The steps by which ὑποκρίνομαι,
acquired their dramatic meaning have been
variously traced. The primitive sense of “answering” (i. e.
of the quick repartee of dialogue between the actor and the chorus,
implying a more ready
and instantaneous reply than ἀποκρίνεσθαι
) seems quite sufficient for our purpose; as in
the gloss of Hesychius, ὑποκριτὴς ὁ
ἀποκρινόμενος πρὸς τὸν χορόν
: and in Pollux 4.123,
ἐλεὸς δ᾽ἦν τράπεζα ἀρχαία, ἐφ᾽ ἣν
πρὸ Θέσπιδος εἷς τις ἀναβὰς τοῖς χορευταῖς
In the passages quoted by Sommerbrodt (Rhein. Mus.
22.510) in favour of the meaning
“interpret” (Hom. Il.
; Od. 15.169
), the simple notion of answering suits equally well.
(Cf. L. and S., s. v. ὑποκρίνομαι
Alb. Müller, p. 170, n. 2.)
It is shown in the articles CHORUS
that the Greek drama originated in the chorus which at the festivals of
Dionysus danced around his altar, and that at first one person detached
himself from the chorus and, with mimetic gestures, related his story
either to the chorus or in conversation with it. If the story thus acted
required more than one person, they were all represented in succession
by the same choreutes. Thespis, who was regarded in antiquity as the
inventor of tragedy ([Plat.] Min.
Hor. A. P.
275), was the first to employ an actor
distinct from the chorus; the latter still took the most important part
in the performance, but lost something of its original character by
becoming an interlocutor in the dialogue. Aeschylus therefore added a
second actor, so that the action and the dialogue became independent of
the chorus, and the dramatist at the same time had an opportunity of
showing two persons in contrast with each other on the stage (Aristot. Poet. 4.16
). Sophocles took
the final step by adding a third actor (Aristot. l.c.;
D. L. 3.56
; Suid. s. v. Σοφοκλῆς
): and towards the close of his
career, Aeschylus found it necessary to follow the example of his
younger rival, and to introduce a third actor, as is the case in the
(Pollux, 4.110). This number of three
actors was also adopted by Euripides, and remained the limit scarcely
ever exceeded in any Greek drama, at least in tragedy. In comedy, a
somewhat greater license was taken ; and though Cratinus kept to the
regular three performers, Aristophanes sometimes, and notably in the
employed a larger number.
Some real or apparent exceptions to this rule in tragedy have been keenly
discussed, and demand a short notice. For instance, the Prometheus
is a piece for two actors, yet in the
opening scene there are four persons upon the stage--Prometheus,
Hephaestus, and the allegorical Κράτος
does not speak, and κωφὰ
were unquestionably not reckoned: while
Prometheus himself, there can be no doubt, was represented by a gigantic
lay figure, “so contrived that an actor standing behind the
pictorial mountain could speak through the mask. No protagonist
could have [p. 1.966]
been expected to submit to the
restraint of such an attitude throughout the whole of the play, to
say nothing of the catastrophe at the end, when the rocks fall
asunder, and Prometheus is dashed down into Tartarus”
(Donaldson, Theatre of the Greek's,
ed. 7, p. 286). This
was first pointed out by Welcker (Trilogie,
p. 30), and
is accepted by almost every scholar from G. Hermann to A.
Müller (see his references, p. 175, n. 2). In the
Aeschylus had three actors, but
in 5.900 ff. a fourth seems required, where Pylades, who has been
present most of the time as a κωφὸν
begins to speak. The notion of the Scholiast that
who has only just quitted
the stage, reappears as Pylades, is rejected by A. Müller on
the ground that the actor has not had time to change his dress. It may
be remarked, however, that the Greek tragic actor, in order to assume
another character, had only to change an upper garment, a mask, and
perhaps a wig: there were none of the minute toilet accessories of the
modern “make-up,” and the operation may have been got
through with much greater rapidity. Once more, in the Oedipus at
a fourth actor must be assumed unless the part of
Theseus is divided among all three performers. The former alternative is
supported by C. O. Müller (Diss. on Eumen.
