The Tragedies of Seneca

The Tragedies of Seneca

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The Tragedies of Seneca

The Tragedies of Seneca

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Excerpt

The place of the tragedies of Seneca in literature is unique. They stand as the sole surviving representatives, barring a few fragments, of an extensive Roman product in the tragic drama. They therefore serve as the only connecting link between ancient and modern tragedy. They are, moreover, modeled more or less closely after the tragedies of Aeschylus, Sophocles, and Euripides; and the Greek and Roman product in literature along parallel lines cannot be better studied than by a comparison of these Senecan plays with their Greek prototypes -- a comparison which is not possible in comedy, since, unfortunately, the Greek originals of Plautus and Terence have not come down to us.

These plays are of great value and interest: in themselves, first, as independent dramatic literature of no small merit; and second, as an illustration of the literary characteristics of the age of Nero: the florid, rhetorical style, the long, didactic speeches, the tendency to philosophize, the frequent epigram, the pride of mythologic lore.

Popular interest in the tragedies of Seneca has been growing to a considerable extent during the last generation. This has been stimulated in part by Leo's excellent text edition, and by the researches of German and English scholars into Senecan questions, more especially into the influence of Seneca upon the pre-Elizabethan drama; in part also by the fact that courses in the tragedies have 1been regaining their place, long lost, in college curricula.

The present edition seeks still further to bring Seneca back to the notice of classical scholars, and at the same time to present to the English reader all of the values accruing from a study of these plays, with the single exception of the benefit to be derived from a reading of the original. The influence which the tragedies have had in English literature is brought out in the introduction, which Professor Manly has kindly contributed; the relation of Seneca to the Greek dramatists is shown by comparative analyses of the corresponding plays, so arranged that the reader may easily observe their resemblances and differences; the wealth of mythological material is at once displayed and made available by an index of mythological characters; finally, it is hoped that the translation itself will prove to be as faithful a reproduction of the original as is possible in a translation . . .

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