Seneca’s plays were not acted; Yet in spite of the ”act that the “burden was placed upon the language” and so became rhetorical declamations, Seneca, nevertheless, “-ollowed the path along which Eu- ripides led. n2 These differences will perhaps be better understood if viewed at first historically. Both Euripides and Seneca lived in turbulent times. 1. Moulton, R. G. , The Roman Revival of Tragedr in The Ancient Classical Drama, P 203a 1 The Roman plars are clearlr not intended for acting, and not arranged for the stage Such dissociation from the stage is a disturbing force of the first magnitude. 2. Back, Charles, Medea, a Tragedr of Seneca, P iv: 1 A comparison of the principal Greek tragic poets on the one hand, and Seneca on the other, will, it is believed convince everyone that there is not so broad and deep a chasm between them as is commonlr supposed–all perfection on one side, and failure on the other,–but that there is in the three tragic poets of Greece a development perceptible, succeeded by a decline of which the best tragedies of Seneca are but a continuation, and by no means a distant one. 2 The Athens of Euripides had passed through a political reaction.
She had just performed “magnificent exploits against Persia” which had aroused anew Athenian patriotism and gave it expression in art, drama, painting sculpture and architecture. But this impulse was not long lived. With the Peloponnesian War, decadence set in and Athens began to descend from her height of achievement. Yet she continued great in poli- tics and literature; but the wound inflicted by the sudden change left its scar on men’s souls and bred a definite cynicism to which Euripides often alludes in his works.
Careful as Augustus had been to respect the old customs of the Roman Republic, repeated conq uests made by the Romans during the irst century, tended only to “undermine the old republican form of government and substitute an imperial monarchy which became a military despotism. ” There was no longer the freedom of action and of speech of the Ciceronian Forum. Politics were dangerous, and the government “produced despots rather than phil osophical statesmen. As in the days of Augustus, Rome contin- ued to draw all talent to itself and literary activities converged on the practical business of life. And so we find that the stateman and the litterateur of the Neronian court realized the harmlessness Of the mythological legends, even though they were warped by epeated use, and used them as a safe avenue for his philosophical tenets. The Roman mind, never as imaginative and poetical as the Greek, lacked the ability and power to unmask and hence these Ie ends in their hands are devoid of the verve and ”ortality of their Greek predecessors.
This historical summary will perhaps suffice to point out the causes for the marked differences in the two tragedies under consideration-3 The question of authorship of Seneca’s tragedies has been a much mooted one. It will not be necessary to take up this point at length since the “Senecan question” is still an open one, and the controversy stands. A number of views are held: tragedian and Seneca the philosopher are two distinct Seneca the personage” Lucan, the nephew of Seneca is the author Of the plays; they are the production of several authors; and, finally, they have been written by one who assumed the name of Seneca. Quintilian’s Institutio Oratoria gives us direct testimony on the authenticity of the Medea: “Interrogamus aut invidiae gratia, ut Medea apud Senecam, Quas peti terras 3. Chapman, John Jay, ed. a Greek Genius and other Essays, Euripides and Greek Genius, by Professor Gilbert Murray, Chapter VII, P 126: consider wherein Rome differed from Greece. The life of the Romans was a patchwork, like our own. Their religion was formal, their art ”ported, their literature -ita tive; their were practical, their interests unimaginative.
All social needs were controlled by political considerations. 4. Beck, Charles, Medea, a Tragedy of Seneca, from the Introductions p. vi-ix: 1 In the course of these remarks, allusion has several times been made to the opinion, that these ten tragedies are productions of several authors. Even a moderate knowledge of the language and a superficial perusal of the pl&JS will suggest this view, and a more careful investigation will tend to conftrm it, nd reduce it into a more definite shape. Saintsbury, George, in the History of Criticism and Literary Taste, Vol. , p. have never,as a critic,been able to believe Seneca wrote them. 5. “Quas peti terras jubes occurs in the second scene, of the third act of Medea of Seneca, 1. 453. 4 Kingery sums up the question as ”ollows: “The opinion now prevails that the ‘Octavia’ is not Lucius Seneca’s and that the other nine are his, with the possible exception o- the ‘Agamemnon’ and the ‘Hercules Oetaeus. 11 6 Perhaps the greatest link between the two tragedies is their “comruon interest in speculative philosophy and in live humanity.
Both were moralists and moderns; both employed similar stylistic devices; both were past masters in depicting dramatic situations; both used elaborate descriptive and declamatory passages; both plays abound in epigrams and sententious dialogues; in long rhetorical exaggeration; in bombastic speeches, frequently in the form of monologues; and in re”lective by both Chorus and characters. philosophic diatribes used Seneca “not only adopted, but even enlarged upon the many innovations” in tragic art, serious departures credited to Euripides. Both received little mention 6. Kingery, Hugh Macmaster, Three Tragedies of Seneca, p. 3, continues: of external evidence in support of this conclusion we have the mention of Seneca as a poet by Quintilian, Pliny and Tacitus, the citation of Medea as his by Quintilian, the ascription of four other tragedies to him by well- known writers in the early centuries and the negative fact that we have no proof of the existence of a separate Seneca tragicus.
Of internal evidence we have the occasional reference to contemporary events in which Seneca was deeply interested; the close parallel in philosophical principles and general tone of thought between the tragedies and the prose works which re indisput his; and the identity of literary style. 7. Rogers, B. B. translation of The Frogs Vol.
IX, P 438 in the Harvard Classics says: ‘”The Frogs’ was produced the year after the death of Euripides and laments the decay of Greek tragedy which Aristophanes attributed to Euripides. Here, as elsewhere, he stands for tradition against innovation of all kinds, whether in politics, religion or art. The hostility to Euripides, is a result of his attitude of conservatism. ” 5 ! rom their contemporaries, yet both have been imitated throughout the ages. 8 Seneca’s “historical ! ction was to be a link between the incipient modern drama and Hellenism, which could not be directly accessible, or indeed, intelligible, so long as Greek study was in its infancy. 11 9 This study then is an attempt to further establish the probability, and to lay a sounder basis for the belief, that the analogies which the Latin tragedy bears its Greek prototype cannot be considered as happening by mere chance as properties common to tragedy in general, but tend to reveal Seneca’s indebtedness to his Greek predecessor.