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Thespis1 is said to have invented a new kind of tragedy, and to have carried his pieces about in carts, which [certain strollers], who had their faces besmeared with lees of wine, sang and acted. After him Aeschylus, the inventor of the vizard mask and decent robe, laid the stage over with boards of a tolerable size, and taught to speak in lofty tone, and strut in the buskin. To these succeeded the old comedy, not without considerable praise: but its personal freedom degenerated into excess and violence, worthy to be regulated by law; a law was made accordingly, and the chorus, the right of abusing being taken away, disgracefully became silent.

Our poets have left no species [of the art] unattempted; nor have those of them merited the least honor, who dared to forsake the footsteps of the Greeks, and celebrate domestic facts; whether they have instructed us in tragedy, or comedy.2 Nor would Italy be raised higher by valor and feats of arms, than by its language, did not the fatigue and tediousness of using the file disgust every one of our poets. Do you, the descendants of Pompilius, reject that poem, which many days and many a blot have not ten times subdued to the most perfect accuracy. Because Democritus believes that genius is more successful than wretched art, and excludes from Helicon all poets who are in their senses, a great number do not care to part with their nails or beard, frequent places of solitude, shun the baths. For he will acquire, [he thinks,] the esteem and title of a poet, if he neither submits his head, which is not to be cured by even three Anticyras, to Licinius the barber. What an unlucky fellow am I, who am purged for the bile in spring-time! Else nobody would compose better poems; but the purchase is not worth the expense. Therefore I will serve instead of a whetstone, which though not able of itself to cut, can make steel sharp: so I, who can write no poetry myself, will teach the duty and business [of an author]; whence he may be stocked with rich materials; what nourishes and forms the poet; what gives grace, what not; what is the tendency of excellence, what that of error.

1 Thespis. A native of Icarius, a village in Attica, to whom the invention of the drama has been ascribed. Before his time there were no performers except the chorus. He led the way to the formation of a dramatic plot and language, by directing a pause in the performance of the chorus, during which he came forward and recited with gesticulation a mythological story. Comp. note Epist. ii. 1. 163. The date is thus given by the Par. Chron. Boeckh.: “Ἀφ᾽ οὖ Θέσπις ποιητὴς ἐφάνη, πρῶτος ὃς ἑδίδαξε δρᾶμα ἐν ἄστει καὶ ἐτέθη τράγος ἆθλον ἔτη ΗΗΠΔΔ, ἄρχοντος Ἀθήνησιεναίου τοῦ προτέρου.” “Quod ad annum attinet, consistendum sane in Olymp. 61, eiusque tribus prioribus annis.” Boeckh. in Chr.

2Vel qui praetextas, vel qui docuere togatas.Hor. Ars 288 There hath been much difficulty here in settling a very plain point. The question is, whether praetextas means tragedy or a species of comedy. The answer is very clear from Diomedes, whose account is, in short, this: "Togatae is a general term for all sorts of Latin plays adopting the Roman customs and dresses; as Palliatae is for all adopting the Grecian. Of the Togatae, the several species are, 1. Praetexta or praetextata, in which the Roman kings or generals were introduced, and is so called because the praetexta was the distinguishing habit of such persons; 2. Tabernaria, frequently called Togata, though that word, as we have seen, had properly a larger sense. 3. Atellana. 4. Planipedis." He next marks the difference of these several sorts of the Togatae from the similar corresponding ones of the Palliatae, which are these: 1. "Tragoedia, absolutely so styled. 2. Comoedia. 3. Satyri. 4. μῖμος." (These four sorts of the Palliatae were also probably in use at Rome; certainly, at least, the two former.) It appears then from thence, that praetextata was properly the Roman tragedy. But he adds, “"Togata praetextata a tragoedia differt"” and it is also said, "to be only like tragedy, “tragoediae similis”." What is this difference and this likeness? The explanation follows. "Heroes are introduced into tragedy, such as Orestes, Chryses, and the like. In the praetextata, Brutus, Decius, or Marcellus." So then we see when Grecian characters were introduced, it was called simply tragoedia; when Roman, praetextata; yet both, tragedies. The sole difference lay in the persons being foreign or domestic. The correspondence in every other respect was exact. The same is observed of the Roman comedy; when it adopted Greek characters, it was called comoedia; when Roman, togata tabernaria, or togata, simply.

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