Seneca was a better playwright than Sophocles

Seneca: Philosopher, statesman and poet 111 vole addition from the Comedy of Diphilus and the 'Roman' ending led to breaks in Menander's still intact plot structure and to dissonances in the character drawing of the characters. The 'breaks' and the irritating ambiguity can, however, be seen as the signature of all Terence comedies: the dramas pose questions for discussion on the stage, for which answers are suggested, which, however, are usually only partially highlighted as 'correct'. With the staff of the comedy characters, human strengths and weaknesses are staged and different ways of thinking and problem solutions are evaluated, without preference being given to a specific morality or ideology. If Terence's reworking of the Greek models in the Adelphs led to the aforementioned 'breaks', this only increased the degree of reflection and sophistication of the piece, as did the comic effect that the change in the 'fun brake' Demea produced in the end. One could imagine that the comedy at the general's funeral games opened up a counter-world to the gloomy mood of state mourning and was able to generate the 'comic relief' that is often produced in the theater of tragedy. 11. Seneca: Aestheticization of Power, Violence and Passion Lucius Annaeus Seneca: Philosopher, Statesman and Poet According to Accius, the production of Roman tragedies and comedies almost comes to a standstill (p. 82f.). The poets of the late republic and the Augustan classic preferred other literary genres. However, the public's taste had obviously changed and so the re-performances of the old dramas will eventually also be discontinued. Among the few poets for whom tragedies are still attested, three stand out: 11. Seneca: Aestheticization of Power, Violence and Passion112: In the Augustan period these are Varius Rufus and Ovid (p. 83), in the early imperial period Seneca. In addition to his activities as a businessman and writer, Seneca made a career in politics and was in more or less close contact with the emperors Tiberius, Caligula, Claudius and finally Nero. After eight years of exile under Claudius, initiated by the Empress Messa lina, he was appointed to the Roman imperial court in AD 49. The new empress Agrippina entrusted him with the upbringing of her son from his first marriage, Nero, who was proclaimed the new emperor at the age of 17 after the murder of Claudius in 54 AD. Seneca is said to have written Nero's inaugural address. What has been preserved is a satire from his pen, which mocks Claudius, who died and was declared god in the imperial cult (Apocolocyntosis, "the gourd"). From the earliest years of his political activity, Seneca wrote philosophical writings in which he presented the principles of Stoic ethics as a guide to coping with life. After a conflict with the emperor, Seneca withdrew to his estates in 62, but continued to work in the scriptures. In 65 Seneca was found guilty of involvement in the Pi sonic conspiracy against Nero and forced to commit suicide. At what stage of his biography and under which emperors Seneca's tragedies originated cannot be determined. Even while he was Nero's tutor, Seneca was confronted with several politically motivated murders. Claudius was poisoned because, as the father of his biological son Britannicus, he could have changed the line of succession to the disadvantage of Nero and Agrippina at any time. Britannicus was murdered a year later, in AD 55. The mother murder followed in 59; According to the depiction of Tacitus, the motif of Nero's concern was that Agrippina would connect with another member of the imperial family who could also lay claim to the imperial throne. In 62 Nero expelled his wife Octavia, the daughter of Claudius, with whom he had been married for dynastic reasons; she Seneca ‹Tragicus› 113 was killed in exile. Each of the murders can be understood as a preventive measure against the endangerment of Nero's regime. Seneca must have been informed of their planning and may have tolerated them out of concern for the stability of imperial power and the political situation in Rome. Seneca ‹Tragicus› Under Seneca's name is a corpus of ten tragedies about supplies. Nine pieces depict mythological subjects based on Greek models. In the so-called Codex Etruscus from the 11th century, they are in the order adopted in the modern critical editions: Hercules Furens ("Der raging Hercules"), Troades ("Die Troerinnen"), Phoenissae ("Die Phoenizierinnen") ), Medea, Phaedra, Oedipus, Agamemnon, Thyestes, Hercules Oetaeus ("Hercules on Mount Oeta"). For stylistic reasons, the latter piece is not attributed to Seneca, but to an unknown author, the so-called 'Oetaeus