The Roman Stage: A Short History of Latin Drama in the Time of the Republic

By W. Beare | Go to book overview

CHAPTER XX
THE ORGANIZATION OF THE ROMAN THEATRE

IN THE interval between the writing of a play and its appearance on the stage there is much to be done. On the organization of the early Roman theatre we have little information; Plautus is almost silent, Terence is evasive, and the later writers may not have known the facts. Between the impecunious dramatist who wanted to sell his play, the general public who wanted to be amused at some one else's expense, and the ambitious magistrate who was willing to supplement the State grant (lucar) out of his own resources, an essential link was the producer and actor-manger. Such a man was Ambivius Turpio, the producer of Terence's plays. He bought the plays at his own expense (pretio emptas meo, Hec. 57), though hoping no doubt to recoup himself with the money paid him by the magistrates ( Eun.20). In a prologue written for him by Terence (Hec. 14 ff), he claims to have encouraged Caecilius by bringing out his plays in spite of the unfavourable attitude of the public. He must have been the elderly actor who spoke the prologue to the H. T. He has a tone of dignity and authority as a man who is conscious of having befriended struggling dramatists, one who has not aimed at mere profit but has even incurred financial risks in fostering talent for the benefit of the public.

We do not know what sort of bargains the producer struck with the dramatist on the one hand and the magistrates on the other. The common-sense view seems to be that the dramatist sold his manuscript outright to the producer, who acquired thereby the right to perform the play as often as he liked and found practicable. If we are to take Bacch. 214-5 at its face value, Plautus must have quarrelled with Pellio after selling the Epidicus. 'Though I am as fond of the Epidicus as of my own self, I cannot bear seeing it if Pellio is taking the (leading) part.' This suggests that revival performances of Plautus' plays were given in his own lifetime, but that he had no control

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