Influence of Roman Drama on Our Present Day Lives

June 13, 2011

    Roman drama began in 240 B.C.E.  with the plays of Livius Andronicus.  In the comic theater of the Romans, as in Roman culture in general, everyday life took precedence over fantasy, and the real, if imperfect world was the natural setting for down to earth human beings (Feiro p. 73).  In this post, I will give some history of Roman drama and explain how it may have influenced our present day lives. 

    Romans borrowed extensively from Greek theatre.  The reason we have theatre today is soley due to Greek Drama.  Tragedy was at its height in Greek society.  The three major tragedians were Aeschylus (525-456 BC), Sophocles (496-406 BC), and Euripides (480-406 BC).  “Comedy, an outlet for the frustrations of society as well as a diversion for the masses, was popular during the decline of Greek government” (http/  Which brings us to Roman drama.   No early Roman tragedies were said to survive.  Roman comedies, however, did.  Comedies from Plautus (250-184 B.C.E.) and Terence (185-159 B.C.E.) were what the Romans perferred.  These comic writers used simple plots and broad obscene humor filled with stock characters.  Such characters included prostitutes,  shrewish wives, and clever slaves.  There were two types of Roman dramas: Fabula Palliata, which were translations of greek plays into latin, and Fabula Togata, which were of native origin.  Fabula Togata were based on more broadly faracial situations and humor of a physical nature.  This type of work is an example of Plautus’ work. 

   The word “play” derives from a literal translation of the latin word ludus, which means recreation or play.  The Romans displayed more originality in the comic more than in the tragic department.  Comedies were said to “withdraw the mind from the cares and concerns of life” (Schlegel 1904).  They contained broad slapstick action and humor of a physical nature,  much like todays tv situational comedies.  Romans liked there shows grandiose. 

    We have inherited much from the influence of the Roman theatre.  Our comedies of today still display the same plots and humor as the Romans did in ancient times.  Our situational comedies on tv are a great example of how we still use the same format of entertainment today.  Especially in the hard times that we American’s are facing today, we look to forms of entertainment that will take our minds of the hardships and stresses of our everyday lives.  We can loose ourselves in a comedy, laugh, and experience joy, even if its only for a half an hour during your favorite television show.  Movies that we talk about around the water cooler in the office are the ones that make us happy and make us laugh.  The most perfect example of an actor that I can think of that reflects the type of acting in ancient Roman times is Jim Carey.  His slaptick humor and physical comedy mirror what the Roman’s were accomplishing milleniums ago.  He transforms his body, loosing himself in his characters, all just to make us laugh. 

    In conclusion, although much of the drama and theater we have today derived from the Greeks, its comedy that we learned from the Romans.  From TV to Movies and everything in between, we can loose ourselves in the comedy and laughter, to get away, and forget about the hardships of our everyday lives.  Thanks to the Romans, we have comedy.


2 Responses to “Influence of Roman Drama on Our Present Day Lives”

  1. nparenti78 said

    Damen, M. (2009). Classical Drama and Theatre [Roman Drama]. Retrieved from Damen website:‌markdamen/‌clasdram
    Fiero, G. K. (2009). Landmarks in Humanities (B. Chen, Ed., 2nd ed., p. 73). New York, NY: McGraw-Hill. (Original work published 2006)
    Schlegel, A. W. (1904). Lectures on Dramatic Art and Literature (pp. 200-12). London: George Bell & Sons.
    Tupelo Community Theater Playbill [History of Ancient Theater]. (n.d.). Retrieved from‌lobby.htm
    Wikipedia the Free Encyclopedia [Theatre of Ancient Rome]. (n.d.). Retrieved June 3, 2011, from

  2. Marcel Van Capellen said

    This was a great article my friend, you really brough out all elements of roman drama, so keep up the good work. 🙂

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