poet'. In any case, the Praetexta Octavia, in which Seneca himself becomes a tragedy figure, is inauthentic; it probably belongs to the Flavian period (69–96 AD). The form of the tragedies - with the exception of Oedipus and the apparently unfinished Phoenissae - corresponds to the scheme with five acts, which are divided by four choral songs. The iambic trimeter is almost always used for the spoken parts, which means that Seneca, unlike the playwrights of the republic, again follows the rules of Greek metrics. In addition to the choral songs, he also offers actor arias in lyrical meters. In Seneca research, three sets of questions belong to the repertoire: (1) Linked to the problem of dating the individual pieces is the question of allusions to concrete political events. (2) Seneca's authorship of philosophical writings of a stoic nature allows the conclusion that the tragedies are also based on stoic concepts. (3) The fact that no evidence of the staged performance of Senecanian dramas has survived, as well as the knowledge of the drastic 11. Seneca: Aestheticization of Power, Violence and Passion114 decline in dramatic performances in the early imperial period lead to the assumption that it is mere reading texts or recitation dramas that would not have been written for the stage from the start and could not have been performed for technical reasons. The judgment of August Wilhelm Schlegel may play a role in this; at the beginning of the 19th century, the texts were described as "pompous and frosty beyond description"; they are "stripped of all theatrical insight" and "were never intended to emerge from the schools of rhetoricians onto the stage." Even after Schlegel, Seneca's tragedies were often viewed as mere rhetorical exercises and as a series of declamations in five acts. In recent Seneca research, too, the question of a specific political reference continues to be asked. But it is now assumed that the genre of tragedy with the theme of the mostly bloody power struggles per se is always also political. If one tries to recognize a similarity between the mythical rulers and the historical Nero in Seneca's tragedies, which is often attempted, this is possibly anachronistic not only because the dating must remain uncertain, but also unnecessary with regard to a political interpretation. In recent research, there is hardly any doubt that the Seneca dramas also reflect specifically stoic concepts such as elements of the doctrine of affect or the motif of the inalienability of virtue and, as it were, put them to the test in the drama. However, this does not turn the tragedies into philosophical textbooks. The question of performance is clearly affirmed in the Anglo-Saxon Seneca research. This also makes the perception that the Seneca tragedies are recitations or even pure reading dramas irrelevant. However, it can be assumed that the stages in the early imperial era cannot be compared with those of the “great theater” of the republic. As a location for the performance, closed rooms are conceivable with an audience that was less interested in stage spectacles than in a rhetorically sophisticated, i.e. coherent Ar Medea: The Revenge of the Outcast Wife and Mother 115 gumentation and persuasiveness-oriented speech. What has been referred to as a rhetorical “bulge” since Schlegel can be grouped under the term “Comparativus Senecanus”: The efforts of Senecan characters to be as cruel and evil as possible are sometimes pushed to the limits of what is imaginable and feasible, and only that "which far exceeds what has hitherto been accustomed" (Thyestes 267: maius et solito amplius) can satisfy the thirst for revenge of the tragic heroes and heroines. The Seneca tragedies with their mythical subjects, which are primarily about husbands, mother and infanticide, cannibalism and incest, are on the one hand in the tradition of Greek dramas, on the other hand with their often baroque aesthetic of the terrible and the frequently used crescendo of violence - occasionally also structural, psychological - certainly surpasses it. Medea: The vengeance of the cast out wife and mother The Medea myth is one of the most famous subjects in ancient literature and as a consequence of world literature. It is known to the Roman audience of the early imperial era not only from reading Greek tragedies, above all Medea des Eu ripides, and the Roman dramas - possibly also their performance - but also from the epic and elegiac Argonaut poetry: Medea is the daughter of the King of Colchis on the Black Sea (now Georgia). She falls in love with the Greek Jason, who came to Colchis on the Argo ship to bring back the Golden Fleece - a ram's skin. By helping the stranger, Medea betrays