Atellan Farce

Atellan farce was a precursor to roman comedy. In order to understand roman comedy, one must have a basic understanding of atellan farce.  Atellan farce started in Atellan, in the Campania region It is also called native Italian drama and it is the earliest form of roman theater. Atellan farce is commedia dell’arte. This is a type of comedy that arose in Renaissance Italy. It was a comedic theatrical spectacle performed by traveling troupes. These performances took place on the street but later took place on simple stages. The dialogue of these plays/fables were simple and used the language of the common people. Like early Greek theater, the actors traveled from town to town. These farces first started as improvisations. The improvisations dealt with family problems and made fun of the gods and society. Like Greece theater, the actors wore masks. The stock characters were often motivated by greed, lust, stupidity or anger and this may be the origin of the ‘country bumpkin’ character. Other scripts dealt with country life and city life. It is important to note that most of the people in these sketches, were of a lower class. Like comic Greek theater these farces had crude humor and focused on slapstick. Later in the imperial period, the improvisations turned into scripted performances. The imperial period lasted from 27 BCE to 565 AD. Atellan farce had fallen out of style long before the end of the imperial period. This period starts with Julius Caesar and ends when Rome is sacked and weakened. Eventually this kind of theater was replaced by mime, which had started earlier in Greece, but had caught on in the Roman empire. Unfortunately, no atellan farce fables have made it through history.


Works Cited

“ATELLANAE FABULAE Atellan Fables.” ATELLANAE FABULAE Atellan Fables. Encyclopaedia Britannica, n.d. Web. 13 Sept. 2013.
“Commedia Dell’Arte – Italian Comedy.” Commedia Dell’Arte – Italian Comedy. N.p., n.d. Web. 13 Sept. 2013.
Damen, Mark. “413 Roman Theatre, Classical Drama and Theatre.” 413 Roman Theatre, Classical Drama and Theatre. N.p., n.d. Web. 13 Sept. 2013.
Wilson, Edwin, and Alvin Goldfarb. Living Theater: A History, Sixth Edition. New York: McGraw-Hill, 2012. Print

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