127) and A. Müller (p. 175, n. 4); the latter by K. F. Hermann
(de Distributione Personarum inter Histriones in
Marburg, 1840, p. 42) and Donaldson,
who observes that “the mask and the uniformity of tragic
declamation would make it as easy for two actors to represent one
part, as for one actor to sustain several characters” (p. 268
n.). The terms παρασκήνιον
here come in for explanation.
The usual meaning of παραχορήγημα
course a subordinate chorus or ἕτερος
(see L. and S. s. v.); but the statement that the word
was also applied to the part taken by a fourth actor rests only on the
authority of Pollux (4.109, 110), where there is almost certainly some
confusion in the text. It is more likely that a supernumerary who spoke
a few words only, such as the children in the Medea,
or the above cases of a fourth actor being required,
was called παρασκήνιον.
Müller (p. 178) gives full details, but pronounces the question
obscure. This sense of παρασκήνιον
not noticed in L. and S.
The three regular actors were distinguished by the technical names of
(Suidas, s. v.
: Dem. de Cor.
p. 315, § § 265,
267;--de F. L.
p. 344.10; 403.200), indicating the
more or less prominent part each had to play in the drama. Certain
conventional means were also devised, by which the spectators, as soon
as an actor appeared on the stage, were enabled to judge which part he
was going to perform; thus the protagonist regularly came from a door in
the centre, the deuteragonist from one on the right, and the tritagonist
from a door on the left-hand side (Pollux, 4.124). The protagonist
naturally undertook the character in which the interest of the piece was
intended to centre; not always the title-role (as O. Müller
thought), unless it were that of the real hero or heroine (A.
Müller, p. 182). It is true that, in six out of the seven
extant plays of Sophocles, the title-role is also the leading part (in
the remaining one, the Trachiniae,
of Deianira is assigned by common consent to the protagonist); but in
of Euripides the title-role was only a third-class part, and as such was
taken by Aeschines (Dem. de Cor.
288.180). The conjecture is also unfounded that the protagonist was
always the principal messenger (ἄγγελος
), or again that the narrative of a death (e. g. of
Hippolytus or Pentheus) was necessarily assigned to the actor of the
dead man's part (K. F. Hermann, op. cit.
Donaldson, p. 269; on the other side, Lachmann and A. Müller,
). It is an ingenious but rather
fanciful notion of O. Müller's (Griech. Lit.
2.57) that the deuteragonist regularly took sympathetic parts as a
friend of the hero or heroine, whereas the tritagonist was generally
“an instigator who was the cause of the sufferings of the
protagonist, while he himself was the least capable of depth of
feeling or sympathy” ; in popular language, that he was the
“villain of the piece.” This is supported by the
recorded fact that Creon in the Antigone
was a tritagonist's part (Dem. l.c.), and by an arrangement of the
characters in the Orestean trilogy of Aeschylus which gives the part of
Clytaemnestra throughout to the tritagonist. It is a fact not without
significance, that the thirty-two extant tragedies contain no
“hero” who is also a “villain,” like
or Richard the Third;
titles of lost plays show an Ixion
Aeschylus, an Acrisius
and an Atreus
of Sophocles; and it would seem that the
“villainhero,” though rare, was not altogether unknown.
It is safer to say with Donaldson (with whom Alb. Müller is
substantially in agreement) that the second and third performers
“seem to have divided the other characters between them, less
according to any fixed rule than in obedience to the directions of
the poet, who was guided by the exigencies of his play.” As
on the modern stage, parts were written for particular actors
in Dindorf's Poetae
p. 11, 35); a proof that the author,
notwithstanding the many conventional restrictions imposed by the sacred
character of the Attic drama, had some influence over the choice of his
The number of “supers” was unlimited: they were usually
silent, but sometimes spoke a few words, especially when a fourth
interlocutor was required (see above): in this case the speaker was
occasionally placed behind the scenes, or sheltered from view by the
chorus, that the limit of three actors might not be obtrusively
violated. Persons of rank and dignity always came upon the stage
suitably.attended, just as no Athenian lady or gentleman in real life
went out without at least one slave: the body-guards of royal personages
were a conspicuous feature, so that δορυφόρος
became an equivalent to κωφὸν πρόσωπον
(see L. and S. s. vv.
); and in one or two
instances (the opening scene of the Oedipus Tyrannus
probably that of the Acharnians
) we have a regular
“stagemob” of citizens like those in Julius Caesar
and Wilhelm Tell.
