Atellan farce, or Atellanae fabulae, was improvisational comic drama in Roman times originating in the town of Atella. As with its modern counterpart, this was a form of low comedy aimed at entertaining the masses. The characters in Atellan farce each had their own mask and costume, similar to the stock characters of the Commedia dell’Arte centuries later. This form of comic Roman drama existed for over 500 years, eventually losing popularity around 200 A.D. This page consists of an annotated set of Atellan farce resources useful for drama students and teachers. – Justin Cash
Atellan Farce Resources
Wikipedia entry briefly outlining the origins of the form with a description of the various stock characters.
Brief history of Roman theatre which includes a useful short summary of the characteristics of this Roman form of comedy.
Interesting resource outlining the types of masks worn by performers.
Useful article about the characteristics of farce (in general), which is a good starting point in order for students understanding of the genre.
Easy to understand travel dialogue of the origins of this movement in Italy.
History of Roman drama with various references to Atellan farce.
It was probably short, largely improvised, and based on domestic situations in mythological burlesque. Type characters, each with its own fixed costume and mask, seem also to have been characteristic.
Oscar Brockett, History of the Theatre
Abstract of academic paper linking this comic form to 16th century Commedia dell’Arte.
Useful summary of the characteristics of this comic form.