Group of people hired to clap (French, claquer) and show approval in order to influence a theatre audience. The claque dates from ancient times. Comedy competitions in Athens were often won by contestants who infiltrated audiences with paid supporters. The practice was widespread in Rome, where the emperor Nero established a school of applause. In 19th-century France most theatres had specialized claques: rieurs laughed loudly at comedies, pleureuses wept at melodramas, and bisseurs shouted for encores. The practice persists today in the operatic world.