SINCE you ask me every time that you meet me, my friend Timocrates, what was said by the Deipnosophists, thinking that we are making some discoveries, we will remind you of what is said by Antiphanes, in his Poesy, in this manner—
In every way, my friends, is TragedyAnd Diphilus says, in his Men conducting Helen—
A happy poem. For the argument
Is, in the first place, known to the spectators,
Before one single actor says a word.
So that the poet need do little more
Than just remind his hearers what they know.
For should I speak of Œdipus, at once
They recollect his story—how his father
Was Laius, and Jocasta too his mother;
What were his sons', and what his daughters' names,
And what he did and suffer'd. So again
If a man names Alcmæon, the very children
Can tell you how he in his madness slew
His mother; and Adrastus furious,
Will come in haste, and then depart again;
And then at last, when they can say no more,
And when the subject is almost exhausted,
They lift an engine easily as a finger,
And that is quite enough to please the theatre.
But our case is harder. We are forced
T' invent the whole of what we write; new names,
Things done before, done now, new plots, new openings,
And new catastrophes. And if we fail in aught,
Some Chremes or some Phido hisses us.
While Peleus is constrain'd by no such laws,
O thou who rulest, patroness and queen,
Over this holy spot of sacred Brauron,
Bow-bearing daughter of Latona and Jove,
As the tragedians call you; who alone
Have power to do and say whate'er they please.