The phrase ‘Dramatis Personae’ is conventionally used to describe a list of characters in a play.

What would be an analogous phrase to describe a list of places/locations/settings (eg ‘Elsinore, Graveyard, Queen’s Bedchamber‘) in a play,?

Bonus questions: same but for a list of (a) props, and (b) ‘devices’ (eg Foreshadowing, Soliloquy, Irony etc)

  • I think the Latin translation of 'devices' deserves a separate question of its own, since the scope is different than the rest of the current question. That is, unlike characters, settings, and props, devices apply to all literary forms, not just to drama. In fact, I'm surprised that there isn't already a question about it on Latin Language SE.
    – cnread
    Commented May 23, 2021 at 18:49

1 Answer 1


Scaena, though it really means 'the background...against which a play...is performed' (Oxford Latin dictionary), is used by extension to refer to the location or setting of a play, because, after all, the background (even if it consisted of just 3 doorways in the wall at the back of the stage) represented that location.

For example, in my Oxford edition of the tragedies of Seneca the Younger, the opening of the Phoenissae is prefaced with the following:


Satelles Poynices

Scaena primum prope Thebas in via deinde Thebis
('Scene: first on the road near Thebes, and then in Thebes')

(I chose this example because it shows that the singular form scaena is used even if the play has more than one location.)

Scaena is used in exactly the same way in editions of the works of, e.g., Plautus and Terence.

  • So, Dramatis scaenae?
    – Figulus
    Commented May 27, 2021 at 20:16

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