her father, whom she leaves in the wake of Jason and the Argonauts. On the run, she kills her own brother Apsyrtus and throws his body parts into the sea to stop the persecutors. Back in Iolkos, Jason is confronted with his uncle Pelias' claims to power. Medea uses a trick to get Pelias' daughters to kill their father. The couple had to flee Iolkos with their two children from 11. Seneca: Aestheticization of Power, Violence and Passion116 and were accepted by King Creo in Corinth. Jason now accepts Creo's offer to marry his daughter Creusa and become heir to the throne. Medea is formally rejected because, as the person responsible for the murder of Pelias, she poses a danger to Corinth; because Pelias ’son Acastus threatens a war of atonement. At this point the drama begins. Act I: Medea realizes in her performance monologue that she will lose Jason with the upcoming wedding. Act II: In conversation with her old nurse, she develops her first plans for revenge. In a dialogue with King Creo, she defends herself virtuously against the accusations that justify her expulsion from Corinth. But Creo is merciless; at least he gives her a day's respite so that he can say goodbye to the children. In this way she gains time to carry out her vengeance. Act III: In meeting Jason, Medea tries in vain to win him back; also the appeal to his solidarity in return for the fact that she has become a criminal for him, and the suggestion that they flee together - in the role of a 'criminal couple', as it were - run nowhere. On the other hand, Jason invokes his duty to his two sons, which compels him to accept the king's offer (v. 545: pietas vetat). Here Medea recognizes his weak point: "Is that how he loves his children?" (V. 549: sic natos amat?) She asks in a speech spoken a parte. So at this point it can hit him and hurt him. Act IV: In a messenger report, the nurse tells of Medea's activities as a sorceress before she appears on stage herself. In an aria, Medea turns to the goddess Hecate and asks for assistance. She brews a poison with which she soaks a dress for Jason's bride and gives it to her children, who are to deliver it to Creusa. Act V: A messenger reports on the effect of the gifts: The poison burned Creusa, the fire also killed the king, destroyed the palace and threatened the city. After a final struggle with herself, Medea kills the two children and throws them at the feet of Jason, who appears with a group of armed soldiers. Sie Medea: The vengeance of the cast out wife and mother 117 escapes with a "winged chariot into the air" (v. 1025: inter auras aliti curru vehar). a) Medea Senecana Senecas Medea is in several ways comparable to the Medea des Euripides. However, the above-mentioned signatures of the Seneca dramas can be asserted as specific differences: The Senecan Medea appears in the text as an emotionally intelligent woman who still loves her husband and is ready to forgive him. When she realizes the motivation for his marriage to the king's daughter and thus his selfishness, she begins to hate him. She knows the power of her affects, she knows how to keep increasing the force of her anger, so that in the end, after she has stamped out the last remnants of motherly love with the thought of Jason's egoism, with the murder of can punish children he loves. She he shows herself to be a connoisseur of the stoic doctrine of affect, as explained by Seneca in his philosophical treatise "On anger" (De ira 2,1,4-5; 2,4,1): The budding drive (impetus) of anger develops if it is not controlled, furor (furor); but Medea does not want to be able to control the instinct in the first place, but rather let it become more and more powerful in order to be able to carry out infanticide (v. 895-904). In this she sees her true nature confirmed, only then is she the 'old' Medea, as she is known from the myth: “Now I am Medea. My spirit grew from evil »(v. 910). Now she can even enjoy her own atrocities (vv. 912-4). She also knows the logic of the ruling dynasties, according to which responsibility, gratitude and love do not count and must consequently step back behind plans for politically opportune (marriage) alliances. She also knows about the dynastic potential of Jason and her two sons. In the confrontation with the two powerful men, Creo and Jason, she does not allow herself to be cornered, but with her conclusive arguments proves to be intellectually superior. Jason blames her for Pelias's murder as does 11. Seneca: Aestheticization of Power, Violence, and Passion118 oneself; for «to whom the crime is useful has done it» (vv. 500–1: cui prodest scelus, is fecit). However, as a woman, she can only lose in politically motivated decisions. After clever