Ancient Greek and Roman comedies were funny

Wilfried Straw

Roman theater

Literary drama as mass entertainment

When we hear about plays in Rome today, we almost inevitably think of their most spectacular merrymaking: chariot races and gladiators. For the Romans themselves, however, the stage play in the theater was almost as important, especially in the form of tragedy and comedy, i.e. two originally non-Roman forms of demanding but also popular entertainment that were adopted from Greece. Through its naturalization, Rome had far more effect on European culture than through bloody and circus games: Our current acting and theater would be unthinkable without the example of the Romans, who have shown that and how it is possible to make these highest achievements more Greek To acquire culture and which, with their own creations, the dramas of Plautus, Terenz and Seneca, were exemplary even more than the Greeks themselves for the early modern period.

This is what makes the Romans so special: that they were the only people of antiquity not only to admire Greek literature and somehow take part in it, but that they were able to reproduce it in their own language and thus make it accessible to everyone . As for example, to name a counterexample, the educated Jew Ezekiel in the second century BC. BC came up with the idea of ​​glorifying the greatest hero of his people, Moses, in a tragedy, because he used the Greek language for this drama of the exodus of the children of Israel ("Exagoge") - three hundred verses are still preserved - as a matter of course, just like everyone in the Mediterranean region - in Alexandria as well as in Damascus, Marseille or Syracuse - when they wanted to express themselves literarily, they did so in the world and educational language of Greek. Just not the Romans! When at the end of the third century the poet Naevius brought their city founder to the stage in a tragedy "Romulus", he let this man who gave Rome its name speak Latin in the language of Rome - and not only him: even the heroes of Greek myth, Achilles and Agamemnon, Klytaimnestra and Iphigeneia had to learn Latin on the Roman stage so that every viewer could understand them, take part in their fates and learn Greek mythology in the process. Because, in contrast to other forms of literature, the theater was not a matter for just one class of education - as it is more likely today, when all in all only a select few allow themselves an acting subscription - it was a theater for the whole people. Behind the senators and knights in their preferred seats sat the normal plebeians, sat Krethi and Plethi, the freedmen, even the slaves. It goes without saying that the women were also allowed to be there: "They come to see; they come to be seen themselves," says Ovid (spectatum veniunt, veniunt spectentur ut ipsae).

The birth of the Roman drama

As a Roman, you didn't have to travel far to get excited about Greek theater. Greece was on the doorstep: Southern Italy was largely Greek, Sicily completely Greek; And the cities there, like all Greek cities, were provided with theaters in which the Roman soldier, for example, if he went there because of the war, could marvel at a comedy by Menander or a tragedy by Euripides. Shouldn't it be tempting to acquire these treasures of the Greeks and bring them to Rome? One year after the end of the first Punic War (241 BC), one year after Sicily had become the first Roman province - the decisive step in the establishment of the world empire - it was a highly educated Greek who had apparently long since settled in Rome the famous theater city of Taranto, which the Romans with their ludi romani for the first time a Latin drama based on the Greek pattern - we don't know whether it is tragedy or comedy - presented: the philologist and poet Livius Andronicus. It is not without reason that this year 240 is considered the year of birth of Roman art poetry, if not of Roman literature at all. It is true that there had already been certain preliminary stages to drama in the native Roman culture, and later historians proud of the nationality have made some fuss about it: Etrucian cult dances - Etruscan influence can be proven in the language of the Roman theater - are supposed to be linked to improvised ones Latin texts "satires filled with music" (saturae modis impletae) - saturae are literally "sweet sausages with mixed contents"; but these stage sausages admittedly lacked what actually makes the drama a drama: the unified plot (Greek: myth, lat .: argumentum). Only Livius Andronicus dared - perhaps on behalf of a noble Roman who had a feeling for the needs of his compatriots - to create a real drama with a plot based on the Greek model; and, as we can still see from the fragments of his works that have been preserved, he even made use of Greek metrics with its multifarious rhythms and its fundamental distinction between long and short syllables. That was by no means a given. The Romans also had a native, Italian meter, the old, hulking Saturnian, which did not conform to the fine Greek rules of quantity; and when Livius Andronicus also translated the Odyssey, Homer's epic, into Latin, he used this conventional verse. The drama, however, apparently demanded the Romans, should sound like a real Greek drama, as it was set in Greece , d. H. just as one had it in the ear from Greek theaters. And so the barbarian language Latin had to get used to the Greek polish (even if some of it was a bit coarser at first). Two centuries later, the poet and Greek admirer Horace saw a paradox in it, which he formulated in a classic way to this day: "The conquered Greece conquered even its uneducated conqueror and brought the fine arts to Lazio" (Graecia capta ferum victorem cepit et artes / intulit agresti Latio). Rome went to school with subjugated Greece.

Further history of Roman stage poetry

Like Livius Andronicus, his two successors as Roman stage poets were not city Romans either, and their mother tongue was not Latin. The already mentioned Naevius, who since 235 BC BC emerged with dramas, came from the Oscar-speaking Campania. Nevertheless, it was he who Romanized the Roman drama, which his predecessor had only Latinized, to a certain extent by also dealing with national Roman material, from the mythical prehistoric times of Romulus to recent contemporary history: One of these so-called (fabulae) praetextae, d. H. "Dramas in the praetexta, the toga with the purple border "(the robe of the Roman government official), dealt with the Roman victory over a Gaul chieftain in 222; besides, of course, there were also tragedies from Greek myth, modeled on the greats, Aeschylus, Sophocles and especially of the interesting Euripides. Perhaps Naevius was also the first to (fabulae) togatae, "Dramas in Toga", i.e. in Italy, interestingly apparently not in Rome itself, wrote acting comedies. In any case, like his predecessor, he was a poet of tragedies and comedies at the same time, while in Greece the dramatists had only ever specialized in one art form.

The same applies to Ennius (239-169 BC) from Calabria, who is of course much more important as a tragedian (who, because of his multilingualism, has "three hearts", tria corda, spoke: an Oscar, a Greek and a Latin): The rich fragments from his pieces - unfortunately not a single one of the old Roman tragedies has survived as a whole - give us an impression of the power of speech and the magic of sound that these poets on the Knew how to unfold the stage. O poetam egregium! ("Oh, the wonderful poet!") Cicero exclaimed a century and a half later while reading Ennius, of course not without mentioning that other contemporaries no longer valued him so much. In his generation, that of Ennius, specialization and division of labor according to the Greek pattern began in Rome. The Umbrian Plautus (died 184 BC), the Gauls Caecilius (died 168 BC) and the African Terence (died 159 BC) - the first and the last of the three will be explained in detail Be speech (see p. ???) - only write comedies based on Greek originals, while others write themselves down a generation later togatae specialize (Titinius, Afranius, Atta, of which we have many titles but only about 600 verses in total); A pure tragedy poet, on the other hand, is Pacuvius (died around 130 BC), who came from Brundisium, and whose monstrous words, based on Greek, are admired; likewise the even more famous Accius from Umbria, who above all created polished sentences, like the tyrannical word made famous by the later Caesars Oderint dum metuant ("Let them hate me as long as they only fear me" - what an effort in German for only three Latin words of the Accius!).

It is not entirely clear why after the death of Accius i. J. 86 BC BC (or that of the Togat poet Atta in 77) the productive time of Roman drama, at least in its classic forms, comedy and tragedy, comes to an end for at least half a century. It cannot be due to a lack of public interest: the dramas of the old classics such as Ennius and Plautus are continued to be played with the greatest applause, although the art judges no longer consider them to be exemplary, in productions whose effort far exceeds the previous possibilities of their authors; but the creative poets of Rome no longer dare to deal with drama - perhaps they, who are now primarily seeking the applause of literary connoisseurs, no longer suit the sheer popularity of the all-too-popular genre. (So ​​it is probably similar to today's opera, which lives almost exclusively from reprises of past masterpieces, with exceptions confirming the rule.) After all, at the end of the century, Emperor Augustus endeavors to do so through patronage or, as one, today says as a generous sponsor also to revive the drama; and Horace, the greatest poet of the time alongside Virgil, supports him in this - not by writing plays himself (which might be asking too much for a virtuoso like him), but at least by writing in his "poetry" (De arte poetica) gives the young poets good advice on how, through even more intensive study of the Greek models, they could finally create a drama that would correspond to the level of education of Rome shimmering in the marble of Augustus ... The success initially seems meager: only two tragedies of the Augustan period, one of which is the (lost today) Medea of the famous Ovid can stand before the judgment of later generations.

