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Advanced Theatre Unit 4 – Roman Theatre.

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Presentation on theme: "Advanced Theatre Unit 4 – Roman Theatre."— Presentation transcript:

1 Advanced Theatre Unit 4 – Roman Theatre

2 Background to the Theatre
Roman History Background to the Theatre

3 Rome – in 753 B. C. was a town dominated by Etruria, North of Rome
Rome – in 753 B.C. was a town dominated by Etruria, North of Rome. In 509 B.C., the Etruscan (from Etruria) ruler was expelled, and Rome became a republic (just as Athens became a democracy). In the 4th Century B.C., Rome expanded, and by 265 B.C. controlled the Italian peninsula, then Sicily, then several Greek territories. By 240 B.C., Greek Theatre was familiar to Romans, translated into Latin, and brought to Rome. The beginnings of Roman theatre recorded: the first record of drama at the Ludi Romani (Roman Festival or Roman Games). Rome became an empire after Julius Caesar, 27 B.C. Republic – from B.C. Empire – from 27 B.C.-476 A.D. By 345 A.D., there were 175 festivals a year, 101 devoted to theatre. In 55 B.C., the first stone theatre was built in Rome (by Julius Caesar)


5 Roman Theatre Borrowed Greek ideas and improved (?) on them
less philosophical Encompassed more than drama : acrobatics, gladiators, jugglers, athletics, chariots races, naumachia (sea battles), boxing, venationes (animal fights) Entertainment tended to be grandiose, sentimental, diversionary Actors / performers were called "histriones"

6 3 major influences: Greek Drama
Etruscan influences – emphasized circus-like elements 3. Fabula Atellana – Atellan farces (Atella was near Naples). Short improvised farces, with stock characters, similar costumes and masks – based on domestic life or mythology – burlesqued, parodied – during the 1st century B.C., then declined May have influenced commedia dell ‘Arte Stock characters: Bucco: braggart, boisterous Pappas: foolish old man Dossenus: swindler, drunk, hunchback Drama flourished under the republic but declined into variety entertainment under the empire

7 Roman festivals with theatre:
Held in honor of the gods, but much less religious than in Greece. Ludi Romani – 6th century B.C. Became theatrical in 364 B.C. Held in September (the autumn)and honored Jupiter. By 240 B.C., both comedy and tragedy were performed. Five others: Ludi Florales (April), Plebeii (November), Apollinares (July), Megalenses (April), Cereales (no particular season). Under the empire, these festivals afforded "bread and circuses" to the masses – many performances. Performances at festivals probably paid for by the state a wealthy citizen, had free admission, were lengthy—including a series of plays or events, and probably had prizes awarded to those who put extra money in. Acting troupes (perhaps several a day) put on theatre events.

8 Forms of Roman Theatre:

9 Roman dramas – there are only about 200 years that are important:
2 important playwrights: Livius Andronicus – 240 – 204 B.C. – wrote, translated, or adapted comedies and tragedies, the first important works in Latin. Little is known, but he seems to have been best at tragedy. Gnaeus Naevius – B.C. excelled at comedy, but wrote both Both helped to "Romanize" the drama by introducing Roman allusions into the Greek originals and using Roman stories. Pantomime: solo dance, with music (lutes, pipes, cymbals) and a chorus. Used masks, story-telling, mythology or historical stories, usually serious but sometimes comic Mime: overtook after 2nd century A.D. Fabula raciniata. Spoken Usually short Sometimes elaborate casts and spectacle Serious or comic (satiric) No masks Had women Violence and sex depicted literally (Heliogabalus, ruled A.D., ordered realistic sex) Scoffed at Christianity Needless to say, the Church did not look kindly at Mime.

10 Roman comedies Comedy was most popular: Only two playwrights' material survives Titus Maccius Plautus (c B.C.) 21 extant plays, total. Very popular. Pot of Gold, The Menaechmi, Braggart Warrior -- probably between B.C. All based on Greek New Comedies, probably, none of which has survived Added Roman allusions, Latin dialog, varied poetic meters, witty jokes Some techniques: stychomythia – dialog with short lines, like a tennis match Slapstick Songs Publius Terenius Afer [Terence] (195 or B.C.) Born in Carthage, came to Rome as a boy slave, educated and freed Six plays, all of which survive The Brothers, Mother-in-Law, etc. More complex plots – combined stories from Greek originals. Character and double-plots were his forte – contrasts in human behavior Less boisterous than Plautus, less episodic, more elegant language. Used Greek characters. Less popular than Plautus.

