n Acta Classica : Proceedings of the Classical Association of South Africa - Komedie : kykers en karakters : voorsittersrede

Volume 38, Issue 1
  • ISSN : 0065-1141
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A fundamental requirement for the successful performance of a Greek or Roman drama is that the audience should be gripped by the events on stage. Dramatists have through the ages used various techniques to get the spectators involved, not the least effective being the bringing about of identification of the spectators with the characters. Perspectives of modern psychology are also considered in investigating this phenomenon.

Identification has to be effected through clever manipulation of the text by the dramatist. The portrayal of the hero in the fabula palliata is then discussed; owing to the formulaic character of this genre the spectators would have had a very clear horizon of the expectations which the dramatist ignored at his peril. The two Roman dramatists had different approaches. Plautus stuck to basic patterns in his plots which gave the spectators a feeling of security; even though his works were to a considerable extent parodies of Greek New Comedy, his character portrayal evoked empathy. Terence wrote for more sophisticated audiences, but over-estimated them. Even though his character portrayal was much more realistic, it was ironic, and this intellectual approach hampered identification.
It thus appears that sympathetic character portrayal was much more effective in bringing about identification of the spectator with the character than a realistic rendering.

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