We cannot verify your location
Browse Book and Journal Content on Project MUSE

Roman Tragedy

Theatre to Theatricality

By Mario Erasmo

Publication Year: 2004

Mario Erasmo draws on all the available evidence to trace the evolution of Roman tragedy from the earliest tragedians to the dramatist Seneca and to explore the role played by Roman culture in shaping the perception of theatricality on and off the stage.

Published by: University of Texas Press

Title Page, Copyright, Dedication

pdf iconDownload PDF (69.6 KB)

read more


pdf iconDownload PDF (63.2 KB)
pp. ix-xii

Any study of Roman tragedy must begin with Otto Ribbeck’s Römische Tragödie (1875), which remains an important study of the myths and Greek precedents of Latin plays. Equally important, and perhaps more . . .

read more

Introduction: Theatre to Theatricality

pdf iconDownload PDF (92.5 KB)
pp. 1-8

In the De finibus (1.2.4), Cicero claims that Roman dramatists copied their Greek originals “word for word.” If we read further in the same passage, however, Cicero states . . .

One: Creating Tragedy

read more

Livius Andronicus

pdf iconDownload PDF (77.0 KB)
pp. 9-14

So a character in Livius’ tragedy asks of the value of an early deed in relation to the present. Should something be admired solely because of its age, or rather because it possesses some other quality besides antiquity . . .

read more


pdf iconDownload PDF (74.1 KB)
pp. 14-18

The second tragedian at Rome, Gnaeus Naevius (c. 270– c. 199 B.C.E.), faced a dilemma: should he reject Livius’ innovations and present a tragedy on the Greek model, or adopt the format introduced by his . . .

read more


pdf iconDownload PDF (93.9 KB)
pp. 18-28

Ennius experienced an early and formative contact with Greek culture owing to his birthplace at Rudiae in southern Italy. According to Suetonius, the proximity of his birthplace to . . .

read more

The Audience

pdf iconDownload PDF (68.9 KB)
pp. 28-30

Interpretation of tragedy requires interpreters in the audience. The “audience” of the earliest tragic productions was, of course, not a monolithic group, but one that was composed of various diverse groups. . . .

Two: Theatricalizing Tragedy

pdf iconDownload PDF (68.5 KB)
pp. 31-33

read more


pdf iconDownload PDF (87.6 KB)
pp. 34-42

Pacuvius, the nephew of Ennius, was born at Brundisium in 220 B.C.E. and died in 130 b.c.e. Little is known about his career except that he was a dramatist of modest output in the circle of Laelius, and that . . .

read more


pdf iconDownload PDF (95.6 KB)
pp. 42-51

Lucius Accius (170 – c. 86 B.C.E.) was born at Pisaurum, the son of a freedman. Although his fame in antiquity was achieved as a writer of tragedies, the literary breadth of Accius resembles that of Ennius. Accius . . .

read more

Three: Dramatizing History

Ovid’s jesting interpretation of the reasons why women attend the theatre illustrates how the audience itself provided as much “theatre” as the stage did.1 But what if the barrier between actor and audience were . . .

read more

Theatricality of History

pdf iconDownload PDF (127.3 KB)
pp. 53-68

The fabula praetexta, or historical drama in Roman dress, was so termed after the praetexta, the purple-bordered toga worn by magistrates and senators.4 The term “historical drama” is misleading, . . .

read more

Staging History

pdf iconDownload PDF (124.7 KB)
pp. 68-80

The praetextae, as dramatic recreations of reality onstage, are informed by cultural events performed by historical and contemporary figures but presented in a dramatic, rather than a realistic, setting. Examining . . .

read more

Four: Creating Metatragedy

After killing her children, Medea (Seneca Medea 982–994) considers the effects of her anger and voices her one regret: that she did not turn Jason into a spectator, since her crime does not exist without him as . . .

read more

Pompey's Theatre Opening

pdf iconDownload PDF (90.1 KB)
pp. 83-91

When Pompey celebrated the gala opening of his theatre, which was the first permanent stone theatre at Rome, in 55 B.C.D., the lavish displays of the various ludi dazzled his audience with their . . .

read more

Staging Brutus

pdf iconDownload PDF (107.2 KB)
pp. 91-101

The contaminatio of a tragedy with allusions from the audience’s reality, whether or not these were physically incorporated into the drama onstage, finds frequent expression soon after Pompey’s theatre opening. . . .

read more

Thyestes on the Roman Stage

pdf iconDownload PDF (129.9 KB)
pp. 101-117

The myth relating the rivalry between Atreus and Thyestes was popular on the Roman stage and involves three main episodes in dramatic versions, two of which take place in Mycenae and the third in Epirus. . . .

read more

Nero: Imperator Scaenicus

pdf iconDownload PDF (84.5 KB)
pp. 117-121

Although Nero—dubbed imperator scaenicus by Pliny131—taxed the interpretive skills of his subjects more than had any of his Julio-Claudian precursors, his reign should be seen as the culmination and not . . .

read more

Five: Metatragedy

When the audience’s own theatricalized reality is incorporated into stage reality, the metatragedy of Seneca results: theatricality replaces theatre as characters become their own audience watching or commenting on . . .

Seneca's Actor-Audience

pdf iconDownload PDF (114.6 KB)
pp. 122-137

read more

From Tragedy to Metatragedy

pdf iconDownload PDF (75.1 KB)
pp. 137-139

By looking forward from Livius rather than back from Seneca, this study has traced, in general, the development of theatre to theatricality that transformed tragedy to metatragedy. The fragments from the plays . . .

APPENDIX: Tragedies Listed by Dramatist

pdf iconDownload PDF (107.2 KB)
pp. 141-152


pdf iconDownload PDF (261.1 KB)
pp. 153-192


pdf iconDownload PDF (118.3 KB)
pp. 193-205


pdf iconDownload PDF (72.9 KB)
pp. 207-211

E-ISBN-13: 9780292797543
E-ISBN-10: 0292797540
Print-ISBN-13: 9780292702424
Print-ISBN-10: 0292702426

Page Count: 223
Illustrations: none
Publication Year: 2004