Roman Theatres

Length: 509 words

The Romans had theatres like the Greeks. However, different from the Greek theatres (in which only solemn religious played were performed), theatrical performances in Roman theatres became more secular. Theatrical performances were different from other kinds of Roman entertainment, like gladiatorial fights and chariot racing, they had nothing to do with cruelty or bloodshed. Roman people could simply go into the theatre to relax and laugh. So therefore, theatres were very popular among the Roman people.

However, in the 21st century, a modern audience might not enjoy the performance as much as the ancient Romans did. The conditions in a Roman theatre were poor, compared to modern-day theatres, cinemas, or concert halls. The theatre was a large, open-air building: it was open to weather. Under unfavourable weather conditions, the audience had to sit on uncomfortable stone seats for long hours under hot suns, or heavy rains. However, modern theatres are not open to air, and are air-conditioned.

Audience may enjoy the performances very comfortably at any time. It is difficult for modern people to enjoy shows in a Roman theatre, when they can choose to go to a modern theatre. In a Roman theatre, seats were arranged according to the social status of the audience: the best seats, right in front of the stage, were reserved for senators and visiting dignitaries; the fourteen front rows were for the Equites; women and men were seated separately.

Also, in the back seats the people were crushed, but in the seats reserved for officials and aristocrats met as if at a party. This hierarchical seating arrangement is very unappealing in the modern society, where social equality is promoted. In contrast, everyone has the right to reserve the best seats in a modern theatre. However, on the other hand, people may argue that despite its conditions and seating arrangements, the high quality of the plays themselves engages the attention of the audience.

The Roman Plays were nothing inferior to modern performances – the theatre was designed particularly to produce excellent acoustics; the settings of the stage and the stage building were large-scale (effects like thundering and lightning could be produced); actors wore distinctive masks and costumes to make the performances more engaging. Roman comedy was the most notable among the others (tragedy, saturae etc. ), its plots which usually reversed the natural order of things, such as mistaken identities of twins, were so funny that it caused the audience to laugh.

So therefore, the inviting and high-quality performances would make the audience forget about the poor conditions, and enjoy themselves throughout the show. In my opinion, the word “poor” is too harsh to describe the Roman theatre. I do agree that the conditions were not satisfying, however, the standard of the performances deserves much more than the comment “poor”. Moreover, I do not agree that all audience would “find nothing to enjoy”, most play admirers concern more about the play itself rather than how comfortably they sit. It is definite that many modern people (maybe not all) will enjoy themselves in a Roman theatre.

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