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The Drinking Theatre: Staged Symposia in Greek Comedy

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image of Mnemosyne

Staged symposia, like those found in some comedies of Plautus (As., Mos., Per., St.), were presented also in Greek comedy: this is indicated by a large number of fragments which present characters drinking and performing sympotic rituals on stage. Sympotic scenes formed a favourite comic spectacle in the 4th century and apparently occurred already in Old Comedy (e.g. Pherekrates' Korianno). Plautus' staged banquets may well have been inspired by Greek scenes of this sort. The lunch-party of the women at the beginning of Menander's Synaristosai can be seen as a variation of the traditional comic banquet-scene; so also certain scenes of Aristophanes (the slaves' drinking-scene in Eq. 85 ff.; the imaginary symposium in V. 120848). The comic symposia must have been acted either on the ekkyklema or simply 'on stage', i.e. on the regular performance area for the actors, in front of the scenic façade; by convention, events which would normally take place indoors could be set outside the house in the theatre. An appendix discusses the number of actors in 4th-century comedy: a fourth speaking performer was most probably available for the largest part of the 4th century.


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