Myths and the Festival Dionysus


Students will gain a basic knowledge of the cultural context surrounding the Greek theatre and the festival of Dionysus by creating their own myths.



Texts: Myths
Literacies: Enacting an example of a myth, letting them create their own myth.



o Large sheet of butcher paper
o Markers
o Name tags (“Zeus”, “Prometheus”, 3 “humans”)
o Lightning bolt, stick, fire
o “Create-A-Myth” handout  Lesson 1.Create a Myth Sheet


HOOK: (5 mins)

Play the “I like” game.


STEP 1: Transition

Now that we’ve gotten to know each other, we’re going to move along to discussing theatre for the people of another culture and time period: the Greeks.


STEP 2: Check for Understanding/Pre-assessment (5 mins)

• Butcher papers “What We Know About Greek Theatre”
• What do you already know about the Greeks or Greek Theatre? Write answers down in one color to indicate pre-assessment
o It’s possible that they won’t have any prior knowledge of Greek history or theatre. In this case bring it back to storytelling.
 What do we know about storytelling? How do we tell stories? Do you think people have always told stories this way? Do you have any knowledge from a history or English class about storytelling in another culture or time period?
 Put answers relevant to Greek mythology and tragedy on the graffiti board.
• Explain that this will be a running convention throughout the unit where we will keep all the important information you need to know about the Greek Theatre


STEP 3: Transition

Now we are adding more information to what you already know. In particular we are going to talk about how the Greeks told stories.


STEP 4: Instruction (7 minutes)

• The Greeks, as well as many other ancient peoples, told stories through things called myths. What is a myth?
o A myth is a story people create to explain the world around them. (ex. Why does snow fall? Or Why is the sky blue?)
• We are going to now tell some of the myths that the Greeks told.
• Ask for 5 (“Prometheus”, “Zeus”, “3 humans”) student volunteers to be actors as we narrate the story of “Prometheus Giving Fire to Man”. Have the class sit in an arena style around the front of the class room and have one teacher direct the students where and how to move as the other narrates the myth.
o “Thousands of years ago there was a god named Prometheus. Prometheus was a titan, which meant that he was an enormous powerful god. Titans once ruled the earth until Zeus, an Olympian, used his firebolt to take over the earth as ruler and supreme god. For a long time the earth was dark. The sun would set and there was no light except the moon and the stars. The humans on earth could not cook their food or light their houses at night. They would have to eat their meat raw and would get sick from it. Prometheus was the wisest and kindest of the titans and when he saw how sick the people were getting and how they were in darkness he took pity on them. Zeus was the god of thunder and lightning and fire, so one night when Zeus was sleeping Prometheus took a branch of a tree and lit it on fire and hurried down to the earth. He gave the people fire and showed them how to make it so they could cook their food, and warm themselves and have light in the darkness. And that’s how mankind discovered fire.”
• ASSESSMENT: How did this myth explain something about the world? Do you think this is a true myth? Do you think it has to be true to be a myth or can it be something made up?


STEP 5: Transition (5 mins)

How do we explain the world today? Do we use myths still or something else? A myth is nothing more than a story people tell. Even though we don’t use myths anymore, do we still tell stories? Why?


STEP 6: Instruction

We learned in the myth we just learned that the Greeks believed there were many gods ruling over the earth, each with a specific purpose. Zeus was the god of thunder and lightning. Apollo was the god of the sun. Demeter was the goddess of the harvest. Dionysus was the god of parties, storytelling and theatre.


STEP 7: Transition (2-3 minutes)

The god Dionysus was very important for the Greeks. They Greeks felt he was so important that they held a huge festival celebration in his honor. Why do you think the Greeks felt it was so important to tell stories that they celebrated it in a festival?


STEP 8: Instruction (5 minutes)

• Structure of the Festival
o 4 times a year; largest was City Dionysia or Great Dionysia held from late March to early April
o The theatre competition was the most important part of the festival.
o Three playwrights were allowed per competition and each playwright presented a trilogy of tragic plays and one comedic play called a satyr play.
o The contest lasted 3 days, one day for each playwright.
o The contest went all day until sundown and at the end of the 3 days, the audience was allowed to vote on the best playwright.



Homework Assignment: Go home and write your own myth to explain something that happens in nature. Ex: Why it rains, why clouds are white, why the ocean has waves, etc. Write the myth down in no more than 10 sentences and include an illustration of the myth on the given handout.



Before the class leaves, challenge them, as they do the myth assignment, to think about how myths and stories in general affect their everyday lives. Are they important? Why or why no