And yet Horace's efforts, albeit late, still bear fruit. No less a person than the philosopher and statesman Seneca (d. 65 AD), the educator and friend of the muse-loving Emperor Nero, wrote a whole series of tragedies that almost completely followed the rules of Horace and thus, at least the linguistic-metric As far as technology is concerned, they correspond to the great Greek classics. But this important poet will only be mentioned later (see p. ???). First of all, we have to deal with the external conditions of the theater in Rome.

Time and organization of the performances

Anyone living in a big city today has no difficulty in getting a daily theatrical experience in Germany: every evening, the gates of both the well-subsidized state theaters, which are allowed to scare away their audiences without trembling, and some commercial theaters that may forfeit the favor of the critics with tabloids and TV stars, for example, but still make some cash. No conditions like in ancient Rome! There was theater there only in the context of public, state games (ludi) or festivals, so, as far as in Greece, always integrated into a religious, cultic context. (Which, by the way, was the main reason why early Christianity rejected theater so passionately.) These were mostly specific, regularly recurring plays like those already mentioned ludi romani (in September) that ludi plebei (in November) and others - they brought the Roman a total of thirty-six potential theater days in the year -; there were also special festivals such as ludi votivi (Games ex voto), for example for temple consecrations and triumphs, and above all ludi funebresFuneral games for famous personalities (with whom there was no more subdued mood than in any other ancient religion). The costs for the last-named games were of course to be borne by the relatives, who in return put the glory of their family in the light; The so-called aediles, magistrates who had the highest and most delicate stages of their political careers ahead of them (praetur, consulate) and were therefore well advised to take part in future elections at the games, were regularly responsible for the implementation and financing of the regular games splendid to show. They gave the people what they wanted, whatever entertainment they wanted. The stage poet did not have to assert himself against other dramatists (before a jury) as in the drama competitions of ancient Athens, but had inartistic, even more popular merrymaking such as the already mentioned gladiators or athletes and the like to compete. For example, once a performance by the excellent "mother-in-law" (Hecyra) of the comedy poet Terenz, not because, as is falsely claimed today, the bored audience would have run away to tightrope walkers, boxers, etc. - Terenz would hardly have admitted such a failure - but because, as he reports, in response to the news, that after the comedy such wonderful performances would take place - if there was one more attempt to perform it were even gladiators - a horde of fans crowded into the theater and jockeyed for seats so ruthlessly that attention and performance were lost.

Poets, directors, actors and money

In ancient times there was no protection of intellectual property and very rarely author royalties; only the Roman playwright could earn money with his work according to the laws of the market. He sold his drama to an acting company (grex), more precisely: their head (dominus gregis), Artistic director and director in one, who then rehearsed the play and was in turn rewarded for the whole of his artistic achievement by the director of the respective games. It goes without saying that the popularity of an author such as the popular Plautus ultimately had an impact on his income (the somewhat sour Horace here claimed that he was only interested in making as much money as possible with as much laughter as possible without artistic considerations); It is also clear why so many forged plays circulated under the name of Plautus ... While the Roman writers are usually wealthy to be able to afford the joys of the pen at all, the playwrights are mostly poor foreigners who rely on see their income dependent and accordingly do not have a great civil reputation: Naevius had to go to prison because he had quarreled with the noble family of the Metelli, probably through suggestive remarks in a comedy, and he died in exile in Africa; After a failed attempt in wholesale, Plautus is said to have worked as a day laborer in a mill and only then fell into writing pieces. Only those who find noble patrons like Ennius and Terenz are in a slightly better, more independent position.

But the actor has the least reputation (actor or histrio) because not only do he make money, but even make money with his body (corpore quaestum facere) must, a major flaw in Roman eyes; on top of that, singing and dancing are generally regarded in Rome as dishonorable and unworthy of a gentleman. While in classical Athens the noble citizens acted themselves as poets as well as actors, in Rome it is not only professional artists who perform - this was already the case in Hellenistic Greece of this time - they are mostly slaves or freedmen: Already that your intendant dominus gregis, literally: "Owner of the herd", means, speaks for itself. After all, a free man can, for once, be an actor, and then he does not lose his Roman citizenship, as has already been claimed; but he will infamous (as much as "dishonorable"), which is associated with various tangible legal disadvantages. A single actor of the republican era managed to get rid of this infamy and gain a high reputation: Roscius, Cicero's friend, whom the dictator Sulla even elevated to the rank of Roman knight, who, interestingly, had to forego all his fees. (He then apparently had slaves who had had acting lessons with him to work for him.) Of course, even to come to the very top of the state, as once the Wild West actor Ronald Reagan, that would not have been possible even for him. It was only the un-Roman emperor Nero who had ambitions as an actor and singer; and he was killed too.

Theater and stage

Despite or because of the Romans' enthusiasm for theater, for almost two hundred years the authorities did not consider it necessary to build a permanent theater for them, perhaps also out of national pride: Just as Roman diplomats abroad liked to simulate ignorance of Greek and allow themselves to be interpreted, Rome should not do that Image of a city of Graecia capta Offer. Only in the course of the Hellenization of late Republican Rome was i. J. 55 BC The "Theatrum Pompei", or "Theatrum Magnum", named after him, was inaugurated by Pompey the Great; It differed from most Greek theaters in that it did not nestle against a natural mountain slope, but was an independent building (such as the Circus Maximus or today's city theater). It was followed by others such as the famous Marcellus Theater and finally the many Roman theaters of the Imperium Romanum, the remains of which we can still admire today in Italy, Spain, southern France, etc.

In the older Republican times, on the other hand, games were played on a makeshift stage, either in the circus, where seats were already available, or in front of a temple, the stairs of which could be used for this. The later stone theaters then have the real "auditorium" (cavea), divided into wedges growing upwards (cunei). The stage (proscaenium or pulpitum) was very broad, only a little deep; so the game is almost two-dimensional. This makes it easier for the comedy characters to address individual utterances a parte, as they say, to the audience; and without a strong break in the illusion, people can be on stage at the same time without perceiving each other. Because the singing and dancing choir hardly played a role in ancient Roman tragedy and especially in comedy, the "dance floor" characteristic of the Greek theater is missing in Rome, the orchestra: Where one will be built later, it will be used for the restricted seats of the senators. In return, the Roman stage knows the stage curtain as the most significant innovation in terms of theater history (aulaeum), which, as with us, sinks down at the beginning of the piece (into a crack in front of the stage) and rises again at the end. Only in this way, for example, are the dramatic closings in Seneca possible, which are already pointed in an almost Schiller-like manner; the necessary excerpt from the choir at the end of a Greek tragedy seems almost a bit pomady.

The name scaenaWhere our words "scene" and "scenic" come from is, according to strict usage, not on the stage, but on the back wall or front of the stage building. From its painting and decoration you can immediately see whether you are in a comedy or a tragedy. In this the people act regularly in front of the facade of a royal palace; in the one in front of two or three town houses. The two genres are usually not distinguished from each other by whether a piece ends 'tragically' - the word in our sense is only modern - or amounts to a happy ending (which can also be in a tragedy, as one can vice versa in the Comedy is allowed to cry once in a while): What is decisive is what literary historians today call the "class clause": Comedies are played among ordinary people - and comedy is accordingly defined as a "mirror of life" - while tragedies are among princes and notables, their death and suffering of course has completely different, just 'tragic' dimensions. Rome, ruled essentially aristocratically, has retained this Greek scheme, as it was still valid well into modern times: Only with Lessing and the young Schiller there is the "bourgeois tragedy", as in the prelude to the French Revolution, with which the bourgeois claims to be able to suffer as deeply as the prince and the nobility.

