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HISTORY OF THE ROMAN DRAMA.
THE Roman drama, unlike that of Greece, arose neither from the ardent love of poetry, nor the grateful sacrifice of the peasant resting from his labour; but from the superstitious fears engendered by a national calamity. About the end of the fourth century from the building of the city, Rome was, for the first time, visited by a plague; and, as a last resource, histrions, or players, were, by a decree of the senate, summoned from Etruria. It was conceived, that scenic representations might appease the wrath of the gods, and thus in Rome, no less than Greece, the drama was a religious solemnity. These histrions were mere dancers and pantomimists. (Liv. vii. 2.) The first pieces, in which dialogue was introduced on the Roman stage, were borrowed from the Osci, an ancient Italian nation. They were called Fabula Atellanæ, from Atella (now St. Arpino), a considerable town of the Oscan tribe, and consisted of detached scenes, possessing little regularity, but replete with broad humour and comic extravagances. It was not until the time of Livius Andronicus, that is, about a century after the introduction of the histrionic art from Etruria, that a regular theatre was constructed, built on the Aventine hill, and the drama, properly so called, attempted. Livius, like the early dramatists of most countries, was, at first, an actor, and, indeed, the sole actor in his own pieces. At length. to relieve himself, in consequence of his voice beginning to fail, he introduced a boy, who undertook the recitative, in concert with the flute, whilst his own contribution to the entertainment was chiefly confined to expressing the sentiments thus conveyed by corresponding gestures, only speaking in the conversational scenes. This strange division of labour we learn from Livy (vii. 2.) always prevailed, although with modifications. Livius Andronicus wrote both tragedies and comedies, as did his successor Nævius. From the era of the former, the drama, founded on that of Magna Græcia or Sicily, became a distinct art, and the exclusive province of professional players and authors. Ennius, the friend of the elder Scipio Africanus, by attaching himself to the purest models of Greek composition, improved in a high degree upon the ruder sketches of his predecessors. His plays seem, indeed, to have been translations from those of Sophocles and Euripides, rather than original compositions. The career thus opened was followed up by the comedians Plautus, Cæcilius, Afranius, Lavinius, Trabea, and Terence, of whose compositions twenty plays of the first, and six of the last, are all that remain. These writers, for the most part, took the new comedy of the Greeks (compare note on Sat. 1. 4. 2.) as their guide, and borrowed more freely from Menander than any comic poet of that school.
"The drama in Rome," observes Mr. Dunlop, " did not establish itself systematically, and by degrees, as it did in Greece. Plautus wrote for the theatre during the time of Livius Andronicus, and Terence was nearly contemporary with Pacuvius and Attius; so that every thing, serious and comic, good and bad, came at once, and, if it was Grecian, found a welcome reception among the Romans. On this account, every
species of dramatic amusement was indiscriminately adopted at the theatre, and that which was most absurd was often most admired. The Greek drama acquired a splendid degree of perfection by a close imitation of nature: but the Romans never attained such perfection; because, however exquisite their models, they did not copy directly from nature, but from its representation and image."
Besides the comedies called togatæ, and palliatæ, (compare note on Epist. to the Pisos, line 288.), there were the tabernaria (from taberna, "a tavern"), and which, with reference to the former, may be termed farces. The tragedies were likewise distinguished into palliate, and prætextatæ, according as the manners and dress of the piece were Grecian or Roman. Of all their various dramatic entertainments the Fabule Atellana were the only species which the Romans could claim as of native growth. Their origin has been already given; and, after the stage had become a distinct profession, the Roman youth reserved to themselves exclusively the right of representing these satiric pieces. They enjoyed this privilege, without being subject, like the professional actors, to removal from their tribe, incapacity for military service, or the obligation of unmasking when called upon by the audience. (Julius Pollur.) These favourite productions seem to have been dependent on the spirit and humour of the performers, rather than the art of the author. It appears probable that the subject merely was sketched out for them, and that the scenes were filled up by jests, quips, and buffoonery of their own invention. They were for a long time written in the Oscan dialect: but in the beginning of the seventh century of Rome, Quintus Novius innovated on this custom; and, at length, in the time of Sylla, Lucius Pomponius discarded the use of this provincial dialect, and gave the fabule a more polished and rational cast. (Vell. Pater. ii. 9.) He nevertheless retained the Maccus, a grotesque personage corresponding in some measure to the clown of modern pantomime, and the Pappo or Pappus, equivalent, perhaps, to our pantaloon. The pieces called Erodia, were similar to the Atellane fables, and were likewise reserved for the Roman youth.
