Greek vs. Roman Theatre

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Historic playwrights such as Sophocles, Euripides, Aeschylus, and Seneca were described as prolific philosophers and geniuses of their times. These men actively participated in the politics surrounding them, and were respected and revered in their society. Each had their own individual style and portrayed their personalities through each of their noted works. Nevertheless, as with a majority of playwrights throughout history, most fodder for their plays have been adaptations of previous plays written by their predecessors or based off mythological events. Unfortunately, this had lead to many speculative accusations and criticisms, as is the case with Senecan tragedies versus their Greek counterparts. Senecan and Greek interpretations of the plays Oedipus, Agamemnon, and Medea bear similar themes, being the inescapability of fate and dikê, and the lack of clarity between right and wrong. Nevertheless, they differ culturally, politically, and philosophically due to the differences in society as well as the eras in which the writing of these plays took place.

Culturally, Greek and Roman theatre vary in a multitude of ways. Firstly, a major difference is the role of actor within their cultures. The introduction of the actor sparked the creation of tragedy, because of the ability to have back-and-forth discussions. Within Greek culture, to be an actor was a most honourable position as they were considered as icons because “the good actor, who rises to the challenge of providing a good and consistent performance, can be a model for how to live” (Easterling 382). In contrast, within Roman culture, the actors’ conditions were mean and contemptible (Theatrehistory).

A secondary difference is the amount of actors used by Seneca and his Greek counterparts. Seneca stressed the importance of consistency of character stating, “It is a great thing to play the role of one man” (Easterling 382), suggesting that he seems to disapprove of those who play multiple parts. This...
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