The game on the stage

As in Greece, there are no women on the stage in serious Roman drama; their roles are also played by men. In spite of this, it seems that in older times they still acted without the masks common in Greece; According to Cicero's testimony, the transition to the mask occurred at the time of the stage career of his friend, the aforementioned Roscius, probably around the turn of the second to the first century: Older viewers would have regretted it, he says, later no longer to admire the facial expressions of the great mime can. The change was probably not, as claimed in antiquity, with the squint eyes of this actor, but rather with his social advancement: As a Roman knight, he probably thought it more appropriate to hide his face on the stage, which he called ' infamer 'Histrione had barely exposed. Should he have initiated the general transition to the mask, then this would give an indication of the social upgrading of the actor, which is also reflected in the fact that the dictator Caesar gave the respected Roman knight Laberius a mimus to the stage appearance - on this later (p. ???) - could require.

In addition to the later masks, the costumes, which are stereotypically differentiated according to roles, let the viewer recognize who they are dealing with. Their basic forms also provide the various names for the types of drama: Von praetexta and togataWe have already mentioned the national forms of tragedy and comedy (p.); next to them stands, although only a modern term, which comes from the Greek stilted shoe (cothurnus) named (fabula) cothurnata, the tragedy set in Greek myth, and finally the (fabula) palliata, the comedy im pallium, the normal Greek dress that the Romans also like to wear as casual clothing (the toga is beautiful, but extremely impractical). The attempt made in Augustus trabeata, a comedy in the garb of a Roman knight, was unsuccessful.

The piece often began with a small overture of the Greek aulet tibicen, d. H. of the player on the tibia, an instrument that is very misleadingly translated as "flute", since as a reed or (mostly) double reed instrument it corresponded to our clarinet or oboe; the fullness of the sound is more likely to have been that of the saxophone than that tibia was solely responsible for the entire incidental music, so he mainly had the arias (cantica) and to accompany the verses spoken in recitation to the music, and also to deliver small inter-act music when the stage was free. The fact that the choir was dropped or at least strongly retreated in the older drama had blurred the original act boundaries of the Greek models. Only the tragedian Seneca divides according to the instructions of Horace into five acts, which are separated from each other by four mostly contemplative-reflexive choral songs of the choir that appears and leaves.

The names of the stage composers - the music was composed out like a musical today - are still preserved for the comedy poets Plautus and Terenz (slave names, as expected), the musical notes themselves are lost; Because the tradition of our manuscripts goes back to philological editions, not to actual stage copies and the ancient musicians, unlike the poets or the more recent composers, seem to have placed no value on the immortality of their works. But the music was evidently individually adapted to the text: Cicero knows of music connoisseurs who use the music for Antiope des Pacuvius in the first tibial tone just as reliably as we can recognize the Freischütz Overture, for example. Incidentally, the original sound is not completely lost to us either: After all, the rhythm of the music, which is to a certain extent stored in the texts of the tragedy and especially the comedy songs - which the text could not freely rhythmise due to the fixed quantity structure of the syllables - still gives an idea of how it must have sounded once. And the attempt to revive this rhythm in new compositions is one of the greatest future tasks of an experimental philology.

The Roman comedy and its Greek model

Since it is impossible to say anything very general about the structure of Roman drama in view of the diversity of its forms and its three-hundred-year history, we turn immediately to the older comedy, which consists of a total of twenty pieces from Plautus and six from Terence, the oldest great literary monuments in Rome anyway, as well as anything is known in Roman poetry. Naturally, it had its Greek pattern in what was in vogue at the time on the Greek stage (because the Romans wanted to keep up): not the so-called "Old Comedy" (Archaia) of Aristophanes and the great classical period of the fifth and the beginning of the fourth century - these ingenious pieces with their daily political dimension and their cabaret-like colorful Attic local color could not be transferred to other and later Greek stages - but rather the timeless works of the "newcomers." Comedy" (Nea), especially their master Menander (342-291 BC), next to whom other poets such as Diphilus, Philemon and Apollodorus stood. These comedies, settled in the normal Greek family of Hellenistic Athens in particular, and reflecting bourgeois existence - "O Menander! O life! Who of you imitated which of you?" Was the name of a famous bon mot - did not quite fit either young and raw cosmopolitan city of Rome, but for the Romans it was still imaginable and, precisely because of its otherness, also fascinating at first sight. For four hundred years Menander, who, along with Homer, was probably the most widely read poet of Greek antiquity, was known to modern Europe only from his Roman adaptations; It was not until the twentieth century that papyrus finds in the Egyptian desert brought back a number of his pieces almost in whole or in large parts, so that we can now get a better idea of ​​him.

His works were comedies with a high formal elegance of the plot and particularly fine in the personality characteristics that proceed from certain types of roles (strict father, mild father; cheeky slave, good slave, etc.), but avoid everything stereotyped; They played in a world ruled less by gods (who could also appear in the prologue) than by the capricious goddess of fortune Tyche (Fortuna), a world in which, however, people also largely deprive themselves of their happiness through misconduct while there it is possible for them to get along with each other through consideration, empathy and gentle humanity. Before Cicero used the word "humanity" (humanitas) invented or raised, no one should have spoken of "people" as warmly and emphatically as Menander: "How lovable is a person, if only he is a person!" was perhaps the most significant of his sayings (which were already used in antiquity, too practical and edifying use, combined in a collection of sentences).

And yet with Menander there was also a lot to laugh about at the human weaknesses, the most dramatically grateful of which was regularly the focus (as in today's tabloid play and Hollywood film): love (Eros). "No part of the amusing Menander is without love ..." says Ovid, who must have known most of them (fabula iucundi nulla est sine amore Menandri), and when he adds, as if in astonishment: "... and yet he is usually read by boys and girls" (et solet hic pueris virginibusque legi), we can still see today how Menander was able to become a school author. His portrayal of the erotic remained within the framework of propriety - the shrill obscenities of the "Old Comedy" were completely different - and it was above all in harmony with traditional gender morality, which of course, strangely enough, not that in Greece Such cultivated boyhood love, but probably the hetarian being, the sophisticated form of prostitution, included. There is a hint of red light over almost the entire antique love poem.

The dramatic core of the stage plot is - with Menander as well as his Greek co-poets and Roman poets - a loving couple, whose male part is mostly bourgeois and naturally young (lat. adulescens), while the woman is either also a bourgeois girl (lat. virgo), very rarely a young married woman (lat. uxor) - in both cases she was not allowed to appear on the stage for reasons of decency - or a hetaera who regularly came from other Greek countries (lat. meretrix, literally "moneymaker"), who are then either in the possession of a pimp who exploits them (lat. leno, nowadays ridiculously translated as "coupler") or lives with a man who can stand it, or finally (this is rarer) with his own household, so to speak, creates or purchases independently. The plot now consists, schematically speaking, in the fact that this couple is separated from one another by some people or forces of various kinds - bad fathers, unscrupulous pimps, pirates, misunderstandings, illegitimate pregnancies, etc. - but then finally reunited . Every Hans gets his Grete: the single bourgeoisie marry each other, the divided young couple put an end to their quarrel, the hetaera becomes a concubine of her lover, at least for a long time. An important role in this unification process is played firstly by intrigue, often devised and carried out by ingenious slaves, particularly aimed at raising money or eliminating unwanted rivals, and secondly so-called "recognition" (anagnorisis), in which, as a rule, an alleged hetaera in the possession of a pimp is identified as a bourgeois daughter (who has remained untouched by some miracle) and is therefore available for marriage. As improbable and fortuitous as the actions - often based on fantastic assumptions and with Mrs. Tyche's vigorous effort - may be, the behavior of the people certainly corresponds to the probability and to the general human; In the comedy, in which the obligatory act of love by no means absorbs all the attention, we find the well-known, almost timeless conflicts between fathers and sons, masters and slaves, men and wives, pimps and customers, soldiers and civilians, old and young heterosexuals ... .