The acting of female characters by men was greatly assisted by the use of
masks; there was no need to assign such parts to beardless youths, as in
England in the Shakespearian times. In early days the dramatic poets
themselves acted [p. 1.967]
in their own plays, and
doubtless as protagonists. Of Aeschylus it is further recorded that he
was his own ballet-master, and trained his choruses to dance without the
aid of a professional ὀρχηστοδιδάσκαλος
Sophocles appeared only twice on the stage; as Thamyris in the play of
that name, accompanying a song on the cithara,
and as Nausicaa playing at ball, in the Πλύντριαι
: he then gave up acting on
account of the weakness of his voice. After his time it became
exceptional for the poet to be also an actor. Aeschylus, who seems to
have been usually protagonist in his own plays, employed Cleander as his
deuteragonist, and subsequently (after the introduction of a third
actor) Mynniscus as tritagonist (Vit. Aesch.
p. 3, 50.75
Dind.). Cleidemides and Tlepolemus were similarly associated with
Sophocles, Cephisophon with Euripides. Among a long list of famous
actors during the great period of the Athenian drama, the most
conspicuous names are those of Polus and Aristodemus, the latter a
political character as well, from having twice been sent on embassies to
Philip (Dem. de F. L.
p. 343.12, and often in the Embassy
Speeches of both orators). Both of these received enormous salaries:
sometimes as much as a talent for two or even one day's performance
([Plut.] Vitt. X. Oratt.
p. 848 B; Gel. 11.9.2
; Boeckh, P. E.
3 1.153). There was also
a younger Mynniscus, contemporary with the comic poets Plato and
Menecrates: it must be this Mynniscus, and not the one who played for
Aeschylus, who is mentioned in an inscription as protagonist in a comedy
: ὑποκριτὴς Μυννίσκος,
C. I. A.
2.971 b). Another inscription records the fact
of Antiphanes appearing in one of his own plays (ib. 972; Thessalus and
Athenodorus, contemporaries of Alexander, ib. 973; cf. Plut. Alex. 10
). Each of these inscriptions notices only a single actor,
of course the protagonist.
No social stigma attached to the actor's calling (Corn. Nep. Praef. 5
); distinguished Athenian
citizens appeared on the stage as amateurs, and the role of a τριταγωνιστής,
scurrilous and exaggerated invectives of Demosthenes, did not detract
from Aeschines' position as a soldier and orator. Bad actors, however,
to whatever station in life they belonged, were not, on that account,
spared; displeasure was shown by whistling or hissing (συρίττειν,
p. 315.265; de F. L.
p. 449.337: cf.
p. 586.226); another word is θορυβεῖν,
probably denoting uproar against
the author rather than the actor (Becker-Göll,
3.199). For the throwing of fruit or nuts
in theatres, and sometimes even of stones, cf. [Andoc.] c.
§ 20; Dem. de Cor.
p. 314.262; Athen. 6.245
e, ix. p. 406 f. On the other hand, the practice of encoring (αὖθις
) is inferred from Xen. Symp. 9
, § 4.
At a later time, when Greece had lost her independence, we find regular
troops of actors, who were either stationary in particular towns of
Greece, or wandered from place to place, and engaged themselves wherever
they found it most profitable. They formed regular companies or guilds
(σύνοδοι τῶν περὶ τὸν Διόνυσον
), with their own internal organisation, with their
common officers, property, and sacra. We possess a number of
inscriptions belonging to such companies, and can trace them at Athens
(C. I. A.
2.551, 552), Thebes (C. I.
1600), Argos (C. I. G.
3068 C, and more in A.
Müller, p. 393, n. 7), Teos (C. I. G.
Cyprus (C. I. G.
2619, 2620), Rhegium (C. I.
5762). But these actors are generally spoken of in very
contemptuous terms; they were perhaps in some cases slaves or freedmen,
and their pay was sometimes as low as seven drachmas for a performance
29; cf. Nigrin.
16; Theophrast. Char.
language of Lucian must, however, be received with caution: he has
evidently confused the old Greek estimate of the profession with the
much lower Roman one of his own time; and in one passage
5) writes as though Polus and Aristodemus, free
Greeks of the highest consideration, had been liable to the jus virgarum in histriones.
