classes and interest groups, and Dionysus was linked to none of these.In effect, he was like a popular TV show or action-movie series that theentire population, regardless of their politics, rallies around.
At first, the plays that developed out of the dithyrambic chorusesfeatured one person on stage at a time. If there were a series of songs,different people might sing them, but they would never be on stagetogether, never interact. It was Aeschylus, the first of our playwrights,who introduced the single actor on stage at one time. This makesdrama in the conventional sense possible; it means there is spokendialogue on stage between two represented individuals, not just arecitation of narratively contextualized song to the audience. Sophocles,our next playwright, introduced the third actor, which made possible thefull range of performative interaction and psychological depth on stage.With this, Greek drama became perhaps the richest and mostsubstantive cultural form humankind had yet manifested.
Yet for all these quick and impressive beginnings, drama, for all its gloryand fame, did not found a sustained tradition in the West. Poetry waswritten all across the Greek world; it could be written it any city inGreece itself (Sparta, that stern city of warriors, produced some of theearliest Greek poets), whether in the Greek homeland or in the variousGreek colonies across the Mediterranean. Tragedy was performedthrough the Greek-speaking world but its writing flourished specificallyat Athens, when that particular city was an independent city-state, in atime span of roughly about a century, beginning to end. In this interval,the great playwrights we are studying-Aeschylus, Sophocles,Aristophanes, and Euripides, the four dramatists who founded our ideaof the European stage--did their work. But in the succeeding era, when