The earliest comedy hero of Plautus: a Greek braggart

How did the Romans treat these originally Greek materials? Let us first take a look at the earliest datable piece in Roman comedy and literary history: the "Maulhelden" or, literally translated, "Fame speech soldiers", "Bramarbas" (Miles gloriosus), which T. Maccius Plautus - perhaps the full name of the poet - brought to the stage in 205, still at the time of the Hannibal War, after the model perhaps of Menander, but this is uncertain, and with which he later a literary one The big-mouthed military type (who attracts mockery like other people who are envied for their social prestige and whom one likes to blame: the hypocritical clergyman, the absent-minded professor, the corrupt president, etc.) appears on the stage of modern times a triumphal march that does not begin with Gryphius and does not end with Brecht, whereby the original piece by Plautus was always taken as a basis or reworked (the last, very clever, adaptation comes from the GDR playwright Joachim Knauth) . In Germany alone, at least eight professional new productions of the play under the name of Plautus (which is otherwise seldom played today) can be proven since 1960, most recently in 1998 at the Trier Antique Festival; and the number of (mostly in Latin) school performances is likely to be considerably higher.

This may well be due to a misunderstanding about the title. In particular, the major military talk of the title hero, which is attractive for modern directors and which is presented in the most amusing way above all in the glamorous opening scene, plays no role in the (in no way pacifist) plot; it is based rather on the fact that the soldier is a boor, even megalomaniac, especially in love affairs, where he considers himself irresistible.And so one can almost assume that Plautus, going beyond his role model (perhaps Menander?), Introduced this military trait into the figure of his title hero and into the title itself, in order to, in the fateful time of the great Punic War, the Rome, a few years before the performance, at Cannae, had led to the deepest crisis in its history, to give his piece a bit of spicy topicality. His soldier, when he praises himself, uses the vocabulary of Roman heroes, as we know it mainly from the Scipion inscriptions - a Scipio soon after the performance also became the conqueror of Carthage -; and when he brags that he is a grandson of Mrs. Venus personally, it at least reminds us of the cult that Roman generals began to practice with her person: how then, but not until some time later, Sulla, who advocated one special darling of Venus, or Caesar, who even wanted to descend from her bodily.

Plautus has, of course, guarded against further updating: the object of his mockery is not the responsibly warring Roman consul, but, as always with the same milieu in the Greek model, a professional soldier, mercenary leader from Ephesus, with the grandiose, von Plautus invented name Pyrgopolinices ("Tower and City Conqueror"), who recruits soldiers for King Seleukos, but rests on his supposed laurels in order to be, as he says, "for leisure and women" in this famous life-style city can. About this man with his attitude towards life which is only too Greek according to Roman feelings - pergraecari, d. H. "To go through in Greek," is what they say when someone leads a continued way of life with wine and women - one could laugh at this Greek; and a large part of Plautus' comedy is based on a certain mockery of the funny Greeks.

People and action in the first part of the Miles gloriosus: an ancient brainwashing

But let us also consider the love story, which, as almost always, is at least the external motor of the plot! The loving couple, so to speak, which is necessary for structure, consists of the young Athenian Pleusicles ("Held zur See"), who, like all lovers with Plautus, in contrast to those with Menander, makes a very poor figure - the fuss that the Greeks make about love (and above all the money they spend for it Obviously, Plautus and his audience - and his lover - find it particularly funny Philocomasium ("Girlfriend of the parties"), a beautiful hetaera, but who is looking for lasting bonds or ties. She used to belong to Pleusicles, but during his temporary absence she was kidnapped by Pyrgopolinices, the titular hero, against her will, albeit with a certain agreement with her matchmaking mother, across the sea to Ephesus, where she now languishes in memories. The aim of the plot must therefore be to restore the girl to her former lover. At the beginning of the piece he also traveled to Ephesus to abduct her (this basic motif of the piece comes from Euripides and then goes through Plautus to Mozart's "Abduction", to Rossini and finally to "Egyptian Helena" by Richard Strauss) . Goddess Fortuna or Tyche has been involved, so that two things turn out to be very favorable for the kidnapper: His own former, but still loyal slave Palaestrio (the "man with the wrestling pinches"), the actual brain center of the play, came into the soldier's service by a hair-raising chance. And the soldier's neighbor, a bon vivant named Periplectomenus ("Hummingbird"?), Of all people, is an old friend of the Pleusicles family - with the underdevelopment of the hotel industry in antiquity one was dependent on such relationships - so that the latter can now lodge right next to his lover and the soldier, threatened in his own House and next door, hopelessly circled, so to speak. But, for all his ridiculousness, he is a rich and influential man whom one has to be afraid of almost to the end of the play.

The liberation or kidnapping, which should take place without an overly dangerous, open breach of the law - the hetaera is contractually bound to the soldier - now takes place through two intrigues that essentially fill the play and both (as almost always with Plautus) from the slave Palaestrio, the double agent or servant of two masters. In the first, the lover and his party are on the defensive. Periplectomenus, the landlord of the Pleusicle, kindly, albeit a bit very illegally, drilled the wall to the neighboring house so that the two lovers can visit each other with the help of this opening. But now it is to be feared that this ruse and the planned kidnapping will be exposed. Because the slave appointed by the soldier as a harem guard (i.e. corresponding to Mozart's Osmin) Sceledrus ("Thigh stool") happened to see from the roof how his master's lover kisses a strange young man in the house next door - what a scandal if the soldier finds out! But what a danger for himself, the clumsy guard, if the soldier did not find out from him but from somewhere else!

So the first intrigue is to prevent the threat from the guard Sceledrus from being investigated. Palaestrio does everything to intimidate his fellow slave and to teach him through a kind of brainwashing - probably the first in world literature known to us - the opinion that what he has seen, he has not seen at all. The main means of his construction of lies is the invention of a twin sister of the Philocomasium, who is said to have just come to visit her sister and her lover - this explains the stressful kiss. The mentally very clumsy Sceledrus unfortunately believes his eyes for the time being; And so a great game has to be staged, a game in which one of the Philocomasium comes out of one door in person, now as her twin sister from the other - the breakthrough in the wall makes it possible - with the disbelieving harem guardian himself physically assaults her until he finally scolded and insulted the foreign lady as a cheeky slanderer and threatened with severe punishment, collapses mentally, no longer trusts his eyes and asks for forgiveness. Although this is generously granted to him, he flees the house frightened and is thus switched off for the second part of the play. What could be achieved.

As Plautus readers, we are amused after more than two thousand years not only with the art with which the intriguing sorcerer Palaestrio ultimately throws his dull slave colleague one wrestling trick on the other, but also the no inferior art and above all the effort that it does the poet lets himself be tasted in order to make this intrigue and the whole quiproquo transparent to his audience: the Romans were obviously not used to such subtleties of deception in the theater; and the most important means of intrigue, the hole in the wall, could not be shown in the scene, which always had to be outside, in front of the house. The poet is visibly afraid that the audience and Sceledrus might fall for the intrigue; and again and again he gives them indications that there is of course only one woman who appears here and there in different costumes. Yes, he even has for this purpose - because the enjoyment of the first part of the piece stands and falls with an understanding of the intrigue and the danger that threatens from its failure - from what in the Greek original was obviously an improvised idea - the invention of the twin sister - made a plan devised on the stage through long reflection of the palaestrio in a pantomime scene, which the audience is informed in advance so that they can only follow mentally.

The second part of the Miles gloriosus: the womanizer in the trap

The same can now also be observed in the second part, where the party of the (now emerging) Pleusicles under the leadership of Palaestrios goes on the offensive in order to finally free Philocoasium. Here, too, the intrigue is carefully announced, and parts of it are even rehearsed on stage, so that misunderstandings are hardly possible even with a poorly concentrated audience. A hetaera from Ephesus named Acroteleutium ("Superspitze") pretends to be the wife of Periplectomenus, who lives next to the soldier; and the soldier is made to believe, especially by the spectacular presentation of a ring, that she is mortally in love with him. The latter, with excessive lasciviousness - the second part lives from the affect of desire, like the first from that of fear - would now like to get rid of the previous lover and, since for a snob like him the middle-class matron naturally ranks above the hetaerae, is crazy enough even ready to send her back to Athens with slave Palaestrio and an appropriate compensation. So far so good.

