Thursday, May 26, 2022

Quote of the Day (Terence, on a Playwright’s Disasters in Ancient Rome)

“Now for my sake give a fair hearing to my plea. Once more I am presenting The Mother-in-Law, a play for which I have never been able to gain a hearing uninterrupted, so much has misfortune dogged its progress….When I tried to produce it the first time, the report of boxers (joined to the belief that a tight-rope walker would appear), the throng of their admirers, the shouting, and women’s screaming forced me off stage before the end. I then decided to employ my usual approach on the new play and try it out again; I put it on a second time. The first act was going well when news arrived that there was to be a gladiator’s show. In surged the people, pushing, shouting, jostling for a place, leaving me powerless to hold my own.”—Ancient Roman playwright Terence (c. 186-159 BC), “The Mother-in-Law,” in The Comedies, translated by Betty Radice (1965)

And the creators of modern theater—an anxious crew depicted in the Michael Frayn farce Noises Off—think they have it bad!

(The image accompanying this post, a Roman mosaic, depicts actors and a musician. It comes from “The House of the Tragic Poet” in Pompeii.)

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