So fhall ye all be fair and upright judges.

By whofe command, and wherefore I am come,
I'll now relate, and likewife tell my name.

I come by Jove's command: my name is Mercury.
My fire has fent me to implore your favour,
Though by his pow'r he knew he could perforce
Conftrain you so to act as he should order;

For he is not to learn how much ye fear
And reverence this high fove, as is your duty:
Yet has he order'd me with mild petition
To ufe entreaty, and in gentle terms;
For that fame Jove, by whofe command I come,
Has not lefs dread of harm than any of you :
Nor is it marvellous that he fhould fear,
Born of an human fire, an human mother:




V. 9.] Mercury here drops his godship, and talks of the actor, who was to play the character of Jupiter, and of himself as mere mortals, who were afraid of meeting with an ill reception from the audience, and being confequently punished. [See the next note.] Madam Dacier calls this a pleasant paffage; but the mere modern reader, I am afraid, will fcarcely be induced to look upon it in any other light than as an abfurdity.

V. 30. Harm.] Malum. The Latin word, as commentators agree, implies the punishment, which was inflicted upon actors, (as they were flaves) who did not perform their parts to fatisfaction. Malum is often ufed by our author as meaning corporal punishment.

If I might be pardoned, I fhould be led, from confidering the fervile condition of the actors of former times, to conjecture how Terence, who was originally a flave, came afterwards to be a writer of comedies, and fuch excellent ones too. He was perhaps employed about the stage, and even an actor on it: as we owe our own Shakespeare to his having been in a like fituation. But I throw this out merely as a conjecture.


And I too, even I, who am Jove's fon,

Have of my father caught the dread of harm:
Therefore in peace I come, and bring you peace. 35
I would entreat of you what's just and easy :
For I am come a fupplicant from one
That's just himself, sent justly to the just
For to require what's unjust from the just,
Is unbecoming; and to afk what's just
From the unjust is folly, fince they neither
Know what is right, nor pay observance to it.
Now lend attention to my words. Our will
Should be your will: we both have well deferv'd,
I and my fire, of you and your republic.

And wherefore fhould I mention that I've seen
In tragedies how other deities,

Neptune to wit, Virtue, and Victory,

Mars and Bellona, have with boasts recounted



The good that they have done you? all which benefits 50
My father wrought, the ruler of the gods:

But it was never yet a cuftom with him

V. 35. It must be confeffed, that Plautus too often trifles in playing with words, as he does notoriously in this paffage. V. 37. A fupplicant.] The Latin word is Orator. Cooke, who has tranflated this play, infifts that Orator here means Ambassador, as in the prologue to the Step-Mother, and also the Self-Tormentor, of Terence, where Mr. Colman differs from him, and rightly tranflates it in both places Pleader; for which fee his reafons. In this place neither one nor the other is proper, as is plain from the preceding line.

Juftam rem et facilem effe oratam a vobis volo, and feveral others, where orare and oro are mentioned.

V. 43.] Mercury here resumes his character of a deity.

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To twit the good with any good he did :
He thinks your gratitude repays his kindness,
well deferve the good he does you.

And that

Now what I'm come to afk I'll first premise,
Then tell the argument of this our tragedy.
Why are your brows contracted? Is't because
A tragedy I call'd it? I'm a god,

And I will change it, if it be your pleasure;
I will convert it from a tragedy

To comedy, the verfes ftill the fame.
Would ye it fo, or not? But I'm a fool!

As though I did not know, who am a god,



would have. Your minds I understand, 65

What ye would have.

Refpecting this affair.-It fhall be fo;

Our play fhall have a proper mixture in it,
So fhall it be a Tragi-comedy.

V. 68.] This is the only mention made (as I believe) in any ancient author, of that mixed kind of play, which is here called Tragi-comedy, or rather Tragico-comedy; and the reason given for that appellation is, that the highest characters, even of gods, as well as the lowest, were introduced in it: (perhaps, indeed, this is the only play of the kind, that was ever produced.) But without this reason, the diftreffes of Amphitryon and Alcmena, with the comical humours of Sofia and Mercury, might give it a fair title to this appellation, even according to the modern acceptation of the term; as it is not neceffary that a tragedy should end unhappily, or that any of the characters should come to an untimely end.

Dryden, in his Amphitryon, has thought proper to distinguish the ferious from the comic parts, by giving the first in verse, and the other in profe; which, I fear, in the latter part, has too often led him into fuch low and farcical stuff, as neither his Latin nor his French original betrayed him into.


For, as I think, it is not right in me

To make it wholly comedy, where kings

And gods are introduc'd. What then remains?
Why, fince there is a flave in't plays a part,
I'll make it, as I said, a Tragi-comedy.

Now Jove has order'd me to beg of you,
That the inspectors, each of them, may go
Among the audience into all the feats
Throughout the theatre; and if they find
Any fuborn'd and planted partially

To clap an actor, let them take their gowns
Upon the spot as lawful perquifites.




Further, if any fhould the palm folicit

For a performer, or whatever artist,

Or by themselves, by writing, or by meffage;
Or if the Ediles fhould the prize decree,
In violation of their oath, unjustly;
Jove has commanded, that the self-fame law
Be put in force against them, as if any one
Should feek by indirection to obtain

An office in the ftate, or for himself,


Or for another. You, he faid, were conquerors 90

V. 75, Infpectors.] Conquifitores. These were perfons appointed to go about the theatres, to discover whether there were any hired to applaud this or that actor. The reafon for employing fuch officers was, because he who performed his part best had a reward paid him by the Ediles, who were upon oath to give the reward without partiality. Cooke.

This note will explain several paffages that follow.

V. 82. Artift.] Artifici, that is, Scenico, meaning any one employed in the representation, whether actor, finger, dancer, or musician.


Through worth, not by ambition, or by perfidy.
Why should the law less hold against the player,
Than the chief perfons in the common-wealth?
From merit, not by favour, we should feek
To gain the prize. He who acquits him well
Will find enough to favour him, if they
Are honeft, to whofe hands th' affair is trufted.
This likewise has my father giv'n in charge,
That there should be infpectors o'er the players;
So that if any of them fhould fuborn

A party to applaud them, or prevent
By unfair practices another's pleafing,



Their dreffes may be stript from off their backs,
And skin too in the bargain. Wonder not,
That Jove concerns him now about the Actors: 105
Himself will play a part in this our comedy.
Why should ye be amaz'd, as though it were
A thing unheard of until now, that Jove
Should turn a stage-player? Upon this stage,
Tis but a year fince,-when the actors call'd


V. 103.] Ornamenta et corium conciderent. Meaning the punifhment of flogging to be inflicted on them: tho' fome interpret corium to fignify coriacea perfona, the mask made of leather.

The whole preceding paffage is curious, as it informs us of the extraordinary precautions taken by the Romans to prevent undue influence, or unfair practices, in obtaining or bestowing the rewards affigned to theatrical performers; though it will not be eafily conceived by the modern reader, how these precaucautions could answer the end propofed: neither have we any information, that I know of, by what rules, or in what manner the decifion was made. It is certain, that in modern theatres fuch regulations would be to no purpose.


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