The Masks of Menander: Sign and Meaning in Greek and Roman Performance

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Cambridge University Press, Jun 3, 2004 - Drama - 296 pages
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This book provides a detailed analysis of the conventions and techniques of performance characteristic of the Greek theatre of Menander and the subsequent Roman theatre of Plautus and Terence. Drawing on literary and archaeological sources, and on scientific treatises, David Wiles identifies the mask as crucial to the actor's art, and shows how sophisticated the art of the mask-maker became. He also examines the other main elements which the audience learned to decode: costume, voice, movement, etc. In order to identify features that were unique to Hellenistic theatre he contrasts Greek New Comedy with other traditions of masked comedy, and shows how different Roman conventions of performance rest upon different underlying assumptions about religion, marriage and class. David Wiles offers theatre historians and classicists a radical new approach to reading play texts. His book will also be useful to archaeologists seeking to understand what masks mean and how Greek and Roman theatres were used.

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Text and performance
The system of masks
contrasts and comparisons
The Roman mask
The four mask genera
Costume and movement
Language and voice
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About the author (2004)

David Wiles is Professor of Theatre at Royal Holloway, University of London. He has published nine books, including Tragedy in Athens: Performance Space and Theatrical Meaning (1997), Greek Theatre Performance (2000), A Short History of Western Performance Space (2003) and Theatre and Citizenship: The History of a Practice (2010). His major areas of historical interest are Elizabethan and Greek theatre and his special interest in the theatre mask culminated in the publication of Mask and Performance in Greek Tragedy in 2007. His Greek Theatre Performance (2000) has been widely used by undergraduates. He has been shortlisted for Runciman, Criticos and STR prizes. He currently convenes the theatre historiography working group for the International Federation for Theatre Research.

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