Low Literary Laughter and Latin Comedy in Fragments

FREE PUBLIC LECTURE

The Forum Theatre 153, Level 1 Arts West (Building 148)

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Literary Roman drama was much more than the well-known and imaginative comedies of Plautus and Terence, which were based on Greek original comedies and which influenced the themes and the repertory of later playwrights such as Shakespeare and Molière.

In this talk, Professor Panayotakis will focus on the literary versions of the little-known but equally celebrated forms of popular theatrical Latin drama referred to as mime and Atellane comedy, which have come down to us only in fragments. A brief study of their irreverent stage-topics, their social and political satire, their uncouth neologisms and their adult and often obscene verbal and visual humour may explain their low place in the canon of Latin literature and their marginalised status as cultural products. Nonetheless, Professor Panayotakis will argue that their low literary reputation was inaccurate and that it formed part of a conscious attempt to maintain the established literary standards and to minimise the power that these plays had in shaping public opinion about contemporary public figures and sensitive social topics.

Image: Left: three actors from mime (Roman, first century AD); Right: two actors from comedy (Etruscan, second century BC); London, British Museum.

Presenter

Professor Costas Panayotakis, Professor of Latin