But what if the dizziness, as ultimately unavoidable, comes to light? This is also taken care of. After Philocomasium and her lover Pleusicles, who takes her to the ship disguised as a sailor, has left - an extremely exciting scene in the Hitchcock sense, since there is a risk that the deception will arise prematurely and the soldier will strike - until the departure - and lure a womanizer into the next house to the new lover who wants to have separated from her husband: a trap of the worst kind! The allegedly betrayed husband appears a tempo, has the soldier dragged onto the stage to defuse the most delicious weapon for the molester of his manly honor: he is to be castrated. Already hung up and wriggling miserably, he is threatened by a cook with a horrific butcher's knife until he pays a fine, hopelessly exposed to ridicule. When he learns from his slaves, who are returning from the harbor, how his former lover had betrayed him, there is no longer any question of just revenge. In a sudden, grotesquely unmotivated remorse, he speaks the moral of the story as a final word (one thinks of the final ensemble of Mozart's Don Giovanni, whose "So die, whoever does evil" does not come as a remote surprise):

... has been done right for me:

This early piece by Plautus, which with its lengths is certainly not his best, is characteristic of many things in the later Plautus as well. His treatment or non-treatment of the erotic is particularly significant in this second part. While Menander knows how to give his respective love affairs sentimental tones, everything here is comic, even grotesque. Nothing invites the viewer to really empathize with the fate of the lovers, to experience their longings and fears as well as the joys of rediscovering. As far as the latter is concerned, the ultimate thing is that when saying goodbye to the soldier, in order to reinforce his mistake, Philocomasium fakes a little fainting spell out of separation pain, that her disguised lover Pleusicles catches her in his arms, which almost accidentally leads to a kiss comes, which the soldier notices with suspicion, of course; whereupon Pleusicles insists that he only wanted to check whether the girl was still breathing - that is all that Plautus has to offer in terms of jubilation over the rescue of the lovers and the reunification of the couple. And with him there is never a piece where at the end, as is usually the case in our operetta, a united pair of lovers - which is the aim of the plot according to the scheme - would be on stage so that the audience could identify with it.

The only big love scene in the Miles gloriosusThe encounter between the soldier and the wife next door, who is said to be in love, in truth the hetaera Acroteleutium, is based on sheer simulation: the soldier, in unspeakable vanity and in order to increase his erotic market value, is a little shy, although he is deeply in love; she turns around to mock him, at first pretends not to see him and wants to blow the door of his house in a maddened state, then suddenly she smells, gifted by love with an overly fine nose, that he is not in the house, but up the stage is and when she finally sees him, it goes black before the eyes, so that her maid has to take over the courtship. No wonder that the soldier, flattered by this theater, promises to hear the woman who adores him "for once," as he says, and thus to cure her "illness". In his other pieces, too, Plautus has done everything possible to enhance his love scenes, even the most serious ones, through exaggerated play and z. Sometimes grotesque imagery of language, occasionally also through ironic intermediate comments from third parties, to take everything emotional, inviting and above all to make the audience laugh. This corresponds to the fact that, very unlike the morally-minded Menander, he occasionally inserts nonsense (whereby the homosexuality excluded there also plays a certain role), even entire scenes, as in the particularly obscene one Casinato vote indecent. (The scene with the almost castration of the soldier can be shown, for example, that it cannot come from the Greek original in this form.) In this context, it is particularly interesting that Plautus reinforces the hetaera element in his comedies compared to the Greek models - the second part of the Miles gloriosus lives from z. T. lewd hetaerae scenes and im Pseudolus one speaks of a "hetaera parade" - although or better: precisely because in Rome at that time there was no hetaera culture comparable to the Greek one, but only a relatively primitive brothel system. In these pieces, the Roman seeks not so much the mirror of his own, in the sense of the classic comedy definition cited above, than that of Greek life, which he is enjoying in its exotic foreignness and which he also wants to make fun of.

The same applies to the representation of the slaves, especially the intriguing slaves. Palaestrio, who dupes the ridiculous and unsympathetic soldier, is still a relatively decent specimen. But in other, numerous comedies, such as especially the "Ghost Comedy" (Mostellaria) of Plautus is shown how highly respectable family fathers have to be mocked by their slaves, who are regularly much smarter, and dance around on the nose, whereby the slaves still get away with impunity in the end. Of course, that too is not a reflection of Roman conditions with their strict domestic discipline, it is a caricature of Greek conditions: the slaves in Athens were known to be kept relatively freely by their masters; and that was reflected in the pieces of the "New Comedy". Only with Plautus, however, as far as we can see, does the great arrogance of the slave, who dominates the stage with the boldest intrigues, intoxicates himself with his greatness of mind and his agamemnon-like general fame, but sometimes almost burps in the face of his master. This is the wrong world, which corresponds to neither Greece nor Rome, but evidently arises from a need, at least once in the comic play of the stage, as an American philologist has said, to recover from the effort of being a serious Roman. The foreign aspect of the fabrics made it possible, and that is precisely why it was retained: In the (rarer) fabulae togataeAs we learn from precious news, it was forbidden to let slaves be smarter than their masters in the comedies set in the garb of the Roman.

Music and dance at Plautus

The most palpable, audible difference between Plautus and its Greek predecessors lies in the musicalization. While Menander's comedies were almost purely spoken pieces, in which the (the tibia corresponding) Aulos went into action and the choir only played a short inter-act music - according to what we can see, Menander did not write any texts for the choir at all, but left it up to the choir to decide which songs from his repertoire he wanted to sing - Plautus has this Pieces transformed into formal operettas or musicals with the help of music. Only about a third of his comedies are free of music, otherwise they are either recited to accompany the music, usually when the text becomes more emotional, or (as you can see from the meters) they are actually sung in songs. Especially the early one Miles gloriosus is still a little atypical here, as it contains only one scene in which there is apparently formal singing: Palaestrio negotiates in it, flying back and forth between the people, now with his master, the soldier, now with the pretty maid of the allegedly woman in love, talking a parte to both of them alternately; and both the fixed rhythm of the verses (so-called anapaeste) and the direction of movement that can still be read from the text suggest that this body play was turned into a formal dance scene during the performance (which should be a challenge for modern composers and choreographers). Otherwise our piece is limited, so to speak, to recitatives with background music, while the comedies written later are full of songs, duets and ensembles in delicious, ever-changing rhythms that expressively nestle against the text. When Plautus died, so it was allegedly said in his grave epigram, as well as other mourners, above all they had Numeri innumeri, the "countless meter measures" (a play on words that cannot be reproduced), "all together" cried miserably over the fact that they had now lost their great music master. You had reason to.

How did this musical transformation come about? They wanted to derive it from various things: from the songs of the "Old Comedy" or from an increase in the musical element in the later development of the Hellenistic drama, and finally - that is obvious - from native traditions of musical stage play. In any case, it is clear that this preference for the couplet over the speech monologue must have met a need of the Roman audience, which, following a popular cliché, should not be thought of as unmusical: Even if the singer and the actor were classified socially lower in Rome, theirs In any case, art was no less popular than in Greece.

From Plautus to Terence

If we come from Plautus to his most important successor, Terence, who died only a quarter of a century after him, admittedly very young, twenty-five or thirty-five years old (159 BC), it is as if we had come to another world or As one philologist once said, as if we were walking into church from the fair. Outwardly, there are the same plot schemes and the same people who act in the six comedies by him (listed between 166 and 160 BC) - this is his complete oeuvre -: young men in love, beautiful heterosexuals, strict fathers, etc. - but how completely different are they treated! What was bright and colorful, loud and funny, has been almost completely erased; It is now gentle and reserved on the Roman comedy stage. Music has lost its dominant position again (without becoming as insignificant as Menander's). The actions, which with Plautus often had a tendency to get lost in the episodic, to play out the comical for its own sake, without regard to the economy of the overall structure, have now become more formal, often downright perfect. The people behave more civilly: young men are full of tender sensitivity, heterosexuals are often downright noble, fathers are much less bizarre and above all never - which was particularly ridiculous with Plautus - in love; yes, it happens that even a pimp (in Plautus the monster in person), if he is fooled too much by the Attic youth, looks downright sympathetic or at least pathetic.