(On Greek actors in general, cf. Müller, Gr. Lit.
ch. 22; Donaldson, Theatre of the Greeks,
ed. 7, book
iii. cc. 1, 2; Becker-Göll, Charikles,
3.195-200; and especially Alb. Müller,
§ 14, pp. 170-188: on the “guilds of the artists of
Dionysus,” § 26, pp. 392-414).
The word histriones,
by which the Roman
actors were called, is said to have been formed from the Etruscan hister,
which signified a ludio
or dancer (Liv. 7.2
V. Max. 2.4.4
; cf. Plut. Quaest. Rom.
107). The origin of scenic
representations at Rome has been related under COMOEDIA
p. 521 b.
The name histrio
thenceforward lost the
signification of a dancer, and was now applied to the actors in the
drama. Only the Atellanae [COMOEDIA
p. 522 b
] and EXODIA
were played by
freeborn Romans, while the regular drama was left to the histriones, who
formed a distinct class of persons.
In the times of Plautus and Terence we find the actors gathered into a
company (grex, caterva
), under the control
of a manager (dominus gregis,
in a technical sense, though
is of course also a synonym of
). A manager named T. Publilius
Pellio (or Pollio) is mentioned by Plautus (Bacch.
35-37), and was apparently not in favour with the dramatist: during the
short career of Terence his manager was the well-known L. Ambivius
Turpio. It was through the manager that a magistrate who was giving
games, of which stage-plays formed a part, engaged the services of a
company. Brutus, who was praetor in the year of Caesar's death, tried to
regain the popularity he had lost through the murder by giving Ludi
Apollinares of unusual splendour: and he went all the way to Naples to
negotiate with actors, who seem to have been Greeks, besides getting his
friends to use their interest in his behalf (Plut. Brut. 21
). So in imperial times a public singer is
said vocem vendere praetoribus
). The pay (merces:
for the distinction between merces
) was on as varied a
scale as in modern times: in the first century of the empire an ordinary
actor seems to have received five denarii and his food (Senec.
80.7; cf. the seven drachmas of Lucian,
29, already cited); while at an earlier
period “stars” like Roscius and Aesopus, the contemporaries
and friends of Cicero, made ample fortunes. Cicero [p. 1.968]
tells us that Roscius could have honourably made 6,000,000
sesterces (HS. sexagies,
about £48,000) in ten
years had he chosen to do so (pro Rosc. Com.
7.128) gives half a million (£4000)
as his annual earnings. [We have no doubt that Pliny's HS. D
is to be read quingena
the adverbial form quingenties
( [Dmacr] ) introduces an absurdity,
£400,000 a year, too great even for him.] The tradition
preserved by Macrobius (Macr. 3.14
§ § 11-13) is that Roscius alone received 1000 denarii
for every day's performance; while Aesopus left a fortune of 20,000,000
sesterces (HS. ducenties,
acquired solely by his profession; this was afterwards squandered by his
son (Hor. Sat.
It is clear from the words of Livy (7.2
the histriones were not citizens ; that they were not contained in the
tribes, nor allowed to be enlisted as soldiers in the Roman legions; and
that, if any citizen entered the profession of histrio, he, on this
account, was excluded from his tribe. The histriones were therefore
usually either freedmen, foreigners, or slaves ; the latter specially
educated for the stage to their master's profit. Even if ingenui,
they were legally infames
( “infamia notantur--qui artis ludicrae
pronuntiandive causa in scaenam prodierit,” Edict. Praet. ap.
; cf. Cic. de Rep.
10 ap. Aug. de Civ. Dei,
2.13), and socially in low estimation (Cic.
pro Arch. 5
, § 10; Corn. Nep. Praef. 4
; Suet. Tib. 35
). Aesopus seems to have been
a freedman of the Claudian gens; but Roscius, the amor et deliciae
of Cicero, was certainly ingenuus, and
probably of good birth (Cic. de
Div. 1.3. 6
, § 79); Sulla gave him the gold
ring of equestrian rank. We see that, towards the close of the republic,
a few men of position and Greek culture raised themselves above the
prejudices of their countrymen, and valued the person no less than the
genius of great artists. (Macrob. l.c.
