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

By W. Beare | Go to book overview

PREFACE

MY ATTENTION was first drawn to Plautine studies by Robert Seymour Conway, at that time ( 1924) Hulme Professor of Latin in the University of Manchester. Much interest had been aroused among English scholars by the appearance in 1922 of Eduard Fracnkel's well-known work Plautinisches im Plautus, dedicated to Gunther Jachmann and acknowledging a special debt to Friedrich Leo. I found, however, in the course of time that my interest lay not so much in the relation of the Latin plays to their Greek originals, or in those linguistic, metrical and textual studies, which in this country are peculiarly associated with the names of W. M. Lindsay and E. A. Sonnenschein, as in the light thrown by the plays on the theatre for which they were intended. It seemed to me that nearly all modern discussions of Latin drama rested on certain assumptions, conscious or unconscious, which might seem reasonable in themselves but were incapable of proof and sooner or later led to serious difficulty. Ever since the Renaissance the scholars of western Europe, even while basing their standards on the supposed practice of the Greeks and Romans, have in fact allowed contemporary habits of thought to colour their conception of classical antiquity. It might have been well to pay more attention to the music, the art and drama of India and Java, of China and Japan, if only to remind ourselves that our western notions are not valid for all mankind, even at the present day. My own limitations and misgivings have confined me to a narrower field. I have tried to avoid using arguments which depended either on subjective judgments, or on evidence the validity of which was less than axiomatic. The reader may be disappointed by my failure to reconstruct for him the plot of some lost play, whether tragedy, togata or Atellane; he may even think it perverse in me to have made so little use of the wealth of pictorial material which Dr. Bieber has put at our disposal, or the many references to drama which we find scattered throughout ancient literature. On this last point perhaps I may quote what seems an apposite remark of Mr. L. P. Wilkinson ( Horace and his Lyric Poetry, p. 19): 'It is difficult for us, who use words primarily as a means of conveying what we believe to be the truth, to penetrate the mind of Roman writers, who, like the Italians

-vii-

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