arguing for good reasons does not help, she becomes a sorceress. With her appearance in the 4th act it is made clear that she exceeds the limits of the normal human. Instead of rational arguments, magical practices are now used. Jason could have guessed this; for he himself had made use of her magical powers more often to achieve his success. Medea's return to her 'old' role is already announced in the second act, in a drama-typical scene in which the familiar wet nurse tries to keep the tragic heroine from her fateful plan during a conversation. When the nurse turns to her with the address "Medea", she interrupts her and continues the sentence: "... I want to become" (v. 165: Medea - fiam). She does not allow herself to be dissuaded from her plans for revenge, which however are still vague. The process of becoming 'Medea' is on the one hand halted and, on the other hand, accelerated by her encounter with Jason and the attempts to win him over again. But in the decision monologue in Act 5, doubts arise again and her love for Jason also forces her to change positions several times. But she for her part overcomes the doubts and emotions by speaking to the children Creusa, who is to become their stepmother; so she will not kill her own children, but those of Jason's new wife. She can also justify the double child murder with the obligation to revenge: the murder of the first child is asserted as compensation for the fratricide of Apsyrtus. With the second killing, she takes revenge on Jason himself. Only now is she again the Medea she was in her homeland of Colchis: the double child murder results in betrayal of the father as well as the loss of her status as king's daughter and her innocence paid (v. 982-6). After she became a witch in the 4th act, she appears again in the last act as the clearly thinking, calculating and self-controlled woman.The logic of her argument is Medea: The revenge of the outcast wife and mother is captivating in a terrifying way, her thirst for revenge and the boundless anger are quite understandable. The “playing along” audience cannot help but sympathize and even hope that she will punish the cold-hearted egoist Jason and that she will get her revenge. The moment she throws his sons - her own children - dead at his feet, you may even feel satisfaction yourself. But that shouldn't be: by taking off with the wing cart, Medea also removes herself from the audience's world of experience. The limits of the human must and should not be exceeded as a spectator. Her demonic nature, which had already become clear in the magic scene in the 4th act, but was brought back into the realm of human experience in the 5th act, literally raptures her, so that "we" suddenly no longer join us you can and want to identify. However, Jason has the final say. In the last verse he calls after her: "Testify that where you go there are no gods" (v. 1027). The implicit claim that the gods are where it remains, however, provokes much more doubt than it calms. b) Medea on the stage Research is trying to show in the final scene that the Seneca tragedies as a whole are not conceived for the Roman theater and cannot be performed: Medea pulls along when Jason appears with the armed troop the one child's corpse and the second child back to the roof of their house (vv. 973-4), from where she speaks to him. Her house will be marked through one of the side doors on the rear wall of the stage of the Roman theater; There is no protruding and therefore accessible roof. Seneca's Medea also contradicts the rule formulated in Horace's Ars poetica that murders must not be carried out in front of the public (v. 185: ne pueros coram populo Medea trucidet). In addition, she has to lug a child's play with her (v. 975). On the other hand, it can be argued that ancient stage technology also made it possible to construct an elevated place, which becomes the roof of the house with the declarative speech act of Medea's statement. The children can be replaced by dolls. The "role" of the wing car can be taken over by a stage crane, as was already common practice in Greek theater. The fact that Seneca has his Medea carry out the murders on the open stage does not call into question whether it can be performed. On the other hand, the transgression of norms and rules staged both with the child murders and with the contravention of the theory of drama is provocative. This variant of the 'Com parativus Senecanus' is thus a logical consequence of the stage action: the technically unusual murder coram populo symbolizes the excessive anger of the abandoned wife and mother, caused by the selfishness and lust for power of the husband and father. Motivations of Anger and Murder: Oedipus