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1 There was a kind of tragic comedies among the Greeks, which they called Satyrs, because the chorus was formed of Satyrs, who sung the praises of Bacchus between the acts, and said a thousand low pleasantries. The only piece of this kind remaining to us is the Cyclops of Euripides, in which Ulysses is the principal actor. The Romans, in imitation of the Greek Satyrs, had their Atellanae, so called from Atella, the city where they were first played.
were, I observed, certainly misplaced. They should, I think, come in here, where their sense is extremely pertinent. The poet had been speaking of the satyric drama, which, says he, was added to the tragic,
But why, it might be asked, this compliance, in so false a taste, with a drunken, lawless rabble? The answer is natural and to the purpose. "Because their theaters necessarily consisted of a mixed assembly, every part of which was to be considered in the public diversions." The question then hath an extreme propriety, “"Indoctus quid enim saperet liberque laborum, Rusticus urbane confusus, turpis honesto?"” The rusticus and turpis demanded the satyric piece. It was the necessary result of this mixutre; as, to gratify the better sort, the urbanus and honestus, the tragic drama was exhibited. It is some prejudice in favor of this conjecture, that it explains to us, what would otherwise appear very strange, that such gross ribaldry, as we know the Atellanes consisted of, could ever be endured by the politest age of Rome. But scenical representations being then intended, not as in our days, for the entertainment of the better sort, but on certain great solemnities, indifferently for the diversion of the whole city, it became necessary to consult the taste of the multitude, as well as of those, “quibus est equus et pater et res.” Hor. Ars 248
3 This proves that the same actor, as M. Dacier observes, who had been an Orestes or Ulysses in the tragic part, played the same chraracter in the comic or Atellanae. Thus Plautus in the prologue to his Menechmes, “"this town, during this play, shall be Epidamnum, and when it has been acted, it may be any other city. As in a company of players, the same person shall, at different times, be a pander, a youth, an old man, a beggar, a king, a parasite, a soothsayer."” (72-76) St. Jerome hath finely imitated this passage: “"our vices oblige us to play many characters, for every vice wears a different mask. Thus in a theater, the same person plays a robust and nervous Hercules, a dissolute Venus, and a furious Cyclops."”
4 “Indigna tragoedia versus.” Hor. Ars 231 Horace means the Atellanae, which were in so much esteem, that the persons, who acted in them, were not ranked with the comedians, nor were obliged to unmask on the stage when they played ill, as others were; and, as a peculiar honor, they were allowed to enlist in the army. Therefore low and trivial verses were beneath the dignity of the Atellanae.
7 This precept (from v. 240 to 244) is analogous to that before given (v. 129) concerning tragedy. It directs to form the Satyrs out of a known subject. The reasons are, in general, the same for both. Only one seems peculiar to the Satyrs. For, the cast of them being necessarily romantic, and the persons those fantastic beings called satyrs, the τὸ ὅμοιον, or probable, will require the subject to have gained a popular belief, without which the representation must appear unnatural. Now, these subjects which have gained a popular belief, in consequence of old tradition, and their frequent celebration in the poets, are what Horace calls nota; just as newly invented subjects, or, which comes to the same thing, such as had not been employed by other writers, indicta, he, on a like occasion, terms ignota. The connection lies thus. Having mentioned Silenus in v. 239, one of the commonest characters in this drama, an objection immediately offers itself; "But what good poet will engage in subjects and characters so trite and hackneyed?" The answer is, “ex note fictum carmen sequar” Hor. Ars 240, i. e. however trite and well known this and some other characters, essential to the Satyr, are and must be; yet will there be still room for fiction and genius to show itself. The conduct and disposition of the play may be wholly new, and above the ability of common writers, “tantum series iuncturaque pollet.” Hor. Ars 242
8 “Quibus est equus” Hor. Ars 248, etc., the knights who have a horse, kept at public expense; “quibus est pater,” Hor. Ars 248 people of birth, patricians; “quibus est res” Hor. Ars 248, they who have wealth, and are therefore distinguished from knights and patricians.
9 The iambic yields only the odd places to the spondee, the first, third, and fifth, but preserves the second, fourth, and sixth for itself. This mixture renders the verse more noble, and it may be still trimeter, the second foot being iambic. The comic poets, better to disguise their verse, and make it appear more like common conversation, inverted the tragic order, and put spondees in the even places.
10 Ironically spoken.
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