An undeniable feature of the live theater event is the physical presence of the actor’s body. Some facets of comedy demand or are highlighted by the physical presence of the actor’s body on stage and, therefore, emphasize the importance of the visual as much as the verbal if we consider these texts as pieces of theater rather than as pieces of literature. Aristophanes, Menander, Plautus, and Terence each make use of key techniques which rely on the audience’s awareness of the actor’s physicality and actuality to highlight comic moments in their plays. Whilst not all techniques remain in place across the whole of the period, some techniques recur with enough regularity to form the backbone of this chapter. These key techniques include the adoption of disguise (including crossdressing), mistaken identity (sometimes explored through twins), eavesdropping or concealment, and physical comedy, involving entrances and exits or slapstick violence. These are underpinned by the use of costume and mask. This chapter will trace the shifting patterns in the way in which the body of the performer is used to generate comedy.
Citation : Peacock, L.S. (2020) The Body. In: Ewans, M. (Ed.) A Cultural History of Comedy in Antiquity, London: Bloomsbury, pp. 97-118.
ISBN : 9781350000827
Research Institute : Institute of Drama, Dance and Performance Studies
Peer Reviewed : Yes
- School of Arts