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(flourished 6th century BC, Athens) Greek poet, often considered the inventor of tragedy. He is the first recorded winner (c. 534 BC) of a prize for tragedy at the Great Dionysia, a drama festival. According to the rhetorician Themistius, Aristotle said that tragedy in its earliest stage was entirely choral until the prologue and speeches were first introduced by Thespis. Thespis, according to Themistius's account, was thus the first actor, and tragic dialogue began when he exchanged words with the leader of the chorus.
This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise. For the full entry on Thespis, visit Britannica.com.