and myth, and to understand how they resonate today.

Who is this course for

This course follows on from 'Greek Tragedy: 'Heroic' Plays' in term 1, but it is also suitable for newcomers 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 the Trojan War and its aftermath, including Euripides' Iphigenia at Aulis and Helen; Sophocles' Ajax and Philoctetes; and selections from the plays centred on the surviving children of Agamemnon and Clytemnestra (namely, Aeschylus' trilogy the Oresteia, Sophocles' Electra, and Euripides' Orestes and Electra). 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

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

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

Other Humanities courses at Mary Ward Centre or elsewhere. the next course with Ben will be the Understanding Myth course starting after Easter

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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

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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.’