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A New and Complete Translation

Essay 71

1 Leave a comment on paragraph 1 0 [†] 5 January 1768 [71.1]

2 Leave a comment on paragraph 2 0 It would not seem that M. de Voltaire has reread much Terence since he left school with the Jesuits.[71.2] He speaks of it as an old dream; something of it still floats about in his memory, and he just blithely writes that down, without caring if it has any rhyme or reason. I will not credit his remark that the play’s Pamphila “only appears on the stage to give birth.”[71.3] She does not appear on the stage at all, she does not give birth on stage; we only hear her voice from the house; and, moreover, it is entirely unclear why she should play the most interesting role.[71.4] Not everything of interest to the French was of interest to the Greeks and Romans. In those days, a good girl who had gotten in over her head with her lover and was in danger of being left by him was very unsuitable for a leading role. –

3 Leave a comment on paragraph 3 0 The truly coarse mistake that M. de Voltaire makes concerns the development and the character of Demea. Demea is the surly, strict father, and he is to suddenly change his character entirely. With all due respect to M. de Voltaire, that is not true. Demea maintains his character until the end. Donatus says: “Servatur autem per totam fabulam mitis Micio, saevus Demea, Leno avarus” etc.[71.5] “Of what concern is Donatus to me?” M. de Voltaire might say. As he pleases, so long as we Germans may be permitted to believe that Donatus read Terence more diligently and understood him better than Voltaire. Yet we are not talking about a lost play, after all: it is still there, one can simply read it.

4 Leave a comment on paragraph 4 0 After Micio tries to placate Demea through the most compelling arguments, he begs him to be free of vexation just for today, to be merry just for today. Finally he gets him to that point too: today, Demea will let things go, but tomorrow, in the early dawn, his son must go back to the country with him, and there he will not be so lenient; there he will take up with his son exactly where he left off today. He will take along the “music girl” his cousin bought for his son too, for she is after all a slave, and one that did not cost him anything. She will not have much singing to do, though; she will cook and bake. In the scene that follows, the fourth scene of the fifth act, where Demea is alone, it seems indeed, if one only takes his words at face value, that he wants to give up his old way of thinking and begin to act in line with Micio’s principles.[*][71.6] Yet what follows shows that all of this must be understood in terms of the restraint he is showing today. For later he even knows how to use this restraint so that it turns into the most punctilious and malicious mockery of his agreeable brother. He pretends to be merry in order to lure the others into genuine extravagance and folly, he makes the bitterest accusations in the most obliging tone, he does not become generous but rather plays the spendthrift, and all for no other purpose than to make everything he calls wasteful seem ridiculous. This is made incontrovertibly clear from the answer he gives to Micio, who has been deceived by appearances and believes him really changed.[†][71.7]Hic ostendit Terentius,” Donatus says, “magis Demeam simulasse mutatos mores, quam mutavisse.”[71.8]

5 Leave a comment on paragraph 5 0 I would hope, moreover, that M. de Voltaire does not mean that this dissimulation itself runs counter to the character of Demea, who previously has done nothing but chide and scold, because dissimulation demands more composure and coolness than one might believe Demea capable of. In this, too, Terence is blameless, and he has motivated everything so excellently, observed nature and truth at every step so precisely, and taken care to give such subtle shadings to even the smallest transitions, that one cannot cease admiring him.

6 Leave a comment on paragraph 6 0 Yet to get behind all of Terence’s subtleties, we require the gift of imagining the actor’s playing, for the old poets did not include it. Declamation had its own artists, and for the rest they could doubtless depend on the insight of the players, who made a very serious study of their business. Not infrequently the poets themselves were among the players; they said how they wanted it played. And because they generally did not let their plays circulate before they had been performed, before people had seen and heard them, they could all the more easily avoid interrupting the written dialogue with insertions in which the descriptive poet seems in some way to mix in among the characters. If one imagines, however, that in order to spare themselves these insertions, the old poets tried to indicate in the speeches themselves every movement, every gesture, every facial expression, and every particular change in the voice to be observed with each speech, then one will be mistaken. In Terence alone countless passages occur in which there is not the least trace of such an indication and where nevertheless the true understanding can only be met through guessing the true action; indeed, in many places the words seem to say precisely the opposite of what the actor must express through them.

7 Leave a comment on paragraph 7 0 Such passages occur in the very scene in which Demea’s supposed change of mind occurs, which I want to quote because to a certain extent the misunderstandings that I am arguing about rest on them. – Demea now knows everything, he has seen with his own eyes that it is his pious and reputable son for whom the “music girl” was abducted, and he breaks into the most uncontrolled tantrum. He laments to heaven and earth and the sea, and then he comes face to face with Micio.

8 Leave a comment on paragraph 8 0 DEMEA: Ha! There he is, the one who has ruined both of them – my sons, he has destroyed both of them!

