Source: The Well-Educated Mind (2 edn 2016), pp. 254-255.

  Aeschylus, Sophocles, and Euripides wrote tragedies; Aristophanes wrote comedies. Comedy, depending as it does on contemporary man- ners and morals to set up the jarring contrasts at its center, always dates more quickly than tragedy; a joke about politics loses its kick (try watch- ing a Jay Leno monologue from the Bill Clinton era), but the danger of wrong choices never goes away. The Romans, who came after the Greeks and stole most of their literary principles, wrote more comedies than tragedies—which is why neither the Roman playwrights nor Aristophanes are so widely read today as the Greek tragedians.
  But even the tragedies of the Romans were inferior to those of the Greeks. Drama generally held a lower place in the Roman social scheme. Roman theater groups, like Greek troupes, acted at festivals. But while the Greek festival tended to be centered around play performance, Roman dramas had to compete with the more spectacular performances of lion fights, chariot races, and stadium sea battles. (In one of his prefaces, the tragedian Terence complains that the first two performances of his play were canceled because the audience left halfway through to go see the gladiator shows.) The Romans made no innovations in dramatic themes; these would come during the Middle Ages, when the Greek dramas had entirely slipped from view.

Wikipedia alleges the same scorn of Roman actors compared to Greek:

The public opinion of actors was very low, placing them within the same social status as criminals and prostitutes, and acting as a profession was considered illegitimate and repulsive. Many Roman actors were slaves, and it was not unusual for a performer to be beaten by his master as punishment for an unsatisfactory performance. These actions and opinions differ greatly from those demonstrated during the time of ancient Greek theatre, a time when actors were regarded as respected professionals, and were granted citizenship in Athens.[14][1]

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.