The major periods of Western theatre include ancient Greek and Roman theatre, Medieval drama, the Italian-born Commedia dell’Arte, the Elizabethan and Jacobean theatre of Renaissance England, Restoration drama, 19th century American vaudeville, French and English Melodrama, modern 20th century drama, and contemporary theatre. Eastern theatre forms through history include Noh theatre, Kabuki, Sanskrit theatre, Peking Opera and Bunraku to name just a few.
Roman theatre is said to have begun around 240 B.C. Most Roman dramas were translations or imitations of Greek plays. While broader forms of entertainment such as athletic events, music, dance and chariot races played a pivotal role in Roman life, theatrical forms included mime and farce, with comedy being more popular than tragedy. Only some of the comedies of Plautus and Terence survive today, yet no tragic works have survived. Like the Greeks before them, the Romans performed plays at religious festivals in honour of their Gods. Roman theatres were huge architectural structures, of which several exist to this day.