The Theatre of Rome

April 2021

Roman Places Of Seeing

Episode 47

To conclude the season on the theatre of Rome this episode imagines a resident of the city in 54BCE, recounting in a letter to a sick friend, a day spent travelling to the theatre of Pompey and the time spent there.

Roman Conclusions Part 2

Episode 46:

The second and concluding part of a summary of Roman Theatre presented as my personal top ten of the most influential, interesting and surprising aspects of Roman Theatre.

This episode goes from number 5 to number 1.

No spoilers as to the content of the episode here. You’ll have

to listen to hear the countdown.

And then the story of the final demise of theatre in the Roman Empire

March 2021

Roman Conclusions Part 1

Episode 45

The first part of a summary of Roman Theatre presented as my personal top ten of the most influential, interesting and surprising aspects of Roman Theatre.

This episode goes from number 10 to number 6. The top 5 will follow next time.

No spoilers as to the content of the episode here. You’ll have to listen to hear the countdown.

Roman Pantomime: The Silent Art

Episode 44:

A detailed look at the Roman art of Pantomime which was the preeminent form of dramatic art during the Imperial period.

Dr Elodie Palliard’s thoughts on why Pantomime dominated and how it was used by the Emperors.

The origins of Pantomime

The performers Pylades, Bathyllus and their relationship with Emperor Augustus

Pantomime as a non-verbal performance style

Description of Pantomime and the regiment for it’s supremacy over other forms by Lucian

The banishment of performers and their reinstatement by Caligula

Caligula and pantomime

The morality of pantomime

2nd century description of pantomime by Apuleius.

Dr Paillard is Honorary Associate in the Department of Classics and Ancient History at […]

Roman Mime: It’s not what you think.

Episode 43:

The history of Roman Mime, one for the two dramatic forms that dominated theatre in the Roman Imperial period.

A word on Horace and his work The Art Of Poetry, one of the most influential works of dramatic theory. His rules for the stage and where he did and didn’t agree with Aristotle

The differences between Mime and other dramatic forms

The origins of mime in Greece ad the Greek colonies in Italy

Mime in Rome and at the Ludi festivals

The limits of textual evidence for mime

Some descriptions of mime plays and titles

Moral issues with mime because of the content relating to adultery

Mime of […]

Seneca’s Phaedra: Mother Lust

Episode 42:

This episode takes a detailed look at Phaedra, Seneca’s version of the Hippolytus myth.

The two versions by Euripides and how Seneca used these

A summary of the play

The differences in Seneca’s version from Euripides –

The position of Phaedra as innocent or responsible

Greek shame Vs Roman guilt and repentance

Phaedra and the Roman bas step-mother trope

The play in relation to Stoic philosophy

The motif of the hunt, the hunter and the hunted

Presentations of the play in the medieval period

Seneca’s Medea: Beware Pure Evil

Episode 41

In this episode I take a detailed look at Seneca’s version of Medea. The story of a woman who is a foreigner and a witch suited his form of dark tragedy perfectly.

A summary of the narrative of the play

The impact of the language used and how it becomes overblown.

An analysis of the final scene and why Seneca might have chosen to make this the only moment of visual drama in the play.

Questions about how and if the play was staged and the use of stage machinery

Medea as a witch and how that plays into Roman tropes

The character of Jason […]

February 2021

Seneca: Bloody Tragedy

Episode 40

The life and tines of Seneca – Philosopher, Playwright, Poet and Statesman who operated in the time of emperor Nero.

The origins of Roman Tragic drama and the little we know about it’s exponents.

The life of Seneca from his birth in Spain and education in Rome.

Seneca’s rise to political office. The accession Claudius and the rise of his wife Agrippina and her son Nero.

Court intrigues and an eight year exile in Corsica.

Rehabilitation and tutor to Nero.

Life under Nero and Seneca’s fall from favour and death.

An overview of his nine plays

The Brothers: How to Get The Best From Your Children

Episode 39

The Brothers, dated to 160 BCE, is Terence’s last surviving work.  We have that date exactly because the play is recorded as being presented at the games held to honour the Roman general Lucius Aemillus Paullus.  

The first presentation of the play and who was Lucius Aemillus Paullus?

The prologue to the play and Terence’s defence of his use of Greek plays to create a new piece.

A synopsys of the play

The Brothers as a play of ideas and a discussion of it’s main themes about the best way to raise sons.

The external influences in an expanding Roman Republic and how they influence […]

The Self Tormenter: Fathers and Sons and Lovers

Episode 38

A look at ‘The Self Tormenter’ by Terrence. Written in 162 or 163 BCE this is the story of disagreements between fathers and sons over the choice of women and how a clever slave almost wins the day.

A synopsis of the pay with some comments about the Prologue, the action of the play and the general style.

The way Terence changes the standard stock characters and makes them more rounded characters than anything we have seen before, including how the portrayal of the clever slave and the courtesan are more subtle than in previous plays.

Some of the issues with the […]

Terence: The Bloom of Youth

Episode 37

Terence had a short life and left only six complete comic plays, but he moved the genre on from Plautus and other earlier dramatists.

The story of his beginnings as a slave and how he came to Rome

The circles he moved in and how he got support from the Practician class and Caecilius Statius the best known comic dramatist of the day.

A short word on the history of Caecilius Statius and Ambitious Turpio, producer and actor.

Contemporary criticisms of Terence and his use of Greek comedies

A brief review of the six surviving plays.

