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How important is theatricality and spectacle to Nero?

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How important is theatricality and spectacle to Nero? Spectacle and the spectacular were obviously greatly important in Nero's life; both to Nero's own life and to the way in which Suetonius presents his opinions of Nero. The earliest mentions of spectacle in the book are of Nero's ancestors. The incident of the gain of their bronze beard gave his family a distinctive appearance, and also associated them with the gods, a spectacle like no other. However, despite this benefit, the detriments held against his family are far worse, appearing more to be making a spectacle of you than creating something that people want to see for positive reasons. Chapter 2 gives us the first of the negative images we receive of Nero's ancestors. One of his ancestors having paraded on an elephant, as though celebrating a triumph without deserving one, was a poor infliction, but showed similarity to Nero's character, as Nero later wears triumphal dress in chapter 12 when the Armenian king prostrates in front of him. This would have been beneficial to Suetonius' presentation of Nero's life because it develops Nero's character in a way which shows his vice of pride and his need to feel important above all others; but mostly being willing to humiliate others of high rank to fell this. Continuing to chapter 5; the main focus is the vices of his father. ...read more.


This chapter we see the first reference to the lavish games Nero held, both in his own name and others, when he holds a games in celebration of his marriage to Octavia and to wish Claudius good health. When Claudius died, Nero gave him a lavish funeral, but only after he had received every honour the senate could possibly place on him other than one, this would have been a spectacle as the emperor would have been expected to be modest about his greatness and it also shows his selfishness. However, it says that he 'gave Claudius a lavish funeral, at which he delivered the oration in person.' This would have seemed the correct thing to do, but, it is said that Nero mocked his dead adoptive father, which makes this seem like it was merely a spectacle to gain him popularity among the people of Rome. In chapter 10, we hear that Nero presents the commons with forty gold pieces each and settled the salaries of some senators to 5,000 gold pieces each, and granted the guards cohorts a free monthly issue of grain. All of these gifts are on a lavish scale and Suetonius makes them seem even more of a spectacle by placing them all next to each other in the same paragraph. This chapter also gives an insight to Nero's theatricality as it tells of Nero's giving of poems both at home and in the Theatre, which would also be a spectacle as emperors would not typically have been involved in performance. ...read more.


All of the examples describe some parallel between the role and Nero's own life. For example, Canace in Childbirth is parallel because of the difficult birth he had, as he was breach; Orestes the Matricide, as Nero had his own mother killed. This probably would have been speculated on, and it would give more insight to Nero's life had Suetonius told us whether he played these roles before or after the parallel event in his life. The final thing I wish to comment on in relation to Nero's theatricality is the huge spectacle that he would have caused by his wearing of masks modelled on his own face, or on women who he cared about. This would have caused a huge shock because the only time people wore masks modelled on other people's faces was at their funeral, as death masks. In wearing these masks he almost tempted fate by giving himself a death mask. This ultimately describes Nero's ability to shock people both through the simple fact that he participated in theatre and through the thing he did which were even more extraordinary when he performed. I think that the theatrical side of Nero's life almost defined him as this is where he caused the most spectacle. I think that both of these were incredibly important to both Nero in his own lifetime, and Suetonius' portrayal of him. ?? ?? ?? ?? Giverny Robinson-Sivyer Classical Civilisation AS Personal Tutor: Catherine Lang Tutor: Arthur Franklin How important is theatricality and spectacle to Nero? - 1 - ...read more.

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