Research in focus: Toph Marshall

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13 October, 2020


Toph Marshall


Professor of Greek


Arts/Classical Near Eastern and Religious Studies

Are you Faculty or Staff?




What year did you start working at UBC?


Provide an overview of your research in 75 words or less:

My research examines the stagecraft and performance practices of the Greeks and Romans, and the implications this has on the interpretation of the plays. This considers how masks work, and the impact of role sharing, since all ancient plays were explicitly metatheatrical, but also how (male) playwrights choose to present the lives of female enslaved characters for a presumptively male, citizen audience. I also look at modern media (television, comics) and how they create meaning and represent the ancient world.

What first motivated you (or motivates you) to conduct your research?

I love classical Greek theatre, and feel that it shows a city revealing its own stuggles through art, even as democracy is closing around it. As democracy was collapsing, Athens supported the arts and saw them as a means of examining the worst that happening around them, the worst that humanity could be.

What do you hope will change as a result of this research?

My hope is that others will read ancient plays with an eye to performance, and recognize to what degree stagecraft and performance shape the interpretation of Greek and Roman plays. It’s a lens that offers new insights, but one that needs new thoughts and new voices, that I love to see.

Are there any research collaborators you’d like to acknowledge and why?

I have been privileged to publish with some great scholars. George Kovacs (Trent University) and I have published three books together, including two on how comics represent the ancient world, and I have just co-authored an article on a 6th c. CE sketch comedy, written on a lone surviving papyrus, that was published only a few years ago with Melissa Funke (U Winnipeg). I’ve helped with a film of Greek a chorus with Helen Eastman (London) and Hallie Marshall (UBC). And I have published on some of the best series on American television with Tiffany Potter (UBC).

Describe any interesting research milestones you are approaching

My next book (published with Bloomsbury, November 2020) is a detailed examination of Aristophanes’ Frogs (405 BCE). It is a discussion that is accessible to non-Greek speakers, but emphasizes how the plays draws on previous comedies, and responds to the crisis the Athenain democracy was facing at the time. How do we be funny when our country is abandoning the values it has long stood for?


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