History on the Attic Stage of the V Century BC

Since at least two decades, ancient theatre has met an outstanding revival in the field of reception aesthetics. After the avant-garde had focused its experimentation on gesture and body, contemporary drama seems to have rediscovered the crucial role of stories and ancient plots have been paid greater attention again. Accordingly, the study of the persistences of Attic theatre - tragedy in particular – in modern and contemporary poetry and playwrighting, as well as in directing and acting practice, has passed from a secondary role, which it used to play until the early ’80s, to the foreground of theatrical research. Signs of this new trend can be seen in the increasing number of rewritings and performances of ancient plays, as well as in the recent success of comparative analysis, reception theory and post-colonial approaches in theatrical studies.
In comparison with this main trend, during last years our Workshop on Ancient Drama has been developing what could called a countertrend approach. Rather than focusing on the continuity and re-use of mythic narrative patterns and models of characters’ interrelation from ancient texts, we have decided to work on the most context-related, less translatable aspects of Attic drama.
Our purpose is therefore to analyse Attic plays iuxta propria principia, by combining philological approaches, structural formalism and a historical perspective. In our opinion, this may help avoiding a literary impoverishment of ancient theatre, whose cultural effectiveness was both recognized and feared by Plato.
Rather than favouring echoes of epoch-making events, such as the battle of Salamis in Aeschylos’ Persians, or allusions to well known historical characters, e.g. Alcibiades and Cleon, we will try to highlight how variations of theatrical devices and mythic themes can mirror their historical context, especially by handling topics anc conflicts which are rarely dealt with by historiographers. Our research will range from author’s variants in tragic and comic lexis to significant choices in tragic and comic plots, deconstructing and rebuiliding characters, stories and narrative patterns.