Assigned readings during the NEH Institute

Copies of all these readings will be made available to the NEH Summer Scholars at no cost.


Beacham, Richard C.  1992.  The Roman Theatre and its Audience.  Cambridge, MA. 169-85.  Beach­am summarizes the construction and decoration of stages and sets (from painted backdrops to curtains to elevated sections),  technology for special effects, and costumes.

Goldberg, Sander M.  1998.  “Plautus on the Palatine.”  Journal of Roman Studies 88: 1-20. In this landmark study Goldberg for the first time used archaeological evidence to pinpoint the loca­tion of some performances of Roman comedy.  In doing so he established a ballpark figure (about 1600) for the number of audience members, modifying significantly what many have thought about the nature of Roman theatrical performances.

Hughes, Alan.  1996.  “Comic Stages in Magna Graecia: The Evidence of the Vases.”  Theatre Re­search International 21: 95-107.  One of the most important analogies for earlier Ro­man stages, for which no visual evidence survives, is a corpus of vases from Southern Italy with images of stages.  Hughes ex­amines the stages on these vases.

Masks, Costumes, Props

Williams, Richard.  2004.  “Digital Resources for Practice-based Research: The New Comedy Masks Project.”  Literary and Linguistic Computing 19: 415-25.  Williams discusses a project in which, using 3D scanning, he has enlarged miniature terracotta masks from the ancient Mediter­rane­an to life-size, allowing actors to perform in them.

Actors, Acting Style

Csapo, Eric G.  1993.  “A Case Study in the Use of Theatre Iconography as Evidence for Ancient Acting.” Antike Kunst 36: 41-58. Examines what visual imagery of “running slave” scenes can tell us about how actors in antiquity may have performed those scenes.

Marshall, C. W. 1999.  “Quis Hic Loquitur? Plautine Delivery and the ‘Double Aside.’” Syllecta Classica 10: 105-29. Proposes that actors using masks used finely choreo­graphed movement as they turned their heads, addressing first other characters, then the audience.


Dutsch, Dorota.  2007.  “Gestures in the Manuscripts of Terence and Late Revivals of Literary Drama.” Gesture 7: 39-71.  Examines a crucial source for ancient gesture, illustrated ma­nu­scripts of Terence’s plays from the Middle Ages, and considers how the schematiz­ed system shown in those illustrations may reflect actual practice on the Roman stage.

The Ancient Audience

Bernstein, Frank.  2007.  “Complex Rituals: Games and Processions in Republican Rome.” 222-34 in J. Rüpke, ed.  A Companion to Roman Religion.  Oxford.  Catalogues reli­gious festivals at which many if not all theatrical performances occurred in Rome dur­ing Plautus’ and Terence’s lifetimes.

Fontaine, Michael.  2009.  Funny Words in Plautine Comedy.  New York. Chapter 4: “Innuendo and Audience.”  Proposes, from the sophistication of Plautus’ jokes, that his audience was not, as many have believed, made up of all classes of Roman society, but that the plays were aimed at an elite audience who knew Greek well and were connoisseurs of theater.

Richlin, Amy. 2005. Rome and the Mysterious Orient: Three Plays by Plautus. Berkeley. Pp. 21-30.  Argues for a broad audience for Roman comedy, who would see the slaves and low­er-class characters, who provide much of the humor to the plays, as relevant to themselves.

Music and Dance

Moore, Timothy J.  2012.  Music in Roman Comedy (Cambridge University Press), introduction, chapters 1-4.  Moore offers a thorough review of the nature and role of mu­sic in the original performances. Chapter 1 discusses the tibia, a woodwind instrument that accompanied large portions of all Roman comedies. Chapter 2 discusses the nature of singing on the Roman stage. Chapter 3 proposes that dance was much more import­ant in Roman comedy than most scholars have believed and evaluates what dance con­tributed. Chapter 4 examines evidence for the me­lodies, how instru­mentalists and singers worked to­gether, and what the meters in our texts tell us about the rhythm of their music.

Men, Women, Rape, and Sex

Dutsch, Dorota. Forthcoming. “Women’s Studies and Gender Studies in Roman Comedy.” Cambridge Companion to Roman Comedy. Reviews the construction of female characters, using theory to investigate the intersection of motherhood and prostitution.

James, Sharon L.  Forthcoming.  “Gender and Sexuality in Terence.”  Blackwell Companion to Terence.  Surveys gender and sexuality, both male and female, in Terence, ar­gu­ing that female sexuality is generally repressed and that the construction of citizen mas­cu­linity as dominant over women and slaves governs family life in Terence’s drama.

