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The competence of theatre audiences in fifth- and fourth-century Athens*

  • Martin Revermann (a1)


After dismissing various possible approaches to the question of audience competence in fifth- and fourth-century Athens, this article proposes to tackle this important and notorious problem with a novel strategy that is not ‘top-down’ but ‘bottom-up’, starting with spectators rather than plays and focusing on the bottom-line of expertise which can be taken to be shared by the majority of audience members. An umbrella-notion of ‘theatrical competence’ is established before two central characteristics of drama performed in Athens are exploited: the participation of spectators in the citizen-chorus at the Great Dionysia, and the implications for the competence issue of frequent exposure to an art form which is as formally conservative as preserved Attic drama. What emerges is a model of stratified decoding by spectators (élite and non-élite) who share a considerable level of theatrical competence. In a final step, this model is applied to a number of case studies taken from fifth-century comedy.

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The competence of theatre audiences in fifth- and fourth-century Athens*

  • Martin Revermann (a1)


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