Another world, in fact - and the outer world had also become different. Especially after the victory over Perseus of Macedonia (near Pydna, 169 BC, an epochal date in ancient times), a new wave of Greek education and civilization had come to Rome. The conqueror of Perseus himself, Aemilius Paulus, was a great friend of Greek culture, surrounded himself with Greek philosophers, rhetors, philologists, even sculptors and painters as teachers for his children (among whom was the famous younger Scipio, who is said to have been friends with Terence , but also with the historian Polybios and the philosopher Panaitios); and alongside these higher forms of Greek intellectual education there was the Hellenization of the external habits of life through Greek gastronomy, medicine and the culture of symposia with the associated hetaeric being and also pederasty.

In this world Greek culture lost the exotic charm that it had unmistakably still had in Plautus; But this also created the opportunity to deal more intensely, more seriously than Plautus, with the spiritual and humane content of Greek comedy, especially Menander (whom Terence prefers more than Plautus did), and the timeless problems of human coexistence in marriage , To make family and neighborhood dramatic on the stage in Rome as well. While suppressing all the excessively Greek or Attic local color - you could almost play Terence today in a modern street suit - he tries to really bring something of the spirit of Menander to Rome (and that's how he later became a school author, like him which one learned Latin, especially spoken Latin, in the early modern times). Which in no way means that he slavishly followed the example. For example, it was he who, on his own initiative, introduced the almost stereotypical second pair of lovers (familiar to us primarily from the operetta) into the comedy and did quite a bit to enrich the plot with life; And so, during his lifetime, critics reproached him for "defiling" the Greek originals with his adaptations (lat. contaminare), an accusation against which he defends himself in the prologues of his plays: After all, he is doing nothing different than his predecessors Plautus and Naevius. That was correct, but it seems that certain art judges could not be menandrically enough on stage by now. It is more difficult to judge a somewhat different criticism directed against him by the literarily highly educated Caesr: For all the delicacy of the language (which he was generally allowed to use), he lacks that uis comica, the "comedy power", he is only a "half" (dimidiatus) Menander. When we look at the pieces we can only mean that Terence is even more serious than the Greek, that there is definitely less to laugh about with him. On the other hand, his mastery in character drawing was undisputed.

The deepest difference to Plautus concerns the audience's attitude towards the action on the stage. While Plautus ensures that the viewer almost always stays at a distance from the scenic event he is mockingly observing through the way he is performing, including the frequent breaking of the illusion (by addressing the audience, etc.), it is the other way around Terence tries to bring this event closer to him, to make him identify with the people and thus to touch his heart. Let us at least briefly consider the piece in which his dramatic technique has gone the furthest and which, even if it is generally less valued today, can nevertheless be regarded as ultimately his finest and in any case the most characteristic of him: the already mentioned "mother-in-law" (Hecyra), in which only the third attempt at a performance (160 BC) was successful.

The discharge of a mother-in-law: material tension in the Hecyra of Terence.

Ancient comedies and tragedies usually begin with the prologue or the first scene telling the story of the story and at the same time giving a certain foresight to the future story (which does not rule out surprises in the course of the story). As a rule, the audience knows more than the people on stage, so they easily take on the role of an outside observer. An extreme example is known to be the Oedipus of Sophocles, who in the course of the play finds out with criminalistic energy what the audience knew from the beginning: that he killed his own father and married his mother, detective and criminal rolled into one. A counterexample would be the "Broken Jug" by Kleist, where the village judge Adam, who investigates the crime, is the only one who knows that he himself is the perpetrator, while the tense spectator only gradually finds out. Terence now has in his Hecyra, completely against ancient custom, as far as we can see - we will still have to talk about his Greek model, Apollodorus - a play written in which none of the stage characters knows the full history - that would also extend to the "Oedipus" apply - in which, however, the viewer - this is what is unique - gropes in the dark together with the characters in the action.

The piece begins immediately with a riddle. There is talk on the street that the newly married Philumena, after her husband, Pamphilus, left the house where she lived with her mother-in-law, Sostrata (the heroine), suddenly left and went back to her own parents. allegedly because she was sick. Mother-in-law Sostrata tries to visit the sick but is not allowed. What's really going on? While even Philumena's father, Phidippus, with whom she lives, does not see through his daughter's motives, Sostrata's husband, Laches, who usually lives in the country, thinks he knows the surefire answer: Of course, it's his own wife's fault. Everyone knows that all mothers-in-law hate their daughters-in-law and make their lives angry! Sostrata tries to find an alternative explanation for her own relief: Philumena could just like to be with her mother ... No way! She condemns the stereotype of the wicked mother-in-law in the eyes of her husband, if not in the eyes of the viewer, who learns her unmistakable innocence from a monologue. But what is really being played?

Only the husband, it is said, can enlighten Pamphilus here. And there he appears, at the right moment back from the journey, just now, on the way to the scene, informed about the mysterious events by his slave. From the house next door, where Philumena lives with her mother, you can hear screams: Is there something about the version of the disease? This is what Parmeno, the slave, thinks now; So now also the mother-in-law Sostrata, who waits with him on the street, while Parmeno has gone to his wife's house full of concern. There you can hear the tumult again: Is the disease getting worse? When does Pamphilus bring the longed-for truth? Finally he comes out of the house, distraught, toneless and apathetic. Only when he is alone can he express himself in a monologue. Now he knows the 'illness': his wife is pregnant - labor has just started - but not pregnant by him, who - as no one else can know - had no marital intercourse with her at all in the first time after the wedding (because at that time he was still in love with a hetaera and wanted to spoil the marriage of his new wife, who had been forced upon him - the love for her only developed afterwards). Her own mother, Myrrina, confessed to him: Philumena had been raped by a stranger before her wedding, had married Pamphilus without admitting her misfortune; had set out to hide it from him, only from him of course; and now she's asking him not to make her embarrassing story public, but rather, in association with the mother-in-law, to help, not that he wrongly recognizes the child as his own - nobody dares to expect that from him - but at least that the birth will be covered up (no matter how he then wants to view his marriage). And at least that is what Pamphilus is prepared to do, despite the painful desecration of his honor, which makes further coexistence with his wife impossible for him.

Unfortunately, our rough retelling of this first part of the play cannot give any impression of the delicacy of the portrayal of the person and the psychological motivation, especially as far as Pamphilus, the main character, is concerned: Terence always has a good-hearted but weak-willed character in him again, especially because he wants to please everyone, with a character maneuvering in mental conflict and then dissolving with self-pity. But that was not the point now, but only to show: how a piece here is entirely based on a tension that results not from ignorance about the outcome, but from ignorance about the prehistory. Together with the main hero, the viewer puzzles; with him, or immediately after him, he learns the truth - admittedly not yet the full one, as will finally be shown. Terenz crowns the tension in the first part with the surprise in the second part: But he continues to keep the level of information of the hero and the audience the same.

The discharge of an honorable whore: Surprising in the second part of the Hecyra

While the intrigue of the first part, where the audience and the main hero were kept in the dark, deviated far from the customs of ancient theater, the intrigue in the second part is now more conventional as only other stage characters are to be duped - this of course without much success. The inventions of Pamphilus, with which he wants to accomplish the feat of both covering up the birth of the illegitimate child and plausibly separating himself from his - but beloved - wife, are so brain-cracked that they are more astonishing than convincing. First he claims, taking up the stereotype of the wicked mother-in-law again, that in view of the obvious quarrel between Philumena and his mother Sostrata, as a pious son he only has the option of taking the mother's side and thus remaining separated from his wife. But this absurdity of piety only arouses astonishment, especially since Sostrata, noble as always, soon declares himself ready to leave the house for the sake of the young couple and move to the country with her husband - so that the persistence with which Pamphilus in his intention holds on, now seems really absurd. The intrigue also fails for a second reason. Phidippus, the father of Philumena, discovers the newborn and, as was to be expected, crying baby, of course extremely amazed that the birth of the longed-for grandson had been kept a secret from him (and since all assumptions in this piece are fundamentally wrong, he also suspects based on the cliché of the wicked mother-in-law that his wife, out of hostility towards the young marriage, which would have been stabilized by a child, wanted to put it aside in sheer malice!). Now Pamphilus is completely in a bind. So he claims that by keeping the birth secret from him, too, his wife showed her dislike so clearly and committed such an offensive breach of trust that he could no longer live with her. But now all those present are at the mercy of such obvious pretexts: first the duty to be a son, now the insult! It seems clear that Pamphilus no longer loves Philumena, and the reason for this soon seems to be obvious: Had he not previously had the relationship with this hetaera, who - a second cliché - as femme fatale, now casts her former lover back under its spell has hit? It must be her fault; she has to be brought to the point with requests or threats that she releases Pamphilus again.