Gold, Barbara.  1998. “‘Vested Interests’ in PlautusCasina: CrossDressing in Roman Comedy.” Helios 25: 17-29.  Gold discusses what it means that in Roman comedy, male actors play male characters dressed up as women. Such cross-dressing would affect how audience members would respond to the gender issues raised in such scenes.


Richlin, Amy.  2005. Rome and the Mysterious Orient: Three Plays by Plautus.  Berkeley. Pp. 30-53.  Here Richlin observes how much of the humor in Plautus comes from jokey words and names, and discusses how to translate such effects for modern audiences.

———-. 1992. The Garden of Priapus: Sexuality and Aggression in Roman Humor. Oxford. Pp. 59-63, 70-80. Richlin reviews how various theoretical perspectives, especially those of Freud, help to explain the pervasive aggression of Roman comic discourse.

Slavery and Ethnicity

Richlin, Amy.  2005. Rome and the Mysterious Orient, pp. 1-21. In these pages Richlin discusses the historical background to Plautus’ plays, including the many wars that led to a great increase in the number of slaves in Italy.

———-.  2005. Rome and the Mysterious Orient, pp. 109-82 (Persa). Richlin’s translation of Plautus’ Persa, which she calls Iran Man, is set in contemporary Los Angeles.  The transposition of setting encourages much thought about how our own stereo-types about class and ethnicity compare to those of the Romans.

Le Guin, Ursula K.  1994.  “The Rock that Changed Things.”  In A Fisherman of the Inland Sea. New York.  Pp. 61-74.  Science-fiction writer Ursula K. Le Guin shows how an en­slaved people, whose task it is to make art for their owners, has filled that art with meanings for themselves—meanings invisible to their owners, who see only the mean­ings they designed them­selv­es.  This parable suggests how the Roman slaves who acted in Plautus’ come­dies might have participated, along with like-minded audience mem­bers, in creating a second set of meanings for plays ostensibly about slave-owners

Scott, James C.  Domination and the Arts of Resistance.  New Haven. Pp. 183-201. Scott sets out the levels of outspoken­ness available to groups ordinarily not entitled to public speech, showing how and when they have historically “tested the limits.”

Optional reading: Amy Richlin, “Talking to Slaves in the Plautine Audience,” forthcoming, Classical Antiquity (a time-line accompanying this reading will be distributed before the session).


Slater, Niall W.  Plautus in Performance, ch. 6, “The Double-Dealer” (pp. 94-117); ch. 8, “Convention and Reaction,” only pp. 160-167.  In these sections of his book on Plautine metatheatre, Slater examines how Plautus makes his play Pseudolus look like an improvisatory perform­ance that responds to the will of the audience, and how much of the fun of Plautus’ plays comes from their ironic responses to stage conventions.

Moore, Timothy J.  The Theater of Plautus, ch. 5, “Audience and Occasion” (pp. 92-107).  Moore looks further at metatheatre in Plautus’ Pseudolus and suggests that the play’s selfcons­ciousness is a response to the demands of the play’s sponsors for a play of unri­v­al­led effectiveness.

Practical and Theoretical Issues in Modern Performance

Miller, Jonathan.  1986.  Subsequent Performances.  New York.  Chapter 1, “The Afterlife.”  19-72.  Miller draws on art, music, theater, and speech theory, to consider how artistic mean­ing, especially for drama, inevitably changes over time.


Dutton, Denis.  2003.  “Authenticity in Art.”  258-74 in J. Levinson, ed. The Oxford Handbook of Aesthetics.  New York.  Dutton argues for the concept of “emergent meaning” in complex works of art, a concept that allows interpreters and performers to explore inherent or implicit meanings in these works.

Edith Hall and Stephe Harrop, eds., Theorising Performance: Greek Drama, Cultural History and Critical Practice (Duckworth, 2010) 153-170.

Reports on performances

Groton, Anne.  1995.  “Rhyme, Women, and Song.”  Groton describes how she adapts Plautus’ lyrics and writes her own melodies to create songs for her productions of Roman comedy.

John H. Starks, et al. 1997.  Latin Laughs: A Production of Plautus’ Poenulus. Wauconda, IL. Latin Laughs is a videotape of a production in Latin of Plautus’ play, with a manual for teachers that discusses choices to be made in such a production.