The Roman Stage: A Short History of Latin Drama in the Time of the Republic

By W. Beare | Go to book overview
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APPENDIX G
THE DOORS SHOWN ON THE STAGE

THE view taken in this book is that, in addition to the entrances in the wings (open throughout the course of the performance) there were three practicable doors, perhaps all of the same size, in the permanent back-scene, set unobtrusively but visibly in the wall of the scene-building, and that these were the doors which the actors used for the purposes of the play; it being understood that any door which was not required in a particular play was for the time being simply disregarded. This I imagine to have been the rule ever since the construction of the scene-building in the fifth century; but it is particularly relevant to Roman Comedy. The theory that the projecting paraskenia, or wings, were themselves sometimes used to represent the houses of characters1 seems to me to violate a general principle of staging in comedy -- that the stage represented a section of street in front of the houses of the characters.2

The accompanying sketch will make clear the relation of the house-doors to the side-entrances, as I understand it.

That there were three doors at the back of the stage is stated by both Pollux and Vitruvius. 3 The statement of Pollux that the central door was reserved for the principal actor, the door to the right for the second actor and the door to the left for the least important character, absurd as it is, seems inspired by an attempt to connect the trinity of doors with the trinity of actors, and thus confirms the statement that there were three doors. It will be noticed that Vitruvius and Pollux speak of three doors in connexion with tragedy as well as with comedy, and offer explanations of the use to which each of the three doors is put in tragedy. These

____________________
1
See e.g. Pickard-Cambridge, Theatre of Dionysus, p. 59.
2
See Gomme, Essays in Greek History and Literature, p. 253, note 1.
3
Cf. Haigh, Attic Theatre, p. 189, and p. 241 above.

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