Dramatis Personae is a Latin phrase that means “masks of the persons” or “roles of the persons.” It is found at the beginning of dramatic works, especially plays. It provides the audience with a sense of who they will see against the backdrop, playing a part in the story.

When we read a gospel, we should remember that it is not simply a narrative of Jesus’s ministry. It is a crafted message that is the result of authorial decisions and audience expectations. Sure, Shakespeare said “all the world’s a stage, the men, merely players.” And the Roman poet Juvenal before him wrote “Greece is a theater, where all are players.”

Image of a statue with 7 heads atop each other facing different directions detailing birth (at the bottom) through old age (at the top).
Richard Kindersley, “The Seven Stages of Man,” London, 1980. Picture by Lonpicman, Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

But actors often ask directors (and themselves), “What’s my motivation?” This point is key for us. What do each of these characters bring to the Gospel of Mark? How do they advance the narrative? How does our understanding of the sitz im leben help us be attuned to their role?

In a seminar discussion, you will be discussing your answers to these questions and more regarding the following characters:

  • The Disciples
  • The Man in Linen (See Mark 14:51 and Mark 16:5)
  • The Pharisees, Sadducees, and Elders
  • Gentiles
  • The sick/healed
  • The curious/taught
  • John the Baptist
  • Prophets of Old
  • Herod/Herodias/Herodians
  • Pontius Pilate