When she now appears on the stage herself, she is by no means femme fatale, but an honest woman who, through the wise determination of her utterances, which she expediently confirms by taking an oath, succeeds in convincing Father Laches that it thanks to her own renunciation, from the day of the wedding it was really over between Pamphilus and her. Laches asks, she should only say this to the ladies in the neighboring house who think very differently about her, Philumena and her mother. Then everything would be fine. Philumena might repent of the error that apparently led to her departure; and nothing could prevent Pamphilus from taking back the woman he obviously loved. This is what Laches thinks, but the viewer knows that he is wrong: Pamphilus never will in his belief in the commandments of propriety (honestum), be ready to accept the woman who brings him a child out of wedlock. The situation seems hopeless - unless the viewer is clever, perhaps also through previous comedy visits, but already suspects where the solution could come from: from the clarification of paternity. Myrrina once mentioned in passing that the rapist had stolen her daughter's ring post factum, a piece of jewelry that in some comedies is an important means of establishing recognition or other identification. And that is indeed how it is here.When Bacchis returns from the conversation with the women from the house, delighted as you can see, she delivers a message to the present slave of Pamphilus, which is not the messenger, but only the recipient and with him the spectator (provided he has paid close attention ) can understand: He should say that Myrrina recognized the ring that Pamphilus once gave her, Bacchis, as that of her daughter. For those who have not yet fully understood it, a monologue by the Bacchis says it in plain language. Nine months ago Pamphilus had come to her, drunk and panting, confessed to the act of violence against a young girl and left the stolen ring (think!) As a nice gift. So the husband was the riot criminal! The honorable whore is magnanimously pleased to be able to return her wife and son to her former lover.

Unusual ending to an unusual comedy

After so much generosity, not surprisingly in Terence, the ending brings with it an admittedly extremely delicate love scene that remains very cautious. Pamphilus, who could easily decode the message, comes on stage happily jubilant to thank his savior. He celebrates her exuberantly, because the old love is never completely rusty: it still has the old one venustas, the "charm" (from which the Roman hears the name of the goddess Venus); wherever it goes, whoever it speaks to, it always brings joy and happiness with it (voluptas). Bacchis is happy to return the compliment, noting the not entirely unsavory allusion to an epiphany of Venus: He, too, is still the most amiable person in the world. Now Pamphilus wraps up in sheer amusement: "Hahaha, you tell me that!" Whereupon Bacchis feels the embarrassment and gently guides the former boyfriend back into his role as husband: Rightly, she says with appreciation, he has grown fond of his wife, the woman she, Bacchis, has now seen for the first time - Attic matrons are well shielded from the demi-world -; she is very beautiful perliberalis (actually: as it should be for a free citizen, something else than venustus). Pamphilus, who probably doesn't really trust his own judgment and is visibly flattered about the confirmation from the appointed mouths of the hetaera responsible for this, wants to repeat this again in a tasteless way: dic verum ("Say the truth!"). And Bacchis generously assures it, now enjoying the very small triumph over the successor: "So it is, so help me God!" Even in recent comedy there are seldom scenes in which so much resonates with so few words, in which there is so audible crackling under the surface of small talk.

The final ending contains one final surprise. Pamphilus, who is obviously a little uncomfortable with the memory of the rape, asks Bacchis to keep the matter as secret as possible, especially from his parents. It doesn't have to go like in the comedies, where in the end everyone always finds out everything ... - a nice hint that Terence gives his viewer to the fact that this comedy - not only in the re-evaluation of bad mothers-in-law and cheeky hetaerae has deviated in many ways from what was expected of plays of this genre in antiquity: it offered the audience a lot to think along with, little information, little to laugh about, and above all little in terms of visible stage action. (Just compare with that Miles gloriosus and so many other Plautus pieces, where, even if not immediately castrated, everything is always in motion: door open, door closed, dress off, dress on ... where every dramatic idea becomes as obvious as possible in a visible, speaking stage process As we know for certain, Terence even went beyond his Greek model (which was probably already inclined to be frugal). Donat, an ancient commentator, teaches us that Apollodorus' scene, which actually contained the dramatic bang, the recognition of the ring by Myrrina, of course, one might say, was shown on the stage: "But that's ... ! " - the piece seems to have been invented for this moment. Terence left it out, not so much to abbreviate it, as Donat thinks, or because, as people thought, it would have been improper in Rome to bring hetaera and wife on stage together, but above all because he wanted to show that he was even without such simple and almost a little cheap effects, he could write a gripping stage play that is entirely based on emotional action and interaction. It was not without reason that one suspected that the other reveal scene, where Myrrina, running after her son-in-law, kneels down to ask him to take care of her daughter after all - now only referred to in the monologue of Pamphilus - was also staged in the Greek original. Above all, there are weighty reasons that what makes up the main originality of the piece, the generation of tension through lack of information, which is exactly contrary to the technique of all other Anagnorisis pieces, was an invention of Terence: It seems to be unique in antiquity be.

The delicacy of the economics of action would require a separate analysis, which is not possible here. Perhaps, however, a few superficial remarks can give a hint. The piece is divided into two parts, each of which contains an intrigue - first through Philumena, then through Pamphilus - and each culminating in a revelation - through Myrrina and Bacchis, respectively, which is then followed by a cover-up plan. The intrigues both contain a withdrawal of the two spouses, whereby in the first Philumena keeps away from Pamphilus, in the second Pamphilus Philumena keeps away from himself; The revelations also correspond by contrast, in that the first Pamphilus brings greatest despair, the second greatest happiness. Anyone who pursues these structural relationships further - how relatively isolated were the two intrigues of the Miles gloriosus side by side! -, sees a drawing board technique at work here which, following a common prejudice, should not necessarily be attributed to the author of the Greek original.

Perhaps the strangest thing is that this piece, for all its moral content, is devoid of moralizing. Pamphilus, with whom the viewer identifies himself according to the strategy of the author, from whose perspective he should experience what is happening in any case, is not a completely unsympathetic figure, but on closer inspection it is more than questionable. Not only that he raped an unknown virgin, that he then stole a ring from her, not for later identification for the purpose of (as far as possible) reparation, but to have a souvenir for his hetarian friend, perhaps even as a small compensation for temporary infidelity : The worst thing is that he pushes his brutally reckless act out of his mind in such a way that even then, when he hears about the rape of his wife, no memory, let alone a thought of repentance, arises in him, but he feels tearful It is said that he is always unlucky in love: first with Bacchis, who is taken away from him, then with Philumena, whom he must now cast out himself for the sake of decency, of course ... What a merciless virtuous man and Pharisee! There is no question that Terence, who so often ennobles his figures, has here resolutely degraded Pamphilus morally beyond what is necessary for the plot. The astonishing thing is that the poet never really raises his hero's dubiousness into consciousness. For example, only the fact that after the undeserved happiness at the end - a sheer mockery of all poetic justice - instead of at least going into himself now and, above all, talking to his wife, whom he has made unhappy, he still does jokes extensively on the street with the ex-girlfriend. Menander proceeded completely differently in a play that we certainly used as a model for the comedy of Apollodorus and thus indirectly for the Hecyra of Terence, the "Arbitration Court" (Epitrepontes). The hero of this play, who did the same thing as Pamphilus, not only regrets his act in the end, but above all that he resented his wife's illegitimate child. Terence omitted this moral fabula docet and did not particularly impose it on the viewer, who only found out about the rape by Pamphilus at the end. It is up to him, his intellect and his sense of decency whether he wants to enrich the piece with the moral message by which Terence has apparently shortened it. And since moralizing is otherwise a national passion of the Romans, one may assume that he (who is said to have died on a study trip to beloved Greece) wanted to be even more Greek than the Greeks here.

