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(525-455 BC)

Ancient & Classical
Greek Poets & Philosophers

Aeschylus, the "father of tragedy," was the first of the three great tragic playwrights of classical Athens:

Aeschylus 525-456 BCE

Sophocles 496-406 BCE

Euripides 480-406 BCE

According to Aristotle's Poetics 4: "Aeschylus first introduced a second actor; he diminished the importance of the Chorus, and assigned the leading part to the dialogue. Sophocles raised the number of actors to three, and added scene-painting."

 > Inference: before Aeschylus, Greek drama featured a single actor speaking with the chorus as a group (though choruses might sub-divide or have leaders to speak). Adding a second actor enhanced the drama's mimesis, imitation, or reflection of real life, especially as dialogue between characters, but as Aristotle notes and Nietzsche laments, it reduces the power of the chorus, which for Nietzsche is "the birth of tragedy."

A historic appeal of Aeschylus's plays is that the form of an earlier drama appears in which a single actor speaks and interacts with the chorus, resembling what Nietzsche describes in Birth of Tragedy as a holdover from Dionysian rituals in which a chorus (choir, congregation) interacted with a single god-figure.

Aeschylus wrote perhaps 90 plays but only 7 plays attributed to Aeschylus survive:

The Persians 472 BCE: oldest surviving play from Greek theater; also only surviving Greek play based on contemporary events, namely Greece's defeat by Persian forces at the Battle of Salamis (480 BCE).

Seven Against Thebes 467 BCE: The final play of a trilogy of tragedies whose other two tragedies, Laius and Oedipus, are lost along with a satyr play, Sphinx.

  Relative to Sophocles's Theban trilogy, the play's action concerning the battle between Oedipus's sons Eteocles and Polyneices) occurs after the action of Sophocles's Oedipus the King and Oedipus at Colonus but before the action of Sophocles's Antigone.

  Following the popularity of Antigone, the ending of Seven Against Thebes was rewritten 50 years after Aeschylus's death to introduce Antigone's tragic conflict.

The Suppliants 470 BCE: first play in a trilogy probably including the lost plays The Egyptians and The Daughters of Danaus concerning the establishment of democracy in Athens.

The Oresteia (trilogy) 458 BCE:


Libation Bearers


Prometheus Bound was the first play in a trilogy called the Prometheia whose lost plays are Prometheus Unbound and Prometheus the Fire-Bringer.

Prometheus Bound is widely taught, but its attribution to Aeschylus has been questioned on stylistic grounds, and may have been written by Aeschylus's son Euphorion. The Romantic poet Percy Shelley's verse drama Prometheus Unbound (1822) uses the same characters and is considered one of the greatest long poems of the English language.


Aeschylus married and had two sons, Euphorion and Euaeon, both of whom became tragic poets. His nephew, Philocles (his sister's son), also became a tragic poet.

An apocryphal legend of Aeschylus's death is that an eagle dropped a tortoise on his bald head, thinking it a stone.



Moonstruck Drama Bookstore: Aeschylus

Wikipedia articles on name and titles.


Robert F. Kennedy (1925-1968), speech informing campaign rally
of assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr on 4 April 1968.