11 Characteristics of Roman Comedy:
Chorus was abandoned No act or scene divisions Songs (Plautus – average of three songs, 2/3 of the lines with music; Terence – no songs, but music with half of the dialog) Everyday domestic affairs Action placed in the street

12 Roman tragedies None survive from the early period, and only one playwright from the later period: Lucius Annaeus Seneca (5 or 4 B.C. – 65 A.D.) Nine extant tragedies, five adapted from Euripides. His popularity declined, suicide in 65 A.D. Though considered to be inferior, Seneca had a strong effect on later dramatists. The Trojan Women, Media, Oedipus, Agamemnon, etc., all based on Greek originals Probably closet dramas—never presented, or even expected to be.

13 Characteristics of Roman Tragedy (Senecan)
five episodes / acts divided by choral odes elaborate speeches – forensic influence interest in morality – expressed in sententiae (short pithy generalizations about the human condition) violence and horror onstage, unlike Greek (Jocasta rips open her womb, for example) Characters dominated by a single passion – obsessive (such as revenge) – drives them to doom Technical devices: Soliloquies, asides, confidants interest in supernatural and human connections – was an interest in the Renaissance

14 Roman Dramatic Theory Horace – (65-8 B.C.) – a theoretician – Ars Poetica (The Art of Poetry) Little influence in his time (interest at the time was in theatre not drama), but much influence in the Renaissance Interpreted Aristotle’s Poetics, but less theoretical and more practice-oriented Mentions unities (of time, place, and action), genre separation, language use in tragedy and comedy

15 Roman Theatre Design – Buildings
First permanent Roman theatre built 54 A.D. (100 years after the last surviving comedy) So permanent structures, like Greece, came from periods after significant writing More than 100 permanent theatre structures by 550 A.D. General characteristics: Built on level ground with stadium-style seating (audience raised) Skene becomes scaena – joined with audience to form one architectural unit Paradoi become vomitorium into orchestra and audience Orchestra becomes half-circle Stage raised to five feet Stages were large – feet deep, feet long, could seat 10-15,000 people 3-5 doors in rear wall and at least one in the wings scaena frons – façade of the stage house – had columns, niches, porticoes, statues – painted stage was covered with a roof dressing rooms in side wings trap doors were common awning over the audience to protect them from the sun area in from of the scaena called the proskene (proscenium)


17 Other Structures

18 Circus Maximus Ampitheatres for chariot races – 600 B.C.2000 feet long, 650 feet wide, 60,000 spectators Track to race 12 chariots at a time also housed circus games, horse racing, prize fighting, wrestling, etc. For gladiatorial contests, wild animal fights, and occasionally naumachia (sea battles) First permanent one in 46 B.C. The Colosseum – 80 A.D. – three stories, then 4; 157 feet tall; 620 feet long; 513 feet wide; 50,000 people. Had space with elevators below to bring up animals, etc. Used periaktoi Perhaps curtains – back and foreground Spectacular effects: many performers (Cicero tell us: 600 mules, 3000 bowls) Mechanical lifts for animals Traps Some realistic, three-dimensional scenery

19 Roman Actors Referred to as histriones and mimes – later primarily histriones Mostly male – women were in mimes Rocius – famous, raised to nobility Mimes, however, were considered inferior; perhaps they were slaves. We know little about the size of troupes In the 1st century B.C., a "star" performer seems to have been emphasized 6th century A.D. – Theodora – a star actress – married Emperor Justinian of the Eastern Empire – but had to renounce her profession

20 Style of acting Mostly Greek traditions – masks, doubling of roles
Tragedy – slow, stately, declamatory delivery Comedy—more rapid and conversational movements likely enlarged Actors probably specialized in one type of drama, but did others Encores if favorite speeches given (no attempt at "realism") Mimes – no masks Greek or roman costumes Much music

21 Theatre at the End of the Empire
Fall of the Roman Empire 6th Century A.D. – Christianity rising Emperor Constantine ( A.D.) – made Christianity legal. Emperor Theodosius – made any other worship illegal By 400 A.D., many festivals abated, diminished – no gladiators by 404 A.D., and no ventiones (animal fights) by 523, but others continued Church opposition to Theatre: Association with pagan gods licentiousness ridicule of church by mimes (sacrament and baptism) Also, a decay of Roman empire from within and barbarians from without. 533 A.D. is the last record we have of a performance in the Roman Empire – mentioned in a letter.

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