Roman theatre staging

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Plautus (c. 254—184 bc) Roman comic dramatist

Terence (c. 190—159 bc) Roman comic dramatist

theatres (Greek and Roman), structure


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The staging of the plays of Plautus and Terence has to be worked out almost entirely from the texts themselves; the theatres in which they were performed have not survived. (The first Roman theatre to last for any length of time was built by Pompey in 55 bc, with a seating capacity estimated at 10,000. Later theatres in the Roman world were increasingly elaborate. Plays put on at the Megalesian Games (see ludi) were performed outside the temple of Cybele on the Palatine, others probably outside other temples or in the forum Romanum, normally on wooden stages erected for the occasion. As in Greece, plays were performed in daytime in the open air, and the action was supposed to take place out of doors.

The stage generally represents a street, fronted by at most three houses, and with side‐exits/‐entrances to left and right. On the stage stood an altar. Further details of the setting may well have been left to the audience's imagination, and there was perhaps no painted scenery. The structure representing the houses had to be strong enough to withstand repeated opening and shutting of the doors (and knocking on them, if this was performed realistically), and in Amphitruo Mercury appears on the roof. There was no drop‐curtain between the stage and the audience.

It is generally assumed that the actors in these comedies were male and wore masks. They performed in Greek dress. Many of the conventions (such as asides and overheard monologues) were inherited from (Greek) New Comedy, but many scenes differ from the surviving Greek remains in requiring four or more speaking actors.

Subjects: Classical Studies.

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