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A New and Complete Translation

Essay 99

1 Leave a comment on paragraph 1 0 [†]12 April 1768[99.1]

2 Leave a comment on paragraph 2 0 Consequently, Terence did not have to depict his Ctesipho as humiliated at the end of the play and thereby on the path to improvement.[99.2] But this is exactly what our author had to do. I only fear that the spectator cannot take the groveling repentance and the fearful submission of such a reckless delinquent seriously. And likewise his father’s change of heart. Both of these reversals are so little grounded in their characters that we feel a bit too keenly the writer’s need to find an end to his play and his difficulty in finding a better way to end it. – I have no idea where so many comic writers have derived the rule that at the end of the play the wicked must necessarily either be punished or improve themselves. This rule might be more pertinent to tragedy: there, it can reconcile us with fate and turn discontent into compassion. But I think that in comedy, it not only fails to help, but rather spoils a great deal. At the very least it makes the outcome awkward, cold, and dull. If the various characters I assemble in an action just bring that action to an end, why should they not remain as they were? But of course the action must consist of something more than simply a collision of characters. Such an action can only end with some of these characters giving in and changing; and a play that has little or nothing more than this does not approach its end so much as gradually die out. If, on the other hand, that collision persists with the same intensity even as the plot approaches its end, then it is easy to see that the ending can be just as lively and entertaining as the middle was. And that is precisely the difference between Terence’s final act and the final act of our author. As soon as we hear, in the latter, that the strict father has discovered the truth, we can count the rest on our fingers, for this is, after all, the fifth act. At first he will rant and rave; then he will allow himself to be placated, recognize his wrongs, and want to change so that he will never again be able to provide material for such a comedy. Likewise, the wayward son will come, apologize, promise to improve – in short, everything will become one heart and soul. In contrast, I would like to see the person who can predict all of the twists and turns in Terence’s fifth act! The intrigue is long over, but the continuing play among the characters makes it hard to see that the end is near. No one changes, but each reins in the other just enough to keep him safe from the disadvantages of excess. Through the stingy Demea’s maneuvering, the free-spending Micio is brought to a point where he himself recognizes the extravagance of his conduct, and asks:

3 Leave a comment on paragraph 3 0             Quod proluvium? quae istaec subita est largitas?[99.3]

4 Leave a comment on paragraph 4 0 Just as, vice versa, the strict Demea is led by the accommodating Micio to finally recognize that it is not enough always to criticize and punish, but it is also good “obsecundare in loco.[99.4]

5 Leave a comment on paragraph 5 0 I want to bring up just one more small matter by which our author, once again to his own disadvantage, has distanced himself from his model.

6 Leave a comment on paragraph 6 0 Terence himself says that he took an episode from a play by Diphilus and brought it into Menander’s Brothers, and thus put his play together.[99.5] This episode is the violent abduction of the psaltria by Aeschinus, and Diphilus’s play was called The Dying Companions.[99.6]

Synapothnescontes Diphili comoedia est […]

8 Leave a comment on paragraph 8 0             in Graeca adulescens est qui lenoni eripit

9 Leave a comment on paragraph 9 0             meretricem in prima fabula […]

10 Leave a comment on paragraph 10 0             […] eumhic locum sumpsit sibi

11 Leave a comment on paragraph 11 0             in Adelphos […][99.7]

12 Leave a comment on paragraph 12 0 Judging from these two circumstances, Diphilus wanted to present a pair of lovers who were firmly resolved to die with each other rather than allow themselves to be parted; and who knows what might have happened if a friend had not intervened and abducted the girl for her lover? Terence toned down the decision to die together by making it simply a decision on the part of the lover to run after the girl, abandoning father and fatherland for her. Donatus says this expressly: “Menander mori illum voluisse fingit, Terentius fugere.”[99.8] But shouldn’t it say Diphilus instead of Menander in Donatus’s comment? Most certainly, as Peter Nannius has already noted.[*][99.9] For the poet, as we have seen, says himself that he has borrowed this whole episode of the abduction not from Menander but from Diphilus, and Diphilus’s play even speaks of dying in his title.

13 Leave a comment on paragraph 13 0 Meanwhile, of course, in place of this abduction borrowed from Diphilus, there must have been some other intrigue that Aeschinus similarly took part in on behalf of Ctesipho, and through which he aroused the very suspicion in his beloved that in the end successfully hastened their union. What this consisted of is hard to guess. Whatever it was, it most certainly would have taken place just before the beginning of the play, just like the abduction Terence uses for the same purpose. For this must have been what everyone was talking about as Demea came into the city; this, too, must have been the instigation and matter over which Demea begins the argument with his brother right at the beginning, and in which both of their dispositions are developed so splendidly:

