One of the most noticeable differences between the modern and Ancient Greek theater is the nature of the content that is put up on the stage. There are several taboo topics that tend to make a piece of theater obscure or wildly acknowledged, and religion is a big one.
Something that may have been too explicit against religion or a play that force-fed it to you indefinitely has the potential to receive a lot of attention based on the setting of today’s “completely accept every form of media expressing every social idea and opinion ever or you’re a huge bigot” mindset.
This is easily fueled by opinionated networking outlets like Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and the almighty and empowering “comment box.” Then again, the theater-loving community can sometimes have the potential to be surrounded by a dome of preference, so unless a piece is really pushing those imaginary boundaries, or the soundtrack is so catchy it’s insanity-inducing, there may not be a whole lot of mainstream feedback. Controversy breeds publicity.
However, the themes of Ancient Greece were nothing but controversy. More contrariwise, the controversy was the normalcy because of the content on which most Ancient Greek literature was based.
Greek mythology as a whole was compromised of deities that reflected the natures, tendencies and pleasures of human beings, but they were displayed on pedestals and patterned with rationalized occurrences that would describe why they became what they were and thus how the world formed around it. The patron of theater, Dionysus, was basically the embodiment of party-rocking, wine-drinking, good-time-loving soul at the time. Most of these shows were performed at lavish festivals thrown in his name, so, in order to appease him, the playwrights would try to focus on storylines that may reflect the settings of wine (which Dionysus was also ruler of) and many of its socially known aftereffects.
I’m sure most people can agree that the human race is not the censored version of “reality” that we may prefer it to be as of the 21st century. The pressure to be “secular,” in order to appeal to a wide audience that is now more accessible, has infiltrated all media, so it’s hard to portray a philosophy about life and logic without tiptoeing around its true nature for the masses.
However, the religion back then was not rivaled with much variety of opinion, and playwrights of Ancient Greece pulled from the musing pot of not only accepted theology, but also actual historical lineage. There was not very much kept hidden in these plotlines from the skeleton closets of the figureheads from their historical fiction. For example, such aspects included incest, homicide, genocide, sacrifice, and many of the basic religious practices where blood was shed and sense of morality and purity may have lost. Perhaps this why many of these plays are Greek tragedies?
If you are easily offended at the aforementioned content (which many people tend to be), there are always censored versions of the great Grecian classics that still get the basic story across in order to fully appreciate the message. However, is “tragedy” just a modernized term for the reality of the true nature of some human beings? Tragedy normally implies dramatization, which can be reasonably associated with the Grecian tradition of cross-breeding history with mythology in order to understand it.
Yet the purpose of this method of storytelling may be similar to the idea of why we value the teaching of history. History has a chance to repeat because of human nature and only has the hope of change through constant education and awareness. Wouldn’t you be willing to pay attention to something like this, considering the themes it represented? Controversy breeds publicity. Publicity encourages education. Education can bring about truth and, hopefully, change.