In Greek mythology, the Nine Muses provided inspiration for literature, art, music, and science. They were the daughters of Zeus, the king of the gods, and the goddess of memory, Mnemosyne. The nine Muses were also goddesses who lived above the summits of Mount Olympus, Helicon, Parnassus, and the Pindus. Melpomene was one of the nine Muses. Her sisters were Clio, Thalia, Calliope, Polyhymnia, Euterpe, Erato, Terpsichore, and Urania. Each Muse was assigned a specific role. These roles were history, comedy, poetry, music, dancing, singing, sacred hymns, rhetoric, and harmony. Melpomene’s role was the tragedy.
A tragedy is a form of ancient Greek drama that was performed in open-air theatres in Athens and forms the foundation of modern theatre. The origin of tragedy is debated by scholars. It is believed that tragedy began as a performance of epic poetry that included worship rituals to the god of theatre, Dionysus. The subject matter of Greek tragedy dealt with moral right and wrongs, and the performers would wear masks to impersonate a god. There were up to three performers with speaking roles and up to 15 performers in the chorus who only sang. All performers were male and played both male and female roles.
Images of Melpomene often depict her as holding a tragic mask in one hand and a sword in the other hand. She usually has a wreath in her hair and wears boots that were worn by tragic actors called cothurnus. An ancient Greek dramatist would call on the name of Melpomene to help him create his work. All nine Muses were immortal and could bless mortals with artistic gifts that they could use beautify their songs, add grace to their dances, and provide healing and comfort to the sick and heartbroken. Muses could also be resentful toward any mortal who did not believe in their artistic powers.
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