Media Studies

  • noun
    (written as satyr play)
    in ancient Greece, a comic play that made fun of a mythological subject and included a chorus of satyrs


  • In the ancient Greek theater of the 5th century BC,an obscene farcical play that burlesqued tragedy. Aristotle claimed,perhaps incorrectly, that Greek tragedy was directly derived fromthe satyr-play. A dramatist presenting his three tragedies at theDionysia contest was required to add a satyr-play as an afterpiece:it was usually related to the tragedies in theme, making ribald commentson the gods and legendary heroes. These pieces were characterizedby swift action, vigorous dancing, and indecent speech and gestures.The form was named after its chorus of satyrs, companionsof Dionysus later depicted by the Romans as half-goat, half-man. Eachmember of the chorus wore a mask and goatskin loincloth that includeda phallus and a horse-like tail. The chorus leader, Silenus, worean animal-skin cloak over fleecy tights.

    The satyr-play was supposedly created by Pratinus of Philiusat some time between 534 and 500 BC. Other famous exponentsincluded Euripides, whose Cyclops is the only complete survivingexample, Aeschylus, and Sophocles, whose The Trackers has survivedin fragments.

    Satyr-plays gradually diminished in popularity: by about 431BC the City Dionysia was recording only one such productioneach year.