[…] nam illa quae antehac facta sunt

15 Leave a comment on paragraph 15 0             omitto: modo quid dissignavit? […]

16 Leave a comment on paragraph 16 0             fores effregit atque in aedis irruit

17 Leave a comment on paragraph 17 0             alienas […]

18 Leave a comment on paragraph 18 0             […] clamat omnes indignissume

19 Leave a comment on paragraph 19 0             factum esse. hoc advenienti quot mihi, Micio,

20 Leave a comment on paragraph 20 0             dixere! in orest omni populo, denique.[99.10]

21 Leave a comment on paragraph 21 0 Now I have already said that our author changed this violent abduction into a little scuffle. He may have had his good reasons for doing so – if only he had not had this scuffle itself happen so late. This, too, should have been and must have been what infuriates the strict father. Here, however, he is enraged before it even happens, and we have no idea why. He comes on stage and quarrels without the least cause. He does say: “Everyone is talking about the bad conduct of your son, I barely set foot in the city and I get the shock of my life.”[99.11] But just what all these people are talking about, what this shock he has gotten consists of, and why he has expressly come to quarrel with his brother – we do not hear any of this, and we cannot divine it from the play, either. In short, our author could certainly have changed the circumstance that gets Demea up in arms, but he should not have moved it! At the very least, if he did want to move it, then in the first act he should have had Demea gradually express his dissatisfaction over his brother’s method of raising his son, and not have him explode with it all at once.

22 Leave a comment on paragraph 22 0 If only those plays by Menander that Terence used had come down to us! I can think of nothing that would be more instructive than a comparison of these Greek originals with their Latin copies.

23 Leave a comment on paragraph 23 0 For it is certain that Terence was no slavish translator. Even where he retained in their totality all the threads of Menander’s play, he still allowed himself some small additions, some amplifications or attenuations of this or that feature; Donatus indicates various instances of this in his Scholia.[99.12] It is only a shame that Donatus always writes of these so succinctly and often so opaquely (because in his time Menander’s plays themselves were still in everyone’s hands), so that it becomes difficult to say anything authoritative about the value or worthlessness of such Terentian refinements. A noteworthy example of this can be found in The Brothers.


24 Leave a comment on paragraph 24 0 [*] Sylloge v. Miscell. cap. 10: “Videat quaeso accuratus lector, num pro Menandro legendum sit Diphilus. Certe vel tota Comoedia, vel pars istius argumenti, quod hic tractatur, ad verbum e Diphilo translata est. – Ita cum Diphili comoedia a commoriendo nomen habeat, & ibi dicatur adolescens mori voluisse, quod Terentius in fugere mutavit: omnino adducor, eam imitationem a Diphilo, non a Menandro mutuatam esse, & ex eo commoriendi cum puella studio Synapothnescontes nomen fabulae inditum esse.”

  • 25 Leave a comment on paragraph 25 0
  • [99.1] Actually published Easter (March) 1769.
  • [99.2] Lessing continues from [98] his discussion (begun in [96]) of the differences between Romanus’s comedy Die Brüder [The Brothers] and Terence’s Adelphi [The Brothers]. Terence’s play has two pairs of brothers: Micio and Demea (Philidor and Lysimon in Die Brüder), and Demea’s sons Aeschinus and Ctesipho (Leander and Lycast in Die Brüder). Romanus changes the younger set to cousins. See [70.6] for the origins of Die Brüder, and [70.7] for the plot of Terence’s play.
  • [99.3] “What is this whim? What is this unexpected extravagance?” (Act 5, Sc. 8). Tr. John Barsby in Terence Adelphi/The Brothers 2: 365.
  • [99.4] “To support from time to time” (Act 5, Sc. 8). Tr. John Barsby in Terence Adelphi/The Brothers 2: 365.
  • [99.5] Diphilus (born c. 350 BCE): playwright of ancient Athens; a major influence on Plautus and Terence.
  • [99.6] The Dying Companions: Lessing’s translation of Synapothnescontes; see note 7.
  • [99.7] “Synapothnescontes [Joined in Death] is a comedy by Diphilus…At the beginning of the Greek version there is a young man who abducts a girl from a pimp….Our author has taken it over for his The Brothers…” (Prologue). Tr. John Barsby in Terence Adelphi/The Brothers 2: 255.
  • [99.8] “Menander writes that he wants to die, Terence that he wants to escape.” From Donatus’s commentary on the play; see Donatus, Publii Terentii 268.
  • [99.9] Peter Nannius (Petrus Nannius, Pieter Nanninck) (1500–57): Dutch humanist scholar who published numerous ancient Greek and Roman works, with accompanying commentary. For the Latin quoted in Lessing’s footnote, see Nannius, Symmiktōn 53–4. For an English translation, see Robertson 329.
  • [99.10] “To say nothing of what he’s done in the past, look at his latest exploit….He’s broken down a door and forced his way into someone else’s house….Everybody is protesting that it’s outrageous behavior. The number of people who spoke of it, Micio, as I came into town! The whole population is talking about it.” (Act 1, Sc. 2). Tr. John Barsby in Terence Adelphi/The Brothers 2: 261.
  • [99.11] See preceding note.
  • [99.12] Scholia: commentary.
  • [†] Text in blue indicates passages ommitted by Zimmern in her 1890 translation.
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Source: http://mcpress.media-commons.org/hamburg/essay-99/