9 Leave a comment on paragraph 9 0 MICIO: Oh, control yourself, and pull yourself together!

10 Leave a comment on paragraph 10 0 DEMEA: All right, I am controlling myself, I am myself again, no more harsh words will escape my lips. Let’s just stay with the facts. Did we not agree, was it not you yourself who first suggested, that each of us should only concern himself with his own? Answer. [‡] etc.[71.9]

11 Leave a comment on paragraph 11 0 Anyone who attends only to the words here and who is not as keen an observer as the poet was can easily believe that Demea spends his rage too quickly and strikes this more peaceful tone too quickly. After a little consideration, in fact, it will perhaps occur to him that the former emotion, if it has come to its extreme, must necessarily subside again; that Demea, upon hearing his brother’s reprimand, can only be ashamed of his blustering fury. And that is all very well, but it is, however, not yet correct. We can learn this from Donatus, who has two excellent comments here. “Videtur,” he says, “paulo citius destomachatus, quam res etiam incertae poscebant. Sed & hoc morale: nam juste irati, omissa saevitia ad ratiocinationes saepe festinant.”[71.10] When an angry man believes himself to be obviously in the right, when he imagines that nothing can be said to challenge his grievances, then reprimands are precisely the last thing that will stop him; rather he will rush to prove his point, in order to humiliate his opponent through crystal clear persuasion. Yet because he cannot immediately govern the surging of his boiling blood, because the anger that wants to convince is still nothing other than anger, Donatus makes his second comment: “non quid dicatur, sed quo gestu dicatur, specta; & videbis neque adhuc repressisse iracundiam, neque ad se rediisse Demeam.[71.11] Demea does indeed say, “I am controlling myself, I am myself again”; but face and gesture and voice sufficiently betray that he is not yet himself again. He besieges Micio with one question after another, and Micio needs all his coolness and good humor just to get a word in.


12 Leave a comment on paragraph 12 0 [*] DEM:           […] nam ego vitam duram quam vixi usque adhuc

13 Leave a comment on paragraph 13 0 prope iam excurso spatio omitto.

14 Leave a comment on paragraph 14 0 [†] MIC: quid istuc? quae res tam repente mores mutavit tuos?

15 Leave a comment on paragraph 15 0 quod prolubium? quae istaec subitast largitas?

16 Leave a comment on paragraph 16 0 DEM:                                                              dicam tibi:

17 Leave a comment on paragraph 17 0 ut id ostenderem, quod te isti facilem et festivom putant,

18 Leave a comment on paragraph 18 0 id non fieri ex vera vita neque adeo ex aequo et bono

19 Leave a comment on paragraph 19 0 sed ex assentando, indulgendo et largiendo, Micio.

20 Leave a comment on paragraph 20 0 nunc adeo si ob eam rem vobis mea vita invisa, Aeschine, est,

21 Leave a comment on paragraph 21 0 quia non iusta iniusta prorsus omnia omnino obsequor,

22 Leave a comment on paragraph 22 0 missos facio, effundite, emite, facite quod vobis lubet.

23 Leave a comment on paragraph 23 0 [‡] DEM:                                               eccum adest

24 Leave a comment on paragraph 24 0 communis corruptela nostrum liberum.

25 Leave a comment on paragraph 25 0 MIC: tandem reprime iracundiam atque ad te redi.

26 Leave a comment on paragraph 26 0 DEM: repressi, redii. mitto maledicta omnia:

27 Leave a comment on paragraph 27 0 rem ipsam putemus. dictum hoc inter nos fuit

28 Leave a comment on paragraph 28 0 (ex te adeost ortum) ne tu curares meum

29 Leave a comment on paragraph 29 0 neve ego tuom? responde. –

  • 30 Leave a comment on paragraph 30 0
  • [†] Text in blue indicates passages ommitted by Zimmern in her 1890 translation.
  • [71.1] Actually published spring of 1768.
  • [71.2] Lessing continues, from [70], a critique of Voltaire’s comparison of Terence’s The Brothers with Molière’s The School for Husbands; for the plot of these plays, see [70.7] and [70.8]. Voltaire’s early schooling was at the Jesuit Collège of Louis-le-Grand in Paris (1704–11), where he received a classical education.
  • [71.3] See Voltaire,“L’École des Maris” in La Vie de Molière 420.
  • [71.4] Pamphila does in fact remain offstage.
  • [71.5] “Throughout the entire play, each character is preserved – gentle Micio, severe Demea, the greedy pimp.” From the commentary on The Brothers by the Roman grammarian and rhetorician Aelius Donatus (4th c. BCE). See Donatus 240.
  • [71.6] The quotation that Lessing provides in his footnote can be found in both Latin and English in Terence, Adelphi l. 859–60.
  • [71.7] Terence, Adelphi l. 984-91
  • [71.8] “Here Terence shows that Demea pretends his character has changed, rather than that [Demea] has actually changed.” See Donatus 334.
  • [71.9] For a direct translation of the Latin, see Terence, Adelphi l. 792–8.
  • [71.10] “He seems to have calmed down a bit more quickly than is called for by even these uncertain circumstances. But this is also characteristic: for those who are angry with just cause often come quickly to logical reasoning, once they set aside their rage.” See Donatus 320.
  • [71.11] “Watch not what is said, but with what gesture it is said, and you will see that Demea, at this point, has neither restrained his temper, nor come back to himself.” See Donatus 320.
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Source: http://mcpress.media-commons.org/hamburg/essay-71/