Classics and Religious Studies


Date of this Version



Published in Bryn Mawr Classical Review 2003.09.36. Copyright © 2003 Anne Duncan.


This is an excellent collection of essays, and an important one for anyone interested in performance, theater history, literature, cultural studies, gender, and a host of other fields. Ancient actors, as real individuals who engaged professionally with literary texts, provide a point of interdisciplinary contact between literature and history, as well as novel avenues of approach into archaeology, epigraphy, rhetoric, philosophy, textual criticism, and other subfields of Classics. The twenty essays in this volume stretch from Classical Greece to the Byzantine era and beyond, and cover a wide range of evidence and methodologies. They are divided into three groups: The Art of the Actor (Part I), The Professional World (Part II), and The Idea of the Actor (Part III).

In their Preface, the editors refer to the explosion of performance studies in the past twenty-five years as providing the impetus for this collection. This is a forward-looking collection, and so it is taken for granted that Greek drama after the fifth century is a worthy object of study, that interdisciplinary approaches have much to tell us about ancient performance, and that performed drama did not end with Terence, or (possibly) Seneca -- in other words, that we have moved beyond most of the old orthodoxies and prejudices. Several main questions are raised here which many of the essays attempt to answer: what did ancient acting look like, and sound like? What qualities did audiences (and critics) particularly value in ancient acting? How did acting styles differ from comedy to tragedy, and through time? How did actors function within the societies that fostered them, and how were they regarded by others in society? Of course, not all of these questions are answered definitively here, since that would be impossible given the state of the evidence. But this collection’s greatest strength is its open-minded and inclusive approach to what constitutes evidence.

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