Horace, Ars Poetica

LCL 194: 466-467

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Ars Poetica

eyes, which an actor’s ready tongue will narrate anon in our presence; so that Medea is not to butcher her boys before the people, nor impious Atreus cook human flesh upon the stage, nor Procne be turned into a bird, Cadmus into a snake. Whatever you thus show me, I discredit and abhor.

189Let no play be either shorter or longer than five acts, if when once seen it hopes to be called for and brought back to the stage. And let no goda intervene, unless a knot come worthy of such a deliverer, nor let a fourth actor essay to speak.b

193Let the Chorus sustain the part and strenuous duty of an actor, and sing nothing between acts which does not advance and fitly blend into the plot. It should side with the good and give friendly counsel; sway the angry-and cherish the righteous. It should praise the fare of a modest board, praise wholesome justice, law, and peace with her open gates; should keep secrets, and pray and beseech the gods that fortune may return to the unhappy, and depart from the proud.

202The flute—not, as now, bound with brass and a rival of the trumpet, but slight and simple, with few stops—was once of use to lead and aid the chorus and to fill with its breath benches not yet too crowded, where, to be sure, folk gathered, easy to count, because few—sober folk, too, and chaste and modest. But when a conquering race began to widen its domain, and an ampler wall embraced its cities, and when, on festal days, appeasing the Geniusc by daylight drinking brought no penalty, then both time and tune won greater licence. For what taste

DOI: 10.4159/DLCL.horace-ars_poetica.1926