It’s a Tragedy

In this post I will speak about how theatre has helped develop my film and my scriptwriting skills.

‘Although movies are one of the youngest art forms they have absorbed the structures and forms of many older arts. Not surprisingly, therefore, writing about film requires some of the critical language of these literacy and visual arts.’ (James Thomas 2014: 45) Theatre has played such a major role in creation of film as we know it. Way before cinema, around 600BC to be precise locals used venture down to ancient Greek amphitheatre’s to watch live performances which at times went on all day, venues could seat up to 18,000. It was a communal space where people could come and be entertained, of course if you were wealthy you would’ve had the better experience with better seats in comparison to the poor.

‘Aristotle’s Poetics contain the earliest known theory about the origins of Greek theatre. He says that tragedy evolved from dithyrambs, songs sung in praise of Dionysus at the Dionysia each year.’ (‘Ancient Greek theatre’ 2015). Similar to greek theatre tragedy plays a major role in my film ‘A bit about Frank’. So it was important for me to understand the art of writing a tragedy. These types of text needs to contain a main incident which has some sort of conflict within it, resulting in a loss or dramatic change. I am also aware that these types of texts can contain a comedic element. ‘Tragedies such as Oedipus Rex contained serious incidents and concluded with a serious (unhappy) ending‘ like in my film, ‘…but enforced uniformity never has been a good thing for art; and so even in classic plays unserious actions are found in the most serious of plays and vice versa’.(James Thomas 2014: 304)  Which has given me the freedom to introduce aspects of comedy in a film as serious and complex as a mine.

23652_greek_tragedy_mask-e1405268989760-1‘Lysistrata’ is a greek comedy which was originally performed around 411 BC. In this epic tale Lysistrata convinces the women of Greece to abstain from having any sexual relations with their male partners in the aim to stop the Peloponnesian war and restore peace. The play explores the battle between both sexes and also highlights the superiority males had during this period of time. Although this is a comedy it still harbours a ‘serious’ message about war and politically how some women may view the world. ‘A bit about Frank’ also has comedic elements which help to complement the serious tone of the film. My film is based around death, love and relationship which are themes that are also apparent in ‘Lysistrata’ and many other greek plays.  The importance of balance between ‘serious’ and ‘unserious’ in any piece of fictional text is huge especially when you want to send a message or a political, or social statement. Greek theatre was all about spreading a message, statement or a lesson. ‘Aristotle argued that tragedy cleansed the heart through pity and terror, purging us of our petty concerns and worries by teaching us to be aware that there can be nobility in suffering. He called this experience ‘catharsis’. (‘The Different Types of Greek Drama’ 2015) There are many messages you can take my film. One being that men should try to be more health conscious and should go and get themselves checked out more regularly unlike ‘Frank’ in my film. Another could be the importance of being positive and doing the right thing as opposed to being anti productive and getting into trouble like ‘Billy’ in ‘A bit about Frank’.

‘Seven against Thebes’ is a greek tragedy. ‘The seven champions were killed fighting against Thebes after the fall of Oedipus, the king of that city. The twins Eteocles and Polyneices, who had been cursed by their father, Oedipus, failed to agree on which of them was to succeed to the Theban throne and decided to rule in alternate years.’ (‘Seven Against Thebes’ 2015) Eteocles decided to rule first but when it was time to hand over the throne he refused. A series of events occurred resulting in ‘Eteocles and Polyneices’ killing each other in a tug of war for the crown. This is a real tragedy. Which can be likened to my film. Eteocles greedy and selfish behaviour is similar to ‘Billy’s’. He used to behave like that before he realised his father was dying. The ‘curse’ has been passed down from Oedipus to his twins, the misfortune that Frank originally suffers also trickles down to his offspring resulting in Billy’s death. This play has a very serious and unhappy ending, it also teaches us about greed, power, and deceit. These are the sorts of lessons that Greeks aimed to teach whilst performing their plays.

All in all it is very easy to see how theatre can and has shaped film, especially greek theatre. Codes and conventions which are found in these sorts of plays are scattered all around movies today and it has become a stimulus for my media text. Reading these texts has also helped me to develop my scriptwriting skills and it has also broadened my vocabulary.


James Thomas (2014). Script analysis (for actors, directors, and designers). 5th ed. U.S.A: Focal Press. pg. 45.

University Press. (2015). Ancient Greek Theatre. Available: Last accessed 16th March 2016.

James Thomas (2014). Script analysis (for actors, directors, and designers). 5th ed. U.S.A: Focal Press. pg. 304.

PBS. (2015). The Different Types of Greek Drama and their importance. Available: Last accessed 16th March 2016.

Britannica. (2015). Seven Against Thebes. Available: Last accessed 16th March 2016.



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