Curtain (Fr. rideau; Ger. Vorhang; It. sipario)
- Edward A. Langhans
(Fr. rideau; Ger. Vorhang; It. sipario)
A hanging screen of cloth separating the stage from the auditorium, capable of being removed during the action, or any concealing drapery. The word is used by extension for the end of an act or scene, when the curtain might fall (hence the cue ‘curtain’) and the theatrical effect at the end of an act (hence ‘strong curtain’).
Though the ancient Greeks probably invented the theatrical curtain, its first certain use dates from Roman times, when it was hung before the scaenae frons and dropped as the performance began, revealing the splendour of the façade and whatever scenery was set up. The curtain, having fallen into a trough, could be raised on poles to conceal the stage again. This system was revived in Italian Renaissance theatres with their picture-frame stages, perhaps as early as 1515 (and it was used as a gag in the modern musical A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum...