In his first book, The Birth of Tragedy out of the Spirit of Music, Nietzsche claims that tragic drama, as a practice, emerged from an originally solely-musical chorus. First people sang story-songs, especially dithyrambs, and then later came dialog and characters as the subjects of the songs.

(There's also a lot about Apollinian and Dionysian cultures, and the role of aesthetics in justifying the existence of the world, and so on, but I don't want to get into any of that.)

How has this purely historical thesis held up? Is there any kind of modern consensus on how early tragedy evolved?

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    Bottom line is that no one knows how tragedy began. Nietzsche was a philosopher, not a historian on top of that. So, like, maybe, but there's no evidence. – rougon May 22 '18 at 4:48
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    @rougon Actually Nietzsche was trained as a philologist and was considered one of the finest classicists of his day. But your point on lack of evidence is well taken. – Canyon May 22 '18 at 5:44
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    You can see Wiki's entry dedicated to The Birth of Tragedy : it is detailed and consider also the reception of the work. For sure it is an interpretation of the Greek tragedy based on a specific point of view. – Mauro ALLEGRANZA May 22 '18 at 6:05
  • @canyon thanks for pointing that out. At that time, a philologist was about as close to an ancient historian as one could get. The wikipedia entry is mostly about its reception of the time, but it still is mostly an interpretation. – rougon May 22 '18 at 12:30

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