Otherwise he is on the way of the Hecyra, the first two performances of which were under such unfortunate omen, did not go further artistically, but has the following comedies, of which today those dealing with the problem of upbringing Adelphoe are rightly most famous, again more closely approximated to the usual type: the Eunuchus, which is most often performed on stage, has - as the title suggests - downright gaudy elements. But whoever loves Terence, this perhaps the most underrated Roman classic, must above all Hecyra estimate.

Popular forms of cheerful stage play: Atellane and Mimus

The period after Terence, which closed the series of great palliative poets with the closest approximation to Greek, i.e. the second half of the second century, as opposed to that, belongs to the togatawhose master - for us only recognizable from a good four hundred individual verses - must have been Afranius: Like Terence, whom he admired, he is said to have particularly attached himself to Menander, i.e. to have transplanted actions of his kind on Italian soil, he took himself at the same time, however, the freedom to use, for example, love for a boy as an element in the action, here too, in a certain sense, more Greek than the Greeks.

Then other forms of cheerful stage play begin to emerge in the sphere of literature. One of them is the atellans (fabula atellana), so named after its origin in the town of Atella near Capua, a simple type of farce with a rustic, coarse content; it was originally in the Oscar language, probably at the beginning of the third century - that is, some time before the Greek drama forms - introduced in Rome. Typical of them were the stereotypical four people (each with funny double consonants): Maccus, the "fool" (this is also the name of Plautus, who may have played in this role), Bucco, the "full mouth", Pappus, the grandpa", Dossennus, the "Wolverine" or "Dottore". From this a Latin amateur theater of the Roman youth develops first (as also today peasant antics are preferably played by amateur stages): This appearance in the atellane was not defamatory; Significantly, they also played in masks without exception. At the turn of the second to the first century, this initially improvised theater then turned into literary verse pieces (the main authors of which are L. Pomponius from Bologna and Novius, with altogether over three hundred surviving verses); the language remains plebeian, it is often obscene. It is interesting that the atellanes were used as amusing sequels to tragedies, i.e. as a substitute for the Greek satyr play, which had completed a trilogy of tragedies in Athens and, thanks to its phallic main characters, also had a tendency to be indecent. Apparently there has never been an actual Latin satyr play (although Horace gives rules for it too, probably in the hope of a playwright who would finally close this gap: unsuccessful until today!).

Another form of the comic, the mimus, which originally came from the Greek Sicily and was probably performed in Rome initially (in the 3rd century) in Greek. Its content was the realistic depiction of the low, above all urban everyday life, based on the most accurate imitation of people, whereby, in contrast to comedy, formal adultery, which was excluded there, played a major role and the demands on dramatic structure were only modest were (Cicero describes the end of a mimus as follows: "If you can't find a drama ending, someone flees from your hands, the castanets rattle, the curtain goes up"). The realism goes with the fact that one always played without masks and above all - a special feature on the ancient stage - that women's roles were given by women, not the most unsightly ones: at the spring festival of the Floralia, which has been taking place regularly since 173 BC. It was even common for the Miminnen to throw off their clothes at the end of the day at the behest of the audience. This is followed by a fine anecdote: The younger Cato, famous as a model of ancient Roman moral rigor, is said to have once felt that the people in his presence were hesitant to enforce this right, and he therefore left the theater, tactfully paying homage to the masses, and was too grateful thunderous applause. So the Roman diva could finally emerge from the fertile biotope of poetry, music and striptease: one of the most important women in Latin literary history, the beauty celebrated by Cornelius Gallus as Lycoris in the first Roman talks of love (who is also the mistress of Marcus Antonius was and would have long deserved a novel or a film), was under the stage name Cytheris - her real name was, less impressively, Volumnia - a Mimin, not without a level: She should (probably in 46 BC) in attendance of the incarnate Cicero have sung the sixth eclogue of the young genius Virgil (in which her beloved Gallus was also paid homage) in the theater

A little earlier in time, mimus, taking on verse form, had also become literary, taking the place of the atellanes previously used for it as a cheerful sequel to tragedy. Two poets in particular became famous here: the Syrian Publilius Syrus, who also appeared in his mimes, and the Roman knight D. Laberius. When the former once challenged all of Rome's scenic poets to an improvisational contest (probably also in games in the year 46), the dictator Caesar forced Laberius onto the stage, as if in derision of good Roman custom. The prologue of his appearance is still preserved, in which he complains that he left his house as a knight in order to return there as a dishonorable mime (i.e. losing his knighthood). And during the performance itself he is said to have avenged himself with the verses: "Citizens, go ahead! We give up our freedom" and (ominous in view of the Ides of March): "Whoever scares many, is also afraid of many!" whereupon all eyes turned to Caesar. But he was gracious in that he ignored this and immediately and visibly reinstated Laberius by handing over the golden knight's ring (along with a gift of money). We know that suggestive sayings in mimes (mimorum dicta) had the function of our political cabaret, for example - even in the imperial era, when the mimus survived strongly - and that the audience's reactions to such things were precisely registered.

The pantomime as king in the audience's favor

More popular than all other forms of stage play, however, seemed to be in the imperial era pantomime to have become an expressive dance that i. J. 22 BC It is said to have been introduced in Rome, but that only means that it was first presented in its then later binding, classical form (which is associated with the names of the two great pantomimes Pylades and Bathyllus). With what we understand today by pantomimes, that is, actors who (like Marcel Marceau etc.) perform small scenes, mostly cheerful scenes from everyday life, through mere signage, this had little to do with the silence of the game; rather, the pantomime was a single solo dancer - later rarely also a dancer - who acted in various roles on a poetic text; this was sung regularly by a choir, accompanied by a small orchestra (made up of stringed wind and percussion instruments). The texts, mostly Greek, just as the famous pantomimes themselves regularly came from the east of the empire, were only occasionally funny at the beginning, later almost always with serious, tragic content; In them, in addition to materials from Greek mythology, there are also materials from history, even occasionally from early Roman history (Dido, Turnus, of course after Virgil's famous epic Aeneid). They could be taken from existing poetry or, as it were, written specifically for a particular dancer as an independent libretto. Since the popular pantomimes z. T.received enormous fees, the poets (as in the old drama) again had the opportunity to earn money as librettists. Famous was the fee that the otherwise free poetry master epic statius received for an "agaue" that he sold to the famous pantomime Paris: The mother of Pentheus, dancing with the torn off head of her son in Dionysian rapture, must also be one of Salome's Richard Strauss would have been a comparable spectacle.

The art of these pantomimes, which, supported only by changing masks and costumes, had to dance a large number of different people in interaction - in the Paris judgment, for example, the three competing goddesses had to be represented differently with the corresponding reactions of Paris - and thus not only halls, but were able to fill and delight the huge theaters of the Roman Empire, this art, in which, as in ancient dance in general, it was not so much the movement of the mostly invisible legs that mattered as the expressiveness of arms and hands, everything must what we can imagine in the art of dance, have surpassed, an artistic perfection of the body that could only be achieved through strict diet and ascetic training. The enthusiasm aroused, especially among the female viewers, not even just the young ones, seems to have been no less than what we have known from the celebrity cult of pop music since the sixties: "When the lithe Bathyllus dances the arm artist Leda" , the satirist mocks Juvenal - one must of course think of her intimacy with the swan - "then Tuccia can no longer control her bladder and Appula yelps as if she had a sudden orgasm"; If there are no games going on for a while, he says, you caress the mask and underpants captured by your beloved dancer. This is not the only reason why it is strange that no modern dancer has tried to revive this grandiose genre of art that integrates music, dance and poetry. A work like the beast cantata "Aesopia" (based on texts by the imperial fable poet Phaedrus), written in 1980 by the important Czech Latin composer Jan Novák for choir, orchestra and dance, would be ideal.

Seneca's tragedies: forgotten plays