Caesar forced Laberius, an eques advanced in years, to appear on the
stage in his own mimes, he was thought to have exceeded the powers even
of a dictator, and his victim took a dignified revenge (Macr. 2.7.3
ff.; the scene is described at
length in Dict. Biogr.
s. v. Laberius
). Under the emperors men of equestrian rank often
appeared, with or without compulsion (Suet. Aug.
; D. C. 53.31
; Suet. Tib. 35
4, 11; D. C.
; Tac. Ann. 14.14
2.60); and this circumstance, together with the
increasing influence of Greek manners, tended to improve the social
position of the actors. At the very beginning of the reign of Tiberius
it had become necessary to check the extravagant compliments paid them;
“ne domos pantomimorum senator introiret; ne egredientes in
publicum equites Romani cingerent” (Tac. Ann. 1.77
; cf. Senec. Ep.
47.17; Plin. Nat. 29.9
; Juv. 7.88
). Their legal status remained the same as regards
infamia and exclusion from office; even provincial honours are denied
them in the Lex Julia Municipalis of B.C. 45, where they are coupled
with gladiators ( “queive lanistaturam artemve ludicram fecit
C. I. L.
p. 123); though inscriptions show that the rule
was not always enforced (Gruter, Inscr.
1089, 6 = Orelli,
2625). But the old law was now somewhat modified, by which the Roman
magistrates were empowered to coerce the histriones at any time and in
any place, and the praetor had the right to scourge them (jus virgarum in histriones
). Augustus entirely
did away with the jus virgarum, and limited the interference of the
magistrates to the time when and the place where (ludi et scaena
), the actors performed (Tac. Ann. 1.77
; Suet. Aug. 45
). But he nevertheless inflicted, of his own
authority, very severe punishments upon those actors who, either in
their private life or in their conduct on the stage, committed any
impropriety (Suet. l.c.
). After these
regulations the only legal punishments that could be inflicted upon
actors for improper conduct seem to have been imprisonment and exile
(Tac. Ann. 4.14
). The jus virgarum is indeed said
to have been restored to the praetor by a law of Augustus himself (Paul.
v. tit. 26), not expressly, but by the
interpretation put upon this law by the jurists. But this interpretation
cannot have become valid till after the reign of Tiberius, of whom it is
clearly stated that he refused to restore the jus virgarum, because it
had been abolished by his predecessor (Tac.
The competition of the actors for public favour was carried to
extraordinary lengths, and stirred up factions like those of the Circus.
If not as early as the time of Plautus himself, yet at the time when the
existing Plautine prologues were composed (probably about B.C. 150-100),
we find partisanship (ambitio
) in full
operation (Plaut. Poen.
prol. 37 ff.; cf.
prol. 65 ff.). At first palms and inexpensive
crowns of gold or silver tinsel were the reward of popularity (Varro,
5.178; Phaedr. Fab.
Plin. Nat. 21.6
under the empire, presents of money and rich garments (Juv. 7.243
with Schol.; Capitolin. M.
11; Lamprid. Al. Sev.
There was a regularly organised and paid claque
(the theatrales operae
of Tac. Ann. 1.16
; Orelli ad loc.:
cf. Mart. 4.5
); and over and above that the backers
) resorted to actual violence
and even bloodshed. Hence Tiberius on one occasion found himself obliged
to expel all histriones from Italy (Tac. Ann.
; D. C. 57.21
); but they
were recalled and patronised by his successor (Dio Cass. lix. cc. 3, 5).
The emperors as a rule tolerated, sometimes encouraged, and occasionally
checked the excesses of the stage. We read of the emperor's private
companies (histriones aulici,
19; Capitolin. Verus,
8) who performed during dinner time (Suet. Aug. 74
), and were sometimes allowed
also to play in the theatres before the people (publicabantur
). The practice of giving immoderate sums to
actors was restricted by Tiberius (Tac. Ann.
; Suet. Tib. 34
); again by
M. Aurelius (Capitolin. M. Ant. Phil.
11), and by
Alexander Severus (Lamprid. l.c.
ordained a maximum payment of five aurei to each actor, and that no
should exceed the sum of ten
aurei; this must mean that there were to be editores
in number equal to half the actors, for it cannot be
thought that he reduced the actors to two for each performance. The
restrictions of the Greek stage as to the number of actors never
prevailed upon the Roman. (Cf. Marquardt, Staatsverw.