and Troades The logical consistency with which Senecas Medea represents her cause and defends it against other claims is characteristic of most Senecan figures. This will be shown using two further examples. a) Oedipus: ruler and murderer The subject matter of Oedipus is also known to the modern audience, the drama plot largely follows King Oedipus of Sophocles (pp. 35–37). Like Medea, the Senecan Oedipus knows how to make his anger against his brother-in-law Creo and the seer Tiresias understandable with conclusive arguments: From his perspective, he cannot be his father's murderer and have married his mother, since his parents are both are in Corinth. He cannot have murdered Laius, his predecessor on Theben's throne and in marriage bed, because he was allegedly attacked and killed by a band of robbers. Oedipus has good reason to suspect a plot against himself, the rightful king of Thebes, and in this role he is even obliged to have Creo thrown into prison (v. 707). As a strict consequence, even when he realizes his own guilt, he is motivated by anger and murder: Oedipus and Troades 121 continue to be the ruler and punish himself. Justice is only established when he can retaliate the transgression of norms, which he has committed through parricide and incest, with an adequate and thus excessive punishment: with self-blindness, which is presented to the audience with all bizarre details in a messenger report Eyes ›is guided. Seneca's Oedipus moves consistently within the political order and uses the means of political power, even in excess of self-punishment. Nor does he ask the question of responsibility for the guilt that fate had placed upon him from the outset. He accepts his lot and the "cruel sayings of fate" and "gladly follows them" (v. 1061: ducibus his uti libet). He embodies the ideal of the stoic sage who, as Seneca says in a letter to Lucilius with the quotation of a poem from the pen of the Greek stoic Kleanthes, lets himself be guided by fate (epist. 107,11: ducunt volentem fata, nolentem trahunt ). b) The "Troades" The Troades includes material that the audience can know from a Euripides tragedy of the same name and, for example, from Ac cius ’Astyanax (p. 79f.). After the destruction of Troy, the seer Calchas demands a politically motivated ritual murder on behalf of the gods: Astyanax, the only surviving male offspring of the Trojan royal family, must be killed. This is the only way to prevent a generation of avengers from Troy from threatening the Greeks and their sons with a new war. Andromacha is committed to the life of her child with all available means. As is clear from their speech and actions, however, they motivate not only motherly love but also love for the husband that she sees in their child, as well as the desire that Asty anax actually become the avenger (v. 471: vindex) of the destroyed Troy and the royal family can become. With her mother and aristocratic pride as well as the awareness of the dynastic potential of her son, she herself provides the legitimation for his son's assassination. When she throws herself at Ulixes and his captors in the pleading pose and begs for mercy, he plausibly replies that he too, like the other Greeks, has to protect a son - from the threat posed by Astyanax. Ulixes leads him to the walls of the destroyed Troy, from where the boy throws himself to his death. With the plausibility check of a political murder, which is vital for other people, the Senecan Troades put up for discussion a problem that was also (and not only) virulent in the early imperial era. A biographical interpretation could come to the conclusion that Seneca brings in his own experiences at the Julio-Claudian court in this way. But the question of whether human lives can be offset against one another is inscribed in the myth from the start and thus remains timeless - even without historical reference. 12. The drama in late antiquity - outlook The theater criticism of the church fathers Since the late republic, the great stage successes have not been achieved with subtle spoken theater, but with the virtuoso forms of pantomime and mime, which replaced the two genres of tragedy and comedy. In pantomime, a pantomime represents the tragic act in expressive dance; he plays several roles at the same time, while the text is recited by a reader (anagnostic), a singer or a choir. Mimus replaces classic comedy and 'enriches' it with obscene content. From the very beginning, both forms of acting attracted the reproach of cheap showmanship and the 'immoral' effect. These topoi of theater criticism were further elaborated by the Christian authors of the 3rd to 5th centuries AD, for example in Tertullian's book "About the Games"