Answer: Some of the first forms of drama come from ancient Greece. Oedipus the King by Sophocles is a great example of ancient Greek tragedy, Hamlet by Shakespeare is the example of drama of Elizabethan period and Samuel Becketts Waiting for Godot represents the drama of the 20th century and belongs to so called Theatre of the Absurd. Because all these dramas come from different period of time, it’s natural that they differ from each other in many aspects.
The Greek tragedy has unity of time, place and action, since it takes place all in one day, happens in a single scene, and develops only one plot. In Hamlet that rule is broken. Action takes place in the garden, in the castle, in the cemetery. The play doesn’t have the unity of time and has many plots. In Waiting for Godot, however, we see close adherence to the three unities. The unity of time is two days and action is set in one place, where Vladimir and Estragon are waiting for Godot.
In ancient drama, the characters are often of noble birth and hold an important social position. At the same time, he is the tragic hero and any decision he makes lead him to personal catastrophe. An ancient main character is a victim of tragic irony. A hero commits a crime not being aware of that. He suffers some serious misfortune which is not accidental and meaningless, but is significant and logically connected with the actions. A character in ancient drama is not largely developed psychologically. We do not get a full picture of king Oedipus personality. We’ve got very little information about his appearance; his action and speech don’t tell us anything about his emotions. In contrast, we know a lot about Hamlet’s emotions and feelings. Unlike Greek tragedy, a hero in modern drama is often an ordinary person, not high born. Modern drama such as “Waiting for Godot” shows the tragedy not of the strong and noble, but weak and mean character.
The basic structure of the ancient drama has to do with the concept of myth. Stories were based on myth or history. The moral of these kind of myths was that the beginning and the end of the human life must only be in the God’s hands. The ancient Greeks believed that some humans could be forced by fate to act wrongly, even if they didn’t want to. They believed in Ate – a goddess whose task is to lead people into confusion. She is the error that pushes people to do silly things. She was the one, who pushed Oedipus to escape from his country and kill his father on his way. When Oedipus found out from the Oracle that he would commit two awful crimes, he tried to avoid this by running away from his family, which wasn’t his family. He acted as if he was divine; he thought he was stronger than fate. Unfortunately, the stranger he met on his way, was his father. And he killed him. And a women he later got married to, was his mother. In this way, Sophocles asserted that the gods are more powerful than man, that there’s a limit to human ability and reason. Oedipus was punished because the moment he was told he was to kill his father and marry his mother, he thought that he could change the fate. He forgot that there’s a distinction between Gods and humans – a distinction between immortals and mortals. Greek Gods want people to remember that they aren’t divine.
Oedipus Rex If they forget about it, they’ll commit a sin and it’ll mislead them. In Greek language it’s called hubris. When people forget that they are mortal, they become guilty pf hubris and this pushes them into the situation when they can commit error and flaw. This brings about their destruction. In contrast, Hamlet isn’t punished by Gods because he forgets that he is mortal. Hamlet fails because he has a tragic flaw in his personality and behavior. In other words, in “Hamlet” the tragic flaw is not connected with a particular situation but with a character. In “Oedipus the King” tragic flaw isn’t attached to a character but it is a moment of ironous judgment. It is a moment of “character’s blindness”. A person should be aware of killing anyone but because Oedipus is mistaken and he doesn’t recognize his father it’s a moment of wrong judgment. In “Hamlet” tragic flaw is connected to the original sin, to something that constantly pushes us to commit a sin. Hamlet did not always have this flaw in his personality. It was presented to him by a ghost. The ghost of Hamlet’s father told Hamlet that he was murdered by Claudius and asked him to take the revenge. This is where the flaw is adopted by Hamlet and begins to effect his life. Hamlet makes his revenge everything in his life and it eventually drives him to madness and murder. We see that Shakespearean drama has elements of a morality play, showing people the consequences of certain behaviour. Everything that happens in Greek tragedy is predetermined by fate, while in Shakespeare play there’s more psychological aspect. Hamlet is not really doomed to choose badly. He can choose what he wishes, but he decides badly. As for “Waiting for Godot” the action is full of absurd, seemingly without sense, has repeated verses and no logical consequence of the events.
In ancient drama recognition plays very important role. It is one of the basic element of the plot. It is the moment when the character finds out the whole truth about his life. Recognition is the most critical moment because the character begins to see what the audience know. It’s also the most ironic moment because the moment Oedipus learns the truth and finally sees, he plugs out his eyes. Most ancient heroes suffer and survive because the aim of the plot is not to destroy them but to lead them into the moment of recognition. In Shakespearean plays heroes usually end with committing suicide.