Roman Theater


When and How: In the 2nd century. The Romans invaded the Greeks and adopted the forms of their plays. The Romans were influenced by the Greek theater though earlier when Greek slaves acted some things out.


Tragedies in Rome: Since they were all based on Greek gods and Greek heroes, the Romans didn’t like Tragedies.


Same gods: A lot of the Roman Gods are similar to the Greek ones, but they are not all the same.


Seneca: He’s this Roman Tragedy writer. His plays were never performed though., because of their dislike to tragedies and also because they had no theaters.


Comedies: Unlike tragedies, the Romans loved comedies.


Plautus: This famous Roman Comic play writer. He used to borrow his plots and characters from Menander of Greece. His work is kind of vulgar and slangy.


Terance: Another Roman comic play writer. His plays were more refined and subtle than Plautus.


Roman Theater: they stole the Amphitheater, but they didn’t get a theater until really late.


Plays: In carnivals, the plays were performed between jugglers, and people blowing fires from their mouth, etc. They never succeeded because they competed with so many things. They even competed with what goes on in the coliseums. Like chariot racing and gladiators fighting and so on.


Romans and Pantomimes: They liked both mimes and pantomimes. Mimes are where the woman did immoral things and it was indecent. The Pantomimes is where they did funny acts and there was music and all.


Christian Repression: The Christians took over the theater and banned everything. [The Dark ages, 5th to the 6th century. The war of the crusades between Muslims and Christians] Banned drama claiming it immoral


Didactic Plays:  the priests [clergymen] then decided that they could use drama to inform people about religion. [10th century] Didactic is not entertaining, however has an educative purpose. They used stories from the bible and apocrypha [a rumor or a lie]


Movable Types: like blocks with the letters on them written on by ink. They arrange them and the paper is placed on top to absorb the letters.


Vernacular: the language of the people/mass. Because only clergymen knew how to talk and read Latin the people didn’t really understand the plays. But the clergymen decided that it was better to act the plays using vernacular: the local peoples’ language.


Cycles: They were stories that told the beginning of something until the end; like a life cycle of someone for example.


Guilds:  groups that compete in the festivals with one profession. Eg, boat builders would make a play about Noah’s Arch.


Mansion: the place where the actors act on, it’s like a small stage. It has backdrops like a skene. They had wheels where it will move and show different scenes.


Four Types of plays performed by the guilds


Mysteries: Mysteries of the church.

Miracles: Miracles of the Virgin Mary and the Saints

Mortalities: Allegories [stories with 2 meanings]

Mummers: Christmas plays of death and resurrection [coming back to life]


Renaissance:  they did not encourage the study of classical, because of Pagan Gods. [The Greeks and Romans where in the Classical age]  It happened in Italy, in the 14th Century. There was a big change; big merchant families started getting interested in art and individual.


Chapter 21


The Ancient Greek and Roman Theaters


Roman Theater


2nd century: The Romans invaded the Greeks and adopted the forms of the Greek plays [Even before the conquest thought the Romans were influenced by the Greeks, because they bought slaves that performed some of the plays]




1-Tragedies: they weren’t successful in Rome because they had religious aspects that they didn’t relate too.


Seneca: Famous tragedy writer, though his plays weren’t performed at these times they were performed in the Renaissance.


2- Comedy: were VERY successful.


Plautus: his plays were modeled off Menander, borrowing plots and characters. It had songs and stock characters. His language was slangy sometimes vulgar.


Stock Character: fixed type of characters.


Some stock characters

1-    Young lovers

2-    Hen pecked fathers

3-    Greedy old misers

4-    Cowardly soldiers

5-    Tricky servants


Terence: He wrote comedies as well but his were well refined and widely admired.




1-    Performers competed with other kinds of performances like jugglers and acrobats and so on

2-    Men still played women roles because women were still not allowed too

3-    Mimes and Pantomimes took over being very popular


Mime: were short comic plays including song, dance, improvision and mimicking. Often crude and vulgar


Pantomime: popular diversions, enjoyed by sophisticated people. Had one actor while the chorus sand out the words, that told the story.


Suppression of Roman Theater


1-    Roman authorities thought the plays were immoral

2-    They had to compete with so many other performances, even what happened in the coliseum

3-    The rise of Christianity made church leaders ban the theater

Chapter 23 – The European Rediscovery of the Theater


Medieval Plays


In the 10 century, some clergy (priests) decided that it was a good idea to have people act out didactic plays. They performed plays from the Bible and Apocrypha. They used vernacular in the plays to educate the mass about relegion.




Didactic: Something with an educative value rather than an entertaining one.


Apocrypha: writing of the Old and New Testaments not appearing in the Jewish or the Protestant Bibles.


Bible: from the Bible the Guilds performed “Cycles.” These sometimes lasted for days.


Vernacular: the language of the people/mass. Because only clergymen knew how to talk and read Latin the people didn’t really understand the plays. But the clergymen decided that it was better to act the plays using vernacular: the local peoples’ language.


