Compare and contrast Greek and Roman theatres.  

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thanatassa eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Because Greek drama influenced Roman drama, there are many similarities between the two. Both Greek and Roman drama were divided into tragedies and comedies, with tragedies usually set in a distant past, being highly stylized, and addressing great and heroic themes. 

Greek drama was originally divided into three genres, tragedy, Old Comedy, and satyr plays. All of these were performed in outdoor amphitheater-like edifices with seats carved into semi-circular hillsides sloping down to a circular orchestra (literally "dancing place") where the choruses sang and danced, behind which was an acting space and a structure with painted scenery. 

A major fourth-century Greek innovation was New Comedy, exemplified by Menander, which was realistic, concerned with every day contemporary life, and lacking a chorus. Roman comedy, such as the famous plays of Terence and Plautus, consisted mainly of adaptations of Greek New Comedy, just as the tragedies of Seneca were based on Greek models. 

Roman theaters were quite similar to Greek ones, though they could be freestanding buildings rather than built into hillsides. The orchestra was normally semi-circular rather than circular and there were more elaborate stages. 

Karen P.L. Hardison eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Greek theater was the origin of theater. In fact, the origin was speculated upon by those to whom we now attribute the origin of theater such as Aristotle. Greek theater developed both comedy and tragedy, with a preference for tragedy, the guidelines for which were famously defined by Aristotle. Roman theater was an imitation of Greek theater, but there were some cultural differences. Romans preferred comedies to tragedies. Women were allowed onstage but only in mimes, or plays or sections of plays with no dialogue. One thing Greek and Roman theater shared in common was the wearing of masks. Firstly, they allowed a limited number of actors to play multiple roles that were differentiated by a change in mask. Secondly, masks symbolized types of characters thus could represent young, old, happy, sad, etc.

accessteacher eNotes educator| Certified Educator

You can google examples of amphitheatres to see something of what #2 is talking about. There is a fine example still standing in Epidavros which I had the good fortune to go and visit. You will also want to focus on the role of the Chorus in your response to the question. What is interesting about Greek plays such as Oedipus Rex is the way that the Chorus acts like another character that is involved in the action but also separate from it and free to comment upon it. This is an interesting dimension that is largely absent from Roman drama.

litteacher8 eNotes educator| Certified Educator
I am not sure if you are talking about the structure of the building, or the plays themselves. I think both have had an impact on the modern theater, in terms of the building itself. However Greek plays are still performed and studied more regularly than Roman ones. I think this is because the Roman plays were more culture specific, best understood by Romans, whereas the Greek tragedies and even comedies had more universal appeal.