The Tragedies of Seneca Translated into English Verse, to Which Have Been Appended Comparative Analyses of the Corresponding Greek and Roman Plays, and a Mythological Index
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Title: The Tragedies of Seneca
Translated into English Verse, to Which Have Been Appended Comparative Analyses of the Corresponding Greek and Roman Plays, and a Mythological Index
Author: Lucius Annaeus Seneca
Release Date: October 3, 2018 [eBook #57999]
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THE TRAGEDIES OF SENECA
The Tragedies of Seneca
TRANSLATED INTO ENGLISH VERSE, TO WHICH HAVE BEEN APPENDED
COMPARATIVE ANALYSES OF THE CORRESPONDING GREEK
AND ROMAN PLAYS, AND A MYTHOLOGICAL INDEX
FRANK JUSTUS MILLER
INTRODUCED BY AN ESSAY ON THE INFLUENCE OF THE TRAGEDIES OF SENECA
UPON EARLY ENGLISH DRAMA
JOHN MATTHEWS MANLY
THE UNIVERSITY OF CHICAGO PRESS
T. FISHER UNWIN, 1 ADELPHI TERRACE
Copyright 1907 By
The University of Chicago
Published December 1907
Composed and Printed By
The University of Chicago Press
Chicago, Illinois, U.S.A.
FRANK FROST ABBOTT
MY FRIENDS AND COLLEAGUES
THROUGH A SCORE OF YEARS
The place of the tragedies of Seneca in literature is unique. Theystand as the sole surviving representatives, barring a few fragments,of an extensive Roman product in the tragic drama. They therefore serveas the only connecting link between ancient and modern tragedy. Theyare, moreover, modeled more or less closely after the tragedies ofAeschylus, Sophocles, and Euripides; and the Greek and Roman productin literature along parallel lines cannot be better studied than bya comparison of these Senecan plays with their Greek prototypes—acomparison which is not possible in comedy, since, unfortunately, theGreek originals of Plautus and Terence have not come down to us.
These plays are of great value and interest in themselves, first, as independentdramatic literature of no small merit; and second, as an illustrationof the literary characteristics of the age of Nero: the florid, rhetorical style,the long, didactic speeches, the tendency to philosophize, the frequentepigram, the pride of mythologic lore.
Popular interest in the tragedies of Seneca has been growing to a considerableextent during the last generation. This has been stimulatedin part by Leo's excellent text edition, and by the researches of Germanand English scholars into Senecan questions, more especially into theinfluence of Seneca upon the pre-Elizabethan drama; in part also by thefact that courses in the tragedies have been regaining their place, longlost, in college curricula.
The present edition seeks still further to bring Seneca back to thenotice of classical scholars, and at the same time to present to the Englishreader all of the values accruing from a study of these plays, with the singleexception of the benefit to be derived from a reading of the original.The influence which the tragedies have had in English literature is broughtout in the introduction, which Professor Manly has kindly contributed;the relation of Seneca to the Greek dramatists is shown by comparativeanalyses of the corresponding plays, so arranged that the reader may easilyobserve their resemblances and differences; the wealth of mythologicalmaterial is at once displayed and made available by an index of mythologicalcharacters; finally, it is hoped that the translation itself will prove toviiibe as faithful a reproduction of the original as is possible in a translation,and at the same time to have sufficient literary merit of its own to claimthe interest of the general reader.
The text used is that of Leo (Weidmann, Berlin, 1878), except in theinstances noted. The line numbers as printed in the translation are identicalwith those of the original text. The meter employed in the spokenparts is the English blank verse, with the exception of the Medea, in whichthe experiment was tried, not altogether successfully, of reproducing theiambic trimeter of the original. In the lyric parts, the original meters aresometimes used; and, where these did not seem suitable in English, appropriatesubstitutes have been attempted.
