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

By W. Beare | Go to book overview

APPENDIX B
SIDE-ENTRANCES AND ♊EPIAKTOI IN THE HELLENISTIC THEATRE

(Classical Quarterly, Vol. xxxii. pp. 205-10.)

THE greatest confusion prevails among modern writers as to the use of the side-entrances in New Comedy and its Latin derivatives. The statements on this subject made by editors and others, whether confident or hesitating, differ widely from one another, and are seldom supported by any real consideration of the ancient evidence. In 1933 Professor Mary Johnston published a careful treatise, entitled Exits and Entrances in Roman Comedy ( W. F. Humphrey Press, New York), in which she discussed the internal evidence afforded by the Latin plays, and came to the conclusion (page 151) that 'on the stage of the Roman theatre the side-entrance to the right of the spectators was used for entrances and exits of characters from and to the city and the forum, and that the side-entrance to the left of the spectators was used for entrances and exits of characters moving from and to the port and foreign parts, and, probably, from and to the country as well'. With regard to Greek usage, Professor Johnston was content to accept the orthodox view 'that the side-entrance (parodos) at the spectators' right led to the harbour or the market-place and that at their left into the country, since the scene was regularly placed in Athens and since these were the actual topographical relationships in the Athenian theatre' ( Flickinger, page 208). Her conclusion, therefore, involved a discrepancy between Greek and Roman usage as far as the harbour was concerned.

The possibility of such a discrepancy has been admitted by other writers (e.g. Flickinger, page 234); but it raises certain difficulties. At line 461 of the Captiui Ergasilus enters on the empty stage. He has come from the forum (cf. lines 478 and 490) and is on his way to the harbour (line 496), in which direction he departs after line 497 (cf. lines 768 ff.). He had no intention of calling on Hegio, whose offer of a cena aspera he regards merely as a last resource. The only pretext for his appearance upon the stage must therefore be that he has to cross it in order to get from the forum to the harbour. This is perfectly natural if Professor Johnston is right as to the Roman convention. But how are we to visualize Ergasilus' movements in the Greek original of the play? Had Ergasilus some errand at Hegio's house, all reference to which has been suppressed by Plautus? Or is the whole scene an insertion by Plautus?

-240-

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