Thespis was a writer of Greek choral poetry in the sixth century B.C. A chorus recited poems in unison at festivals of the gods. The festival leader would ask a question, and the entire chorus would give a poetic answer. Under Thespis’s direction, one member of the cast was given the sole responsibility of answering the questions. Thus theatrical dialogue was created between the leader and the responder, and — presto — spoken drama had an auspicious start. Since Thespis is believed to have spoken these parts, this Attic poet has been considered the first actor. His name has provided the language with thespian both as a
noun meaning «actor», and as an adjective to describe a relationship with drama.
Thespis is called the father of Greek tragedy. For his winning performance in a competition in Athens in 534 B.C., he won a prize: a goat. The source for our word tragedy is Greek tragoidia, a compound from tragoa, «goat», and aeidein, «to sing». The reason that the Greeks called this dramatic form goat song is obscure.