Frank Justus Miller
October 25, 1907
ixTABLE OF CONTENTS
|I.||The Influence of the Tragedies of Seneca upon EarlyEnglish Drama||1|
|II.||The Tragedies of Seneca Translated|
|Phaedra or Hippolytus||165|
|Octavia, with a Review of the Roman Historical Drama||415|
|III.||Comparative Analyses of Seneca's Tragedies and theCorresponding Greek Dramas||453|
3THE INFLUENCE OF THE TRAGEDIES OF SENECA UPONEARLY ENGLISH DRAMA
To appreciate fully the nature and the extent of the influence of Senecaupon English tragedy in the days of Shakespeare and his immediate predecessors,we must bear in mind that the public theaters were not the onlyplaces at which plays were then produced. At the universities, at theinns of court (which may be roughly described as combinations of a lawschool and a very exclusive social club), and at the Court itself plays werean important feature of almost every festival. Even those of us who knowthese facts are very likely to fail to realize the full meaning of them. Weare likely to regard the non-professional performances as having no moresignificance for the history of the drama than amateur performances atthe present day by dramatic clubs and college societies. We are apt toforget that, in the spacious days of great Elizabeth, learning, especiallyclassical learning, had a value, an importance, a dignity, which not eventhe most academic of us now feels it to have. Our generation, busiedabove all things with making a living or with accumulating wealth, regardsthe scholar as, with the poet and the artist, the most unpractical and uselessof men at best, tolerated as an ornamental creature whom society canafford to keep if it does not have to pay him more than it pays a butler or achauffeur. To the men of the Renaissance, scholarship and the scholarhad a unique and inestimable value. Ordinary business, in their view,enabled man to provide a living; religion taught him how to save his soul;scholarship, the knowledge of the literature and life of the Greeks and theRomans, enabled him to distinguish his life as a man from that of a beast,to approach as nearly as possible to that ideal type toward which theystrove, the uomo universale, the perfect gentleman, complete master ofhis body, of his mind, of his passions. To men of these views and thistemper, literature—first, classical literature and then the vernacular literatureproduced under the stimulus of it—was of supreme importance,and the drama was perhaps the most important form of literature. Thevalue of literature for those who were then trying to transform the world,to rebuild it and themselves nearer to the heart's desire, was of course bestrecognized by the finest spirits of the age, men like Erasmus, ThomasMore, Walter Raleigh, Edmund Spenser, Philip Sidney. But it seems to4have been felt, though in cruder ways, even by the vulgar. An amusingillustration of this is the little record kept by old Simon Forman, a notedmountebank and quack doctor, in 1610 and 1611. It has preserved for usour earliest notices of performances of Macbeth, Cymbeline, and A Winter'sTale; but this is accidental. The doctor's intention was merely to notefor his own guidance such lessons as he learned from the plays presented onthe stage. Such benefits were, according to the views of wiser men, tobe gained chiefly from comedies; tragedy, and classical tragedy in particular,had a finer, a more permanent value. Tragedy was the voice ofthe wisest men of the world, the ancients, upon the most serious themes ofhuman life; it not only, as Aristotle had said, purified the mind throughpity and terror, it fortified the inner life, and both by example and bysententious maxim prepared man to meet the most subtle attacks of fate,the temptations of success, or the discouragements of failure. Tragedytherefore had a unique value for the Elizabethans, and the performancesof classical plays, or those written in imitation of the classics, by the universitiesor the inns of court, did not fall into the abyss which now receivesamateur theatricals.
Failure to take account of the value attached to the lessons and theexamples of tragedy may perhaps account for the misunderstandingwhich exists so widely, even among scholars, in regard to the first tragedyin English, Gorboduc, or Ferrex and Porrex. Everyone knows that thiswas written in direct imitation of Seneca, and everyone discusses gliblyits Senecan features, the bloody theme, the division into five acts, the useof the chorus, the removal of the action from the view of the spectators,the long speeches; but critics are, without exception, offended to the heartby the fifth act, and especially by the two long disquisitions of Arostus andEubulus. It is, however, no exaggeration to say that the play exists solelyfor the sake of these speeches. This was not a mere academic exercise. Itwas a serious attempt by some of the most thoughtful men of England tomove the queen, Elizabeth, to a course of action which they regarded asabsolutely essential to the welfare of the realm. Other attempts to securethe same end were made by her best statesmen throughout the reign. Thefailure of this effort was not due to the weakness of the tragedy, but, likethe failure of all the rest, to some feature of Elizabeth's character orsome circumstance in her life which has not yet been fully and convincinglyexplained. The purpose of the writers is clear. They wished to persuadeElizabeth to marry and settle once for all the succession to the throne ofEngland. They, in common with all thoughtful and patriotic Englishmen,5feared the horrors of an unsettled succession or a divided rule. Thesethey tried to impress upon her mind and heart by examples drawn fromthe history of Gorboduc and his sons, and by maxims and exhortationspresented in the most authoritative form known to them, the form ofSenecan tragedy. The occasion chosen was a great festival given by thegentlemen of the Inner Temple, one of the most important and influentialof the inns of court referred to above.
Classical tragedy had, then, as we can readily see, a prestige to whichhardly anything in literature corresponds at the present day. The statesmanwho should today wish to influence his sovereign to an importantcourse of action would doubtless be puzzled to find any form of literature—academicor unacademic—appropriate to the task in dignity and authority.
It is not strange, therefore, that classical tragedy, the tragedy of theschools and the learned societies, must be taken seriously into account inestimating the forces which shaped the drama of the popular stage. It istrue that the English tragedies in classical or Senecan form were none ofthem written for the public stage. It is even probable that they wouldnot have been successful upon it. It is a mistake to treat them historicallyand critically, as if they belonged to the direct line of development whichresulted in Faustus and The Spanish Tragedy and Macbeth