Atellan Farce

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The Atellan Farce (Latin: Atellanae Fabulae or Fabulae Atellanae,[1] "favola atellana[2]" ; Atellanicum exhodium, "Atella comedies[3]"), also known as the Oscan Games (Latin: ludi Osci, "Oscan plays"), were masked improvised farces.[4] It was very popular in Ancient Rome, and usually put on after longer plays like the pantomime.[5] The name is believed to have been derived from Atella, an Oscan town in Campania, who were one of the first to have a theatre and the hypothesized point of origin of Atellan Farce.[6][7][8] They were originally written in Oscan and imported into Rome in 391 BC. In later Roman versions, only the ridiculous characters read their lines in Oscan, while the others used Latin.

Stock characters[edit]

Some of the hypothesized stock characters included:

  • Maccus (a hunchbacked, beak nosed character)[9][10]
  • Buccus (the country booby)[10]
  • Manducus (the arrogant soldier)[10]
  • Pappus (the old man)[10]
  • Centunculus (the comic slave) [10]
  • Dosseunus (the pompous doctor) [10]

There has been some debate of these characters connection to similar stock characters in Commedia dell'arte, as well as Punch and Judy. Atellan Farce and Commedia were both improvised masked comedies. Some Historians argue that the stock characters in Atellan Farce are the beginnings of what would become the stock characters of Commedia dell'arte.

Some of the theorized character progressions are as follows:

However, the connection of Atellan Farce to Commedia dell'arte and assumption that Atellan Farce is the precursor to Commedia dell'arte is still under debate.[16] As for Atellan Farce's connection to Punch and Judy, the similarities between Punch and the Commedia dell'arte character Pulcinella are notable. However, many historians still debate whether or not Punch's derivation can be traced back to Pulcinella.[17][18]

Authorship[edit]

It is believed that the dictator Sulla wrote some. Quintus Novius, who flourished 50 years after the abdication of Sulla, wrote some fifty Atellan Fables, including Macchus Sexul ("Exiled Macchus"), Gallinaria ("The Henhouse"), Surdus ("The Deaf One"), Vindemiatores ("The Harvesters"), and Parcus (“The Treasurer”).

Lucius Pomponius, of Bologna, is known to have composed a few, including Macchus Miles ("Macchus the Soldier"), Pytho Gorgonius, Pseudoagamemnon, Bucco Adoptatus, and Aeditumus. Fabius Dorsennus and a "Memmius" were also authors of these comedies; Ovid and Pliny the Younger found the work of Memmius to be indecent.

Controversy and suppression[edit]

Taken from Tacitus ( Annals, Book 4): "...after various and often fruitless complaints from the praetors, the emperor Tiberius finally brought forward a motion about the licentious behavior of the players. 'They had often,' he said. 'Sought to disturb the public peace, and to bring disgrace on private families, and the old Oscan farce, once a wretched amusement for the vulgar, had become at once so indecent and popular, that it must be checked by the Senate's authority'. The players, upon this, were banished from Italy".

Suetonius ( Tiberius, 45, 1) reports that Tiberius himself was mocked for his lecherous habits in an Atellan farce, after which the saying "the old goat lapping up the doe" (hircum vetulum capreis naturam ligurire) became popular.

The above passage suggests a growth in popularity or maybe even a revival of these farces, in the 20s AD, that met the disapproval of an older generation of patricians and senators. Perhaps they were even performed out in public places as an act of direct hostility towards (or a means to mock) specific people or families. At any rate, these performances eventually became so obnoxious that, in 28 AD, all those who performed in these farces were banished from Italy.

The Augustan History records that Hadrian furnished performances of Atellan Farces at banquets.[19]

See also[edit]

Sources[edit]

  • Fragments of the Atellan Fables can be found in the Poetarum latinorum scen. fragmenta, Leipzig, 1834
  • Maurice Meyer, Sur les Atellanes; Manheim, 1826, in-8°;
  • C. E. Schober, Über die Atellanen, Leipzig, 1825, in-8°;
  • M. Meyer, Etudes sur le théâtre latin, Paris, 1847, in-8°.

The works of Pomponius and Novius can be found in

  • Otto Ribbeck, Comicorum Romanorum praeter Plautum et Terentium Fragmenta
  • Eduard Munk, De Fabulis Atellanis (1840).