The untimely death of Terence and his legacy

January 2021

Plautus and Shakespeare: Two Brothers?

Episode 36

The influence of Plautus and other Roman playwrights has long been understood, but what are those influences and how did the Roman plays come to the attention of Rennaisance playwrights?

How manuscripts survived after antiquity and were rediscovered in the early Renaissance.

The growth of secular drama in Italy and the role of Duke Ercole d’Este in Ferrara

Terence Vs Plautus as the Roman plays became known and appreciated in northern Europe.

How early English plays used the Roman models and how the growing education system in Elizabethan England used Latin plays.

The influence of Plautus on Shakespeare and similarities in settings, characters and […]

The Menaechmus Brothers: Hand in hand, not one before the other

Episode 35

The Menaechmus Brothers is taken from a Greek new comedy original and via this version by Plautus was used by later dramatists, most notably Shakespeare.

In the first half of this episode I summaries the plot that features identical twins and gets quite complicated and confusing for all concerned.

I then discuss the weaknesses in the play and it’s more cynical outlook than seen in other plays by Plautus.

A look at he naming of stock characters and some thoughts on the problematic female characters is followed by a look at the influence of the Saturnalia festival on the play.

The theme of […]

Casina: The Unseen Bride

Episode 34

In this eisode we take a detailed look at Casina by Plautus. It’s a tale of two men who try to use their slaves in a plot marry the young Casina by proxy.

It has a prologue of particular interest. The usual stock characters are there, but for once the women come out strongly as they take control of the situation and thwart the plans in comic style.

The play prompts a look at the role of the head of the household, the ‘pater families’ in Rome and as some suggestions that there is some social commentary on recent events concerning […]

Plautus: Comedy Tonight

Episode 33

The life and time of Plautus, the first Roman Playwright from whom we have surviving works. After a hard start he became the most popular of the Roman playwrights churning out comedy after comedy.

This episode looks at his life story and playwriting career.

Then there is a brief summary of his six most significant plays and a discussion of the role of the courtesan character in the plays, including how this reflects the reality of life for women and prostitutes in Roman society.

A note on the lack of political commentary in the plays leads on to a look at how […]

December 2020

Trackers of Oxyrhynchus with Jimmy Walters

Episode 32

An interview with theatre director Jimmy Walters about his 20217 production of Trackers of Oxyrhynchus by Tony Harrison. This version of the Satyr play ‘Trackers’ by Sophocles was originally performed by the National Theatre in 1988. Jimmy’s revival in 2017 was at the Finborough Theatre in west London.

In conversation we discussed the approach to the play and the way the adaptation by Tony Harrison put current social concerns at the heart of the play, which still remained true to many aspects of the original Greek play.

Jimmy Walters’ credits include productions of John Osborne’s A Subject […]

The Stage and the City with Dr Elodie Paillard

Episode 31

An interview with Dr Elodie Paillard discussing her work on the non-elite characters in the plays of Sophocles and what they tell us about changes in athenian society in the 5th Century BCE.

Dr Paillard is Honorary Associate in the Department of Classics and Ancient History at the University of Sydney and lecturer and scientific collaborator in the Department of Ancient Civilizations at the University of Basel. She is currently leading a research project on Greek theatre in Roman Italy, funded by the Swiss National Science Foundation. She is the author of ‘The Stage and the City. Non-élite Characters in the […]

The Development of Roman Theatre with Dr Elodie Paillard

Episode 30

An interview with Dr Elodie Paillard discussing the development of Roman theatre and the extent to which it developed out of Greek theatre.

Dr Paillard is Honorary Associate in the Department of Classics and Ancient History at the University of Sydney and lecturer and scientific collaborator in the Department of Ancient Civilizations at the University of Basel. She is currently leading a research project on Greek theatre in Roman Italy, funded by the Swiss National Science Foundation. She is the author of ‘The Stage and the City. Non-élite Characters in the Tragedies of Sophocles’ (Paris 2017).

She is currently co-editing two […]

November 2020

Stages, Scenery, Props and Politics

Episode 29

A look at the detail of the staging of Roman plays, including the use of the stage, scenery, masks, props and costume.

How wall paintings and sculpture may give us some useful insights into Roman theatre.

The position of actors in Roman society and how the acting troupe may have been organised.

Cicero’s commentary on theatre and it’s audience and some detail on his friendship with the two greatest actors of the day and how they helped him get out of a political scrape.

Later Rome: Theatre Finds a Home

Episode 28

Theatre gets its first permanent home in Rome as Pompey builds a theatre to his own glory. The story of how he was able to do that is one of wealth, pride deception and not a little ego.

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Early Rome: Theatre Gets Mobile

Episode 27

Theatre buildings in Rome developed over the long period of time from the Etruscan Period and through the republican period, but throughout they were temporary structures albeit on an ever grander scale. In this episode we trace the development and look at the political and social forces in Rome that kept theatre mobile and temporary.

From Greek to Roman – Part 2

Episode 26

In the second part of the introduction to the theatre of Rome the Greek influence becomes more obvious and we start to get some details about the playwrights of the time. Taking this overview through to the beginning of the period of Empire the scene is now set for the entrance of the three playwrights of the period who’s work is known to us.

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From Greek to Roman – Part 1

Episode 25

Season 2 of the podcast begins with an overview of the transition from Greek Theatre to Roman Theatre with the history of the early Roman Republic and the early forms of theatre, starting at 364 BCE and taking us through to the beginning of the end of the Republic in the second century BCE

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