Aeschylus (Αισχύλος, Aischylos, circa 525/524 circa 456/455 BC) was an ancient Greek playwright (5th century BC), the earliest Greek tragedian whose plays have survived to the present. He won multiple awards, and is credited with several major innovations in writing for the stage, including the practice of having multiple actors with speaking parts. Previously, the usual format had been to have a Greek Chorus telling the story, with a single actor playing the parts of individual characters, swapping between them as required. The addition of a second actor opened up the dramatic possibilities: with two speaking characters on stage at a time, characters could for the first time be shown interacting with each other.
Aeschylus also served as a soldier during the Persian Wars (an aspect of his life that gets more space on his gravestone than his literary achievements - which is to say, any space at all). His oldest surviving play, The Persians, is set during the Wars, and was the first Greek tragedy to be set during recent history instead of in far-off mythical times.
There is a persistent legend that Aeschylus was killed when an eagle dropped a tortoise on him from a great height, thinking that his bald head was a stone that would crack the tortoise open.
Six of his plays are known to survive complete:
- The Persians (Persai)
- Seven Against Thebes (Hepta epi Thēbas)
- The Suppliants (Hiketides)
- The Oresteia trilogy
Another surviving tragedy, Prometheus Bound (Promētheus Desmōtēs), was attributed to Aeschylus in ancient times, but its authorship is now in doubt. However, the issue of Zeus' characterization can be reconciled with Aeschylos' authorship by evidence that the Prometheia (the full cycle) involved character development for Zeus.
Works by Aeschylus that don't have their own trope pages provide examples of:
- Achilles in His Tent: The subject of The Myrmidons.
- Greek Chorus: Still play large roles in the plays.
- Offscreen Crash: A surviving quote from Glaukos of Potniae:
- Outliving One's Offspring: Even without the surviving fragments of Niobe, we would still know from other sources that this was the storyline of that play.
- Wolverine Publicity: Because Sophocles' version of the Oedipus story was so popular, Seven Against Thebes had a coda of sorts added to it, with a final scene showing Antigone and Ismene hearing the order to leave Polyneices unburied and Antigone expressing her intention to do so anyway.