Theatre of ancient Rome


Theatre of ancient Rome

"This article is about theatrical performances in ancient Rome. For the building, see Roman theatre (structure)."

The theatre of ancient Rome refers to dramatic performances performed in Rome and the its dominions during classical antiquity.

Ancient Roman theatre was heavily influenced by the Greek tradition, and as with many other literary genres Roman dramatists tended to adapt and translate from the Greek. For example, Seneca's "Phaedra" was based on that of Euripides, and many of the comedies of Plautus were direct translations of works by Menander.

When comparing and contrasting ancient Roman theatre to that of Greek theatre it can easily be said that Roman theatre was less influenced by religion. Also, Roman theatre was more for aesthetic appeal. In Roman theatre war was a more common thing to appear on stage as opposed to the Greek theatre where the plays were mimed and repetitive. The actors developed a kind of code that would tell the audience about the characters just by looking at them.
*
*A purple robe meant the character was a young man.
*A yellow robe meant the character was a woman. (Needed in early Roman theatre, as originally female characters were played by men, however as the Roman theatre progressed, women slaves took the roles of women in plays.)
*A yellow tassel meant the character was a god. Roman costumes mirrored traditional Greek garments. Actors commonly wore a long robe, called a Chiton. Chitons were often colored to denote character and rank.

Plays lasted for two hours, and were usually comedies. Most comedies involved mistaken identity (such as gods disguised as humans).

tock Characters


Stock characters were very important in Roman comedy. A stock character is one that the audience will be familiar with and that is used in many plays. They were greatly used by Plautus. Stock characters could sometimes even be recognized by their speeches. The costumes they wore varied with the type of show but were used to identify the type of character. Over time these outfits became more realistic. The standard costume base was a tunic and cloak. At first masks were common because actors would play multiple characters and the masks made them easier to distinguish. Over time the comedic masks became grotesquely exaggerated.

The "adulescens" was the hero, who is young, rich, love-struck and none too brave. He tends to bemoan his fate and requires backup. Another character often has to take action on his behalf. His father is often the "senex", whom he fears, but does not respect. He wears a dark wig and his clothes are usually crimson.

The "senex" (old man) has several incarnations. As the father he is either too strict or too soft; either one he does out of love for his son. As the lover he embarrasses his son, his slave, and his wife. He tends to be passionately in love with the same woman as his son, who is much too young for the "senex". He never gets the girl and is often dragged off by his irate wife. Sometimes he is a friend of the family who helps the "adulescens". He is often a miser, who wears a straight undergarment with long doubled sleeves. It is white and he sometimes carries a staff.

The "leno" runs the brothel. The love interest of the "adulescens" may be owned by the "leno" and work at his brothel so the "adulescens" is often forced to deal with him. He is unabashedly amoral and is only interested in money. He dresses in a tunic and mantel and is often bald with a moneybag.

The "miles gloriosus", literally braggart soldier, is a character that is especially familiar today. He loves himself more than anything else and sees himself as handsome and brave, while in reality he is very stupid, cowardly, and gullible. He may be interested in the same girl as the "adulescens'. He wears a tunic with long sleeves and has curly hair.

The "parasitus" or parasite lives only for himself. He is often seen begging meals or being refused them. He lies for his own gain. He dresses in a long, black or gray garment with long, doubled sleeves.

The "servi" (slaves) take up about half of the cast and often have the most monologues. They are not the toilers typical of a real Roman home. The "servus callidus" or clever slave is always talkative, but his other traits vary. Most of the time he is loyal, more so to the "adulescens" than the "senex". He brings tricks and comedy and tends to drive the plot. He is often the one who finds the truth out at the end of the play. He could be identified by his tendency to use alliteration and meter in his speech. The "servi" wear tunics and hold or carry scarves.

The "ancilla" is a maid or nurse of no particular age. She is a minor character used to move the plot by presenting information or helping to develop another character. She is a tool of her mistress and may be used as a messenger.

The "matrona" (mother), "mulier" (woman), or "uxor" (wife) is shrewd. She loves her children, but is temperamental towards her husband. She does not have to be a devoted wife, but sometimes is. She wears a long garment with flowing sleeves and a mantel.

The "meretrix" (prostitute) is either a mercenary or devoted. The first type is older or more experienced and has seen a lot. The second type is truly in love with the "adulescens". Both are very attractive with a complex hairdo and outfit, which is yellow. She also has a mantel.

The "virgo" (young maiden) is the love interest of the "adulescens", but does not get much stage time. She is beautiful and virtuous with little personality. She is treated as a prize.

Notable Roman Playwrights

* Plautus - 3rd century BC comedic playwright and writer of "Miles Gloriosus", "Pseudolus", and "Menaechmi".
* Terence, who wrote between 170 and 160 BC.
* Seneca the Younger - 1st century dramatist most famous for Roman adaptations of ancient Greek plays like "Medea" and "Phaedra."
* Quintus Ennius - contemporary of Plautus who wrote both comedies and tragedies
* Marcus Pacuvius - Ennius's nephew and tragic playwright

ee also

* History of theatre
* Theatre of ancient Greece
* Roman theatre (structure)
* "A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum"


Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Ancient Rome — For the modern day city, see Rome. For Other uses, see Ancient Rome (disambiguation). The Roman Forum, the political, economic, cultural, and religious center of the city during the Republic and later Empire, now lies in ruins in modern day Rome …   Wikipedia

  • Theatre of ancient Greece — For other uses of Greek Theatre , see Greek theatre (disambiguation). Theatre mask, 1st century BC …   Wikipedia

  • ancient Rome — ▪ ancient state, Europe, Africa, and Asia Introduction       the state centred on the city of Rome. This article discusses the period from the founding of the city and the regal period, which began in 753 BC, through the events leading to the… …   Universalium

  • Ancient Rome and wine — Expansion of the Roman Empire Ancient Rome played a pivotal role in the history of wine. The earliest influences of viticulture on the Italian peninsula can be traced to Ancient Greeks and Etruscans. The rise of the Roman Empire saw an increase… …   Wikipedia

  • Culture of ancient Rome — Julius Caesar, from the bust in the British Museum, in Cassell s History of England (1902). Ancient Roman culture existed throughout the almost 1200 year history of the …   Wikipedia

  • Religion in ancient Rome — Ancient Roman religion Marcus Aurelius (head covered) sacrificing at the Temple of Jupiter …   Wikipedia

  • Sanitation in ancient Rome — [ ancient Rome and expansion of its sanitation innovations] Sanitation in ancient Rome has been investigated by historians and archeologists for centuries. Rome had a complex sanitation system much like those in modern societies, but the system… …   Wikipedia

  • Music of ancient Rome — Less is known about Ancient Roman music than is known about the music of ancient Greece. There is a number of at least partially extant sources on the music of the Greeks. For example, much is known about the theories of Pythagoras and… …   Wikipedia

  • Marriage in ancient Rome — Roman couple joining hands; the bride s belt may show the knot symbolizing that the husband was belted and bound to her, which he was to untie in their bed (4th century sarcophagus)[1] Marriage in ancient Rome had mythical precedents, starting… …   Wikipedia

  • Outline of ancient Rome — Julius Caesar The following outline is provided as an overview of and topical guide to ancient Rome: Ancient Rome – former civilization that thrived on the Italian Peninsula as early as the 8th century BC. Located along the Mediterranean Sea and… …   Wikipedia


Share the article and excerpts

Direct link
Do a right-click on the link above
and select “Copy Link”

We are using cookies for the best presentation of our site. Continuing to use this site, you agree with this.