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THE SECOND PROLOGUE.
I COME to you as an envoy from the Poet, in the character of prologue-speaker; allow me to be a successful pleader, that in my old age I may enjoy the same privilege that I enjoyed when a younger man, when I caused new Plays, that had been once rejected, to come into favor; so that his writings might not die with the Poet. Among them, as to those of Caecilius,2 which I first studied when new; in some of which I was rejected; in some I kept my ground with difficulty. As I knew that the fortune of the stage was varying, where the hopes were uncertain, I submitted to certain toil. Those I zealously attempted to perform, that from the same writer I might learn new ones, and not discourage him from his pursuits. I caused them to be represented. When seen, they pleased. Thus did I restore the Poet to his place, who was now almost weaned, through the malevolence of his adversaries, from his pursuits and labors, and from the dramatic art. But if I had at that period slighted the writer, and had wished to use my endeavors in discouraging him, so that he might live a life of idleness rather than of study, I might have easily discouraged him from writing others. Now, for my sake, hear with unbiased minds what it is I ask. I again bring before you the Hecyra, which I have never been allowed to act before you in silence; such misfortunes have so overwhelmed it. These misfortunes your intelligence will allay, if it is a seconder of our exertions. The first time, when I began to act this Play, the vauntings of boxers,3 the expectation of a rope-dancer,4 added to which, the throng of followers, the noise, the clamor of the women, caused me to retire from your presence before the time. In this new Play, I attempted to follow the old custom of mine,5 of making a fresh trial; I brought it on again. In the first Act I pleased; when in the mean time a rumor spread that gladiators were about to be exhibited; the populace flock together, make a tumult, clamor aloud, and fight for their places:6 meantime, I was unable to maintain my place. Now there is no confusion: there is attention and silence--an opportunity of acting my Play has been granted me; to yourselves is given the power of gracing the scenic festival.7 Do not permit, through your agency, the dramatic art to sink into the hands of a few; let your authority prove a seconder and assistant to my own. If I have never covetously set a price upon my skill, and have come to this conclusion, that it is the greatest gain in the highest possible degree to contribute to your entertainment; allow me to obtain this of you, that him who has intrusted his labors to my protection, and himself to your integrity,--that him, I say, the malicious may not maliciously deride, beset by them on every side. For my sake, admit of this plea, and attend in silence, that he may be encouraged to write other Plays, and that it may be for my advantage to study new ones hereafter, purchased at my own expense.8
1 Second Prologue: --Eugraphius informs us that this Prologue was spoken by Ambivius Turpio, the head of the company of Actors.
2 Coecilius: Colman has the following Note: "A famous Comic Poet among the Romans. His chief excellences are said to have been, the gravity of his style and the choice of his subjects. The first quality was attributed to him by Horace, Tully, etc., and the last by Varro. 'In argumentis Caecilius poscit palmam, in ethesi Terentius.' 'In the choice of subjects, Caecilius demands the preference; in the manners, Terence.'" Madame Dacier, indeed, renders "in argumentis," "in the disposition of his subjects." But the words will not bear that construction. "Argumentum," I believe, is uniformly used for the argument itself, and never implies the conduct of it; as in the Prologue to the Andrian, "non tam dissimili argumento." Besides, the disposition of the subject was the very art attributed by the critics of those days to Terence, and which Horace mentions in the very same line with the gravity of Caecilius, distinguishing them as the several characteristics of each writer, "Vincere Caecilius gravitate, Terentius arte."
3 Vauntings of boxers: Horace probably had this passage in his mind when he penned the First Epistle in his Second Book, 1. 185 ; where he mentions the populace leaving a Play in the midst for the sight of a bear, or an exhibition of boxers.
4 Of a rope-dancer: The art of dancing on the tight rope was carried to great perfection among the ancients. Many paintings have been discovered, which show the numerous attitudes which the performers assumed. The figures have their heads enveloped in skins or caps, probably intended as a protection in case of falling. At the conclusion of the performance the dancer ran down the rope. Germanicus and Galba are said to have exhibited elephants dancing on the tight rope.
5 The old custom of mine: He says that on the second representation he followed the plan which he had formerly adopted in the Plays of Caecilius, of bringing those forward again which had not given satisfaction at first.
6 Fight for their places: This was in consequence of their sitting indiscriminately at the Amphitheatre, where the gladiators were exhibited; whereas at the Theatres there were distinct places appropriated to each "ordo" or class.
7 Gracing the scenic festival: Madame Dacier remarks that there is great force and eloquence in the Actor's affecting a concern for the sacred festivals, which were in danger of being deprived of their chief ornaments, if by too great a severity they discouraged the Poets who undertook to furnish the Plays during the solemnity.
8 At my own expense: It is generally supposed that "meo pretio" means "a price named as my estimate;" and that it was the custom for the Aediles to purchase a Play of a Poet at a price fixed by the head of the company of actors. It is also thought that the money was paid to the actor, who handed over the whole, or a certain part, to the Poet, and if the Play was not received with favor, the Aediles had the right to ask back the money from the actor, who consequently became a loser by the transaction. Pareus and Meric Casaubon think, however, that in case of this Play, the Aediles had purchased it from the Poet, and the performers had bought it of the Aediles as a speculation. What he means at the end of the First Prologue by selling the Play over again, is not exactly known. Perhaps if the Play had been then performed throughout and received with no favor, he would have had to forfeit the money, and lose all right to any future pecuniary interest in it; but he preferred to cancel the whole transaction, and to reserve the Play for purchase and representation at a more favorable period.
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