References[edit]

  1. ^ Smith, Winifred (1964). The Commedia Dell'Arte. New York: Benjamin Blom. p. 24. The extemporary compositions called Fabulae Atellanae... 
  2. ^ Kennard, Joseph (1964). The Italian Theatre: From Its Beginning to the close of the Seventeeth Century. New York: Benjamin Blom. p. 5. Another early form of drama, was the Atellanian fable (favola atellana), so called from the Etruscan city Atella. 
  3. ^ Oreglia, Giacomo (1968). The Commedia dell'Arte. New York: Hill and Wang. p. 78. ...the Pappus of Atella comedies 
  4. ^ Smith, Winifred (1964). The Commedia Dell'Arte. New York: Benjamin Blom. p. 26. Atellnae were farces marked by improvisation and masked personages, 
  5. ^ Duchartre, Pierre (1966). The Italian Comedy. New York: Dover Publications, INC. p. 25. They were later called Exodiae, because they were often given at the end of the performance. 
  6. ^ Kennard, Joseph (1964). The Italian Theatre: From Its Beginning to the close of the Seventeenth Century. New York: Benjamin Blom. p. 5. Another early form of drama, was the Atellainian fable, so called from the Etruscan city Atella. 
  7. ^ Duchartre, Pierre (1966). The Italian Comedy. New York: Dover Publications, INC. p. 25. The ancient city of Atella, now known as Aversa, was one of the first to have a theatre, in fact. 
  8. ^ Ducharte, Pierre (1966). The Italian Comedy. New York: Dover Publications INC. p. 25. When performed in Rome they were called Atellanae, which became their accepted name. 
  9. ^ Smith, Winifred (1964). The Commedia Dell'Arte. New York: Benjamin Bloom. p. 22. A grotesque statuette representing a beak-nosed, hunchbacked individual, was unearthed at Herculaneum in 1727, which by a slight stretch of imagination could be identified with Maccus 
  10. ^ a b c d e f Byrom, Michael (1972). Punch and Judy: Its Origin and Evolution. Aberdeen: Shiva Publications. p. 4. ISBN 0902982028. There was the old man (Pappus), the old woman, the comic slave (Centunculus), the country booby (Buccus), the arrogant soldier (Manducus), the pompous doctor (Dossenus), and the sharp-tongued hooked nosed hunchback (Maccus). 
  11. ^ Duchartre, Peirre (1966). The Italian Comedy. New York: Dover Publications, INC. p. 17. The ancestor of Pantaloon, and his son Harpagon, is Pappus, the lecherous old miser of the Antellane 
  12. ^ Oreglia, Giacomo (1968). The Commedia dell'Arte. New York: Hill and Wang. p. 78. In the ancient theatre the characters which recall this Mask are those of the various old men of Aristophanes, Plautus, Terence, and the Pappus of the Atella comedies 
  13. ^ Duchartre, Pierre (1966). The Italian Comedy. New York: The Dover Publications, INC. p. 18. The cradle of the family was the ancient city of Atella, in the Roman Campangna, and the gallery of ancestors shows, among others Bucco and the sensual Maccus, whose lean figure and cowardly nature reappear in Pulcinella 
  14. ^ Duchartre, Pierre (1966). The Italian Comedy. Dover Publication, INC. p. 29. Pulcinella was always dressed in white like Maccus, the mimus albus, or white mime 
  15. ^ Duchartre, Pierre (1966). The Italian Comedy. New York: The Dover Publications, INC. p. 18. Next there is the ogre Manducus, the Miles Glorious in the plays of Plautus, who is later metamorphosed into the swaggering Captain, or Captain. 
  16. ^ Smith, Winifred (1964). The Commedia Dell'Arte. New York: Benjamin Blom. p. 21. page 21 Not a little nonsense has been written about the “evolution” of the commedai dell’arte. Of the three main theories that attempt to account for our farces the hoariest and most outgrown is that concerning their putative Roman father, surely a ghost that by now ought to be permately laid. 
  17. ^ Smith, Winifred (1964). The Commedia Dell'Arte. New York: Benjamin Blom. p. 23. The identification of the statuette with a future in the Mimes or even with a stage character at all is very uncertain, nor is it safe to press its resemblance to the English Punch; there is no doubt that it looks like Punch but this, I think, is vest explained by the fame of the figure at the time of its discovery and by the influence of its peculiarities on the face and figure of the English villain-clown. 
  18. ^ Byrom, Michael (1972). Punch and Judy: Its Origin and Evolution. Aberbeen: Shiva Publications. p. 5. ISBN 0902982028. In 1662, Pulcinella crossed the English Channel and became 'Punchinello' later to be known simply as Punch. 
  19. ^ HA Hadrian 26.

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