This course, reading plays in English translation, will explore the theatrical comedy of ancient Greece and Rome. From the ancient Greek world we will read a selection of Old Comedy plays by Aristophanes and the New Comedy of Menander. From the Roman world we will read selected plays by Plautus and Terence. We will examine the nature of comedy in the theatre in ancient Greece and Rome, exploring each play that we read from a number of perspectives. We will look at issues of dramatic and literary style (what is unique to each author’s style of writing and sense of the theatrical); stagecraft (actors, costumes, theatrical resources); and social context (how are the plays responding to the political and social context for which they were written and what differences do we see between plays written for 5th and 4th-century BC Athens, or between 4th-century BC Athens and 2nd-century BC Rome). We will also briefly examine the influence and reception of ancient comedy on the western theatre tradition, from the 10-century plays of Hrosvitha to the Elizabethan theatre to Broadway musicals to modern sitcoms and romantic comedies.
Prerequisites: CLST 105, or permission of the instructor.