Costumes and Masks

by Bridget Roberts,
Wellington School, Columbus, Ohio


Many of the costumes and masks used for Roman plays were taken from

the Greeks. Since the actors were all men, the costumes and masks were

particularly important for assuming the roles of women.

The masks were worn by all characters, and by the features of the

MASKS the audience was able to determine the stereotypical character the

actor was playing. Some masks were HALF-MASKS coming down only to the

upper lip, but the majority of masks were full masks. These particular

masks were cut at the chin and enlarged in order for the actors to be able

to move their jaws freely. In order for the actors to be heard clearly,

the MOUTHS OF THE MASKS were very wide. With a mask, when the actor

naturally changed his facial expression, the same stock character was seen,

and the audience did not recognize any change. Each actor would wear a

DIFFERENT MASK for his particular character. For instance, a kind father

would wear a MASK with curled white hair

and a beard, while an angry father would wear a mask with red hair. A

foolish old man would wear a mask with white and limp hair so it could be

disarranged easily. A mask of an old paedagogue would have white and

bristly hair. A clever slave should have a mask with a ruddy complexion

and stiff red hair and beard.

The costumes were similar to the masks in that the COSTUMES were made

for a particular stock character. A tunica was worn, as well as the

pallium for men, and palla for women. The pallium was a piece of cloth

draped around the actor, similar to a toga, and the way it hung depended on

the certain character. Different colors represented characteristics of the

actors. The length of each pallium could vary depending on the character.

The pallium of an old man would have been white. To emphasize that the

character was an old man, the actor might have a cane to walk with. A

clever slave would wear a shorter pallium because he would be more active

while on stage. A brightly colored pallium was used for him. Another

slave might wear a longer pallium in order to demonstrate that he was not

like the clever slave, but could be trusted by his master. This slave

didn't have to run or sneak around, so his pallium could be longer and hang

more loosely than the clever slave?s. The costumes of women were slightly

different from those of the men. The tunic was much longer, and it had arm

holes or sometimes sleeves. The palla was worn over the tunic and was more

decorative than the male pallium. The cloth was thinner and usually was

fringed. To accentuate that the character was female, jewelry was also

worn. The more jewelry the character wore, the more money she had.

In Aulularia, Act IV- scenes vii-x, four different comic CHARACTERS

are used: a slave, a young man, a matron, and an old man. In scene vii,

Lyconides, a young man, and his mother Eunomia are talking. As a young

man, Lyconides would wear a MASK with a pale complexion and black hair. His

pallium would be of a bright color with a contrasting border. The pallium

would be draped over one shoulder, and should almost touch the ground.

Because Eunomia is the mother, she would be made to look older than

Lyconides. Her masks would have curly grey hair and a sallow complexion.

The costume would be a bright color, such as yellow.

The only character in Scene viii is Strobilus, the smart SLAVE. His

MASK would have a ruddy complexion and stiff red hair and a beard. His

pallium would be brightly colored and rather short because he would be active on


In Scenes ix and x the characters of Euclio and Lyconides are present.

Lyconides would wear the same costume and mask as in Scene vii. Euclio,

the old miser, would wear a mask with white curly hair and a beard. His

pallium would be plain and white, and he would carry a cane to emphasize

his old age.