Aeschylus (Αισχύλος, Aischylos, circa 525/524 – circa 456/455 BC) was an ancient Greek playwright from the 5th century BC. He is the earliest Greek tragedian whose plays have survived to the present.
He wrote at least seventy dramas, seven of which survive, and five satyr plays, none of which did. Of his seventy plays, he won first prize for thirteen of them in the Dionysia (an ancient Greek festival that honored Dionysius. The central events were the performances of plays). He is credited with several major innovations in writing for the stage at the time, like the practice of having multiple actors with speaking parts. Previously, the usual format was essentially a one-man show with a backing Greek Chorus, with the chorus telling the story and 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, partaking in the battles of Marathon and Salamis (possibly Plataea as well). His oldest surviving play, The Persians, is set during the Wars; it is said to have been modelled from Phrynichus' tragedy The Phśnician women played four years before.
He is said to have died 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.
- The Persians (Persai)
- Seven Against Thebes (Hepta epi Thēbas)
- The Suppliants (Hiketides)
- The Oresteia trilogy
- Prometheus Bound (Promētheus Desmōtēs)
Of the seven extant plays, Prometheus Bound was traditionally attributed to Aeschylus, but its authorship is in doubt. However, the issue of Zeus' characterization can be reconciled with Aeschylus' 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.