This chapter sets out the historical and theatrical context of Greek tragedy at first performance, and includes brief accounts of the history of classical Greece, Athenian democracy and the Greek theatre. The plays were performed in front of a diverse and international audience and for this reason we must reject a recent scholarly tendency to explain the politics of tragedy in terms of collective experience. While the appreciation of tragic pleasures can be called a collective experience, the appreciation of political messages arguably cannot. For this reason it is hard find a prescriptive political philosophy in any Greek tragedy. Underlying most of the plays, however, is a constant political value: the importance of safety and stability in the city-state.
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