By alluding to current events, Late-Republican theatre stimulated in the popular audience an independent critique to politics. Actors might allude to well-known facts and persons by rearranging or emphasizing their cues. The spectators had the capacity to comprehend and promptly react to contemporary references in ways that indicated their attitude toward the person alluded to. The phenomenon in the public ludi has been studied only partially and needs to be discussed in greater detail, but particular attention is deserved by the popular theatre par excellence, the mime. Mimic actors’ tendency to improvisation, indeed, made contemporary allusion even easier than in other dramatic performances; moreover, mimic plays were not con619 fined to public festivities, but were part of the citizens everyday experience. The role of theatrical interaction in moulding a kind of popular public opinion insubordinate to the élite is suggested by the latter’s anxiety towards popular reaction at mimes and seems validated by the attempt to bring theatre’s intemperance under élite’s control. The relative independence of mime is also highlighted by the actors’ occasional refusal to cooperate with politicians, as in the cases of Brutus and Clodius. Finally, the penetration of jokes made famous by mimes into other genres of popular satire, such as songs and graffiti, strengthens the connection between ‘popular theatre’ and a specifically popular interpretation of the present.
Angius, A. (2019). Late-Republican Theatre: A Source for Public Opinion. In A.M. Rita Lizzi Testa (a cura di), The Past as Present. Essays on Roman History in Honour of Guido Clemente (pp. 593-619). Turnhout : Brepols.