Cycle: Something that starts from the beginning and keeps moving until it reaches the end. And example is the life story of someone.  


Guilds: a group of people in the same trait or craft. Example, boat builders would play Noah’s story


Mansions: the stage in whish the guilds performed the plays. It had wheels where it could be turned around to reveal another location/setting


Pageant Wagon: The Guilds put their mansions on a wagon then the wagons of the whole cycles were pulled through town like a modern parade.




[They had 4 main common plays that stared with an M and Farce]


1- Mysteries: is about the mysteries of the church however there were a lot of controversies.


2- Miracles: the Miracles of the Virgin Mary and the Saints


3- Morality: allegorical stories [stories with hidden meanings or ones with 2 different meanings] in which the characters were symbolic.


4- Mummers: Christmas plays of resurrection or death.


Farce: An exaggerated form of comedy that mocked human folly and vice.


Renaissance Rediscoveries


During the 14th century, increased Italian trade and wealth brought a new look about life “They started caring about the individual rather than the general,” they did not encourage the study of classical, because of Pagan Gods. [The Greeks and Romans where in the Classical age] 


Movable Types: These were blocks with letters written on them with ink so when the papers are placed over them they would soak up and so more people got to read things.




Rebirth of Drama: Scholars started writing new plays based on Terence and Plautus. They decided to follow the writing rules set by Aristotle.


3 Rules of Writing


1-    Action: Must have only 1 plot

2-    Place: Must occur in 1 place

3-    Time: Happens in less than 1 day


Rules for Genres

1-Tragedy: it had to be based on noble characters

2-Comedy: it was based on middle and lower classes


Professional Theater in Europe: Actors were educated people; so writing was a talent to them not a source of one’s live hood. But because of the playwright the new Professional Theater in Europe was made.


Opera: Started out as a mistake. Since the Italians tried to imitate the tragedies they didn’t know that only a few parts of the play were sung. So they made opera, which is all sung.


Perspective Paintings: paintings with depth and they were used to be as a background/setting for the opera.


Proscenium: a frame that was built around the stage and seating that enabled all of the audience to look through that frame. It aided the illusion created by the perspective painting.


The Commedia dell’ Arte: Means a ‘comedy of professionals.’ They were professional now instead of Amateurs acting.


Commedia: it revived the stock characters but it gave them modern names and dressed them in modern clothes.


Stock Characters


1-Harlequino: foolish servant wore check board costumes and was an acrobat comic whose silliness got him trapped in outrageous situations


2- Pantalone: foolish, pompous, arrogant miserable old businessman that was named for his pants


3-Brighella: A crafty servant who loved to trick his masters.


4- Capitano: coward soldier


5- Columbine: comic female servant that was often pursued by Harlequino the male clever servant.


Boy meets girl plot: a young man that falls in love with a young woman and needs the help of the servants to hook them together. The servants encounter a lot of comic situations. the characters had basic Lazzies.


Lazzie: Basic gags/pranks/jokes/funny acts. The performer would play the same character for years developing different lazzies for it. He would stick to the ones that worked well most.


Performing: they had to travel because no town was loud enough. They played outdoors; they had no sceneries and wore masks. [Everyone but the young lovers because it exaggerated their nose and mouths.


Commedia eventually died out but not before introducing it all over Europe.



Chapter 24- The Rennaisance in England and Spain




The English Golden Age: performers touring around England performed in courtyards in Inns for guests and drunks. Performed in daytime on platforms and no scenery.


Elizabethan Theater: Permanent Theater building in England and it was made in the reign of queen Elizabeth [1533-1603 70 years] 


Theaters: because of the antagonism of the Puritan authorities they were built outside of the city limit. [Public Theaters] they had a square, round or octagonal shape.


The Globe: it was one of the most famous theaters in this time cause shakspeare acted plays in it, he was also a partial owner.




Blackfriars: Private Theater, smaller than the Globe, but it was built with the same structure and it is more expensive. The performances were inside and acted with candlelight.


Performances: no scenery and actors exited through the side doors on stage. They sold refreshments while the actors performed and they started from 2 pm till about 6


Plays: they were new styles not based on the old. They had plots and sub plots and ranged over a wide range of time. 


Types of Plays


1-    Revenge Tragedies

2-    Tragic Comedies

3-    Histories: English History Most

4-    Romances: Impossible places and people.


William Shakespear: Was an actor then became play writer and became partial owner of the Globe.


Some of His Plays


1- Tragedies- Hamlet

2- Comedies- Comedy of Error

3- Histories- Henry the 8th

4- Romance- Mid Summer Night’s Dream

5-Tragic Comedies- Romeo and Juliet


Christopher Marlowe: Famous writer in the Golden English Age. He invented Iambic Pentameter or the blank verse.


Iambic Pentameter: “Short long, short long” They style of the rhythm.


Blank Verse: A poetic verse with no rhyme.



That is all we took o.O …