The Persians Literary Elements

The Persians Literary Elements


Greek Tragedy



Setting and Context

480 BC, in the city of Susa, a governmental center in the Persian Empire, during the attack against the Greeks

Narrator and Point of View

There is no real narrator here. The point of view is distinctly third-person, viewing and judging all of the characters from the outside.

Tone and Mood

Somber and reflective. It is sympathetic to those who have lost family members and empathetic to all of those who have been affected by the war.

Protagonist and Antagonist

Xerxes is the Protagonist. His own arrogance is the Antagonist. In a broader sense the Persians are the protagonists and the Greeks the antagonists

Major Conflict

The play is all about conflict. It takes place during a time of warring against Greece, and its only other references to historical events also deal with wars against Greece or the putting down of rebellion.


Xerxes' return, when he manages to find his humility and takes responsibility for the terrible defeat.


Atossa's dreams of a Persian downfall and horrific losses in the fighting foreshadow the ignominious Persian defeat at the hands of the Greek forces.


Darius states that his son has been overweening in his arrogance, which is an understatement since he has led the Empire towards its downfall because of the power of his own ego.


The play alludes to prior wars with Greece, namely the vanquishing of Persia that is the primary reason for Xerxes taking his forces into Greece to get vengeance.


The imagery is very dramatic and somber, with comparisons made between nature and human emotion. There are rivers of blood (of the injured or killed soldiers) and there are rivers of tears. The imagery primarily deals with grief and sadness.


Xerxes wants to avenge the Greeks' defeat of the Persian Empire but actually makes Persia's position inherently worse by doing so, and being defeated again.


No examples in this play


Grief is personified at various points in the play. An example of this would be grief that raises its hoary head in deep despair; grief in this context is being given a living form (having a head) and the ability to feel despair, another emotion.

Use of Dramatic Devices

One of the key features of a Greek tragedy is its use of Chorus. The chorus are the peripheral players and also those in this play who entreat Atossa to ask the Gods for benevolence and to protect her son, and also who entreat her to invoke her dead husband. They also participate in the invocation. The device known as "parode" is also used here; The Persians begins when the chorus members chant about their anxiety for the outcome of the war. The lines that the chorus first sings when it first appears are known as "parode."

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