Dramatic Genres Questions and Answers

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What is the role of the chorus in Roman comedy?

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By the time of Roman theater, the chorus was being pushed aside as a common dramatic convention, so this question is difficult to answer.

In theater, a chorus (often called a Greek chorus in modern literary analysis) is depicted as a group of characters who speak in unison. They are more a collective force than a group of individuals and so do not require extensive characterization, if they have any at all. They do not affect the plot as the main characters do, and their role in the drama is passive by nature.

The chorus is generally used to comment on the action of the play, whether the play in question is drama or comedy. The chorus might express opinions of a character's virtue or bad behavior, or they might lament the human condition or the callousness of fate and the gods.

The chorus convention is actually more associated with the Greek theater than the Roman theater. In fact, Roman comedies, even those adapting popular Greek plays, tended to forego a chorus altogether. Some Roman tragedies had a chorus, but over time, the chorus was dropped even within that genre. It simply seems to have been a convention that did not resonate with Roman culture, so they phased it out in their own dramatic output.

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