An account of the Roman satires, and their specific difference, both as to origin and application, from the Greek, will be found at page 141., and some further remarks in the note given at lines 145, 146., of the first epistle of the second book (p. 308.). It remains now to notice the Mimes, which, borrowing their name from the Greek Mio, differed essentially in kind. The latter exhibited a single adventure, taken from every-day life, neither heightened by buffoonery, nor accompanied by more action than was common to any other description of dramatic entertainment. Mimetic gestures of every kind, except dancing, were indispensable to the former. The Roman Mimes, again, differed from their pantomime by the introduction of recitation. They seem to have been of a coarser description than the Atellane fables (Cic. Epist. Familiar. ix. 16.), and to have brought on the scene characters chiefly drawn from the lower orders at Rome. The actors sometimes wore masks; sometimes had their faces stained, or painted. Like the Atellana, the Mimes chiefly depended on the impromptus, and extemporaneous effusions of the actors. Great licence was allowed them; and several of their bitter and pointed sayings, addressed to public characters present in the theatre, have been handed down to us. Occasionally, sentiments of great moral truth and beauty were uttered; as is evident from
the sayings of Publius Syrus, which are fragments of his Mimes. most celebrated writers in this kind were the last named author, Laberius, and Matius. In the time of Horace, the Mimes had relapsed into the mere buffoonery from which these writers, who acted in, as well as composed, these productions, had raised them. From these burlesque representations, preserved throughout all the vicissitudes of the Roman empire, sprang the Commedia dell' Arte of the Italians. The Sannio of the Mimes, with his head shaved, his face bedaubed with soot, and partycoloured garments, is the Zanni of those Italian comedies, so much in vogue in the sixteenth century; reproduced in France as the Arlequin, or intriguing servant; and known to ourselves as the magician whose wand still conjures before us new scenes, and fresh transformations, every Christmas.
IN 1778, Villoison published, in the Supplement to his remarks on the Pastorals of Longus, two odes of Horace, which he had received from M. Genet, secretary to Monsieur, the brother of the French King. They were said to have been discovered at Rome in a MS. of Horace by Caspar Pallavicini. Villoison adds nothing farther on the subject.
No other traces of this pretended discovery appear, except in an edition of Horace, the title of which is given as follows by Mitscherlich:-“ Q. Horatü Flacci Opera omnia, prius ad exemplar Bentlei excusa, nunc insertis duobus Codd. novissume repertis aucta, addita quoque de harum Odarum inventione epistola principis Pallavicini." This edition has neither date nor place of printing expressed. It is said, however, by Mitscherlich, to have been published at Prague in 1760, under the care of Prince Fürstenberg.
Jani, in his edition of Horace, speaks of the odes in question as having been published a short time previous by an English scholar ("a docto Anglo nuper edita sunt "): The work to which he refers is probably the following, "Á dissertation concerning two Odes of Horace, which have been discovered in the Palatine Library at Rome." London, 4to, 1790
(Marked in the MS. as Lib. 1. Ode 39.)
AD IULIUM FLORUM.
DISCOLOR grandem gravat uva ramum
Jam licet Nymphas trepide fugaces
(Marked in the MS. as Lib. 1. Ode 40.)
AD LIBRUM SUUM.
DULCI libello nemo sodalium
De te merenti quid fidelis
Officium domino rependes ?
Urbisque, fidens dignitati,
Per plateas animosus audi.
Fea makes a very important remark, in relation to the authenticity of these two pieces, which ought to be regarded as decisive. Speaking of the honour of the pretended discovery, he observes : "Quisquis ille primus fuerit tanto honore dignus, is certe impostor fuit putidissimus: nullibi enim vel in MSS. Vaticanis, vel in aliis Romanis eas reperire potui.”
FROM THE GREEK.
MECENAS atavis edite regibus,
O et præsidium et dulce decus meum, &c.
̓Αελλοπόδων μέν τινας εὐφραί-
Σπεύδει δ ̓ ἄλλοθεν ἄλλος· ὁ μὲν κατὰ πόντον ἀλᾶται ἐν νηυσὶν χρήζων οἴκαδε κέρδος ἄγειν ἰχθυόεντ', ἀνέμοισι φορεύμενος ἀργαλέοισι, φειδωλὴν ψυχῆς οὐδεμίην θέμενος. ἄλλος, γῆν τέμνων πολυδένδρεον, εἰς ἐνιαυτὸν λατρεύει· τοῖσιν καμπύλ ̓ ἄροτρα μέλει ἄλλος ̓Αθηναίης τε καὶ Ηφαίστου πολυτέχνεω έργα δαεὶς χειροῖν ξυλλέγεται βίοτον ἄλλος ̓Ολυμπιάδων Μουσῶν πάρα δῶρα διδάχθη ἱμερτῆς σοφίης μέτρον ἐπιστάμενος.
Sic te Diva potens Cypri,
Sic fratres Helenæ, fucida sidera, &c.
Carm. 1. 3. seqq.
Α ναῦς ἃ τὸ μόνον φέγγος ἐμὶν τὸ γλυκὺ τᾶς ζοᾶς ἁρπάξας, ποτί τε Ζανὸς ἱκνεῦμαι λιμενοσκόπω.
Jam te premet nox, fabulæque Manes,