Octavia (play)

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Octavia
Ritratto di claudia ottavia, da roma, via varese.JPG
Sculpture portrait of Claudia Octavia
Written by Anonymous
Original language Classical Latin
Subject Divorce of Nero and Octavia
Genre Fabula praetextata
(Tragedy based on Roman subjects)
Setting Imperial Rome

Octavia is a Roman tragedy that focuses on three days in the year 62 AD during which Nero divorced and exiled his wife Claudia Octavia and married another (Poppaea Sabina). The play also deals with the irascibility of Nero and his inability to take heed of the philosopher Seneca's advice to rein in his passions.

The play was attributed to Seneca, but modern scholarship generally discredits this.[citation needed] It is presumed to have been written later in the Flavian period during the 1st century, after the deaths of both Nero and Seneca.

Characters[edit]

Plot[edit]

Act I[edit]

Octavia, weary of her existence, bewails her misery. Her nurse execrates the drawbacks which beset the proud surroundings of life in a Palace. The Nurse consoles the grieving Octavia, and dissuades her from prosecuting any revenge which she might be contemplating. The Chorus being in favor of Octavia, looks with detestation upon the marriage of Poppaea, and condemns the degenerate patience of the Romans, as being unworthy, too indifferent and servile, and inveighs against the crimes of Nero.[1]

Act II[edit]

Seneca despises the vices of his times, praises the simplicity of his former life, and offers his opinion that all things are tending in a direction for the worse. The philosopher warns his patron Nero to no purpose, who pertinaciously insists on carrying out his tyrannical plans, and appoints the next day for his marriage with Poppaea.[1]

Act III[edit]

Agrippina appears from the underworld, a cruel soothsayer carrying before her the fatal torches, at the nuptials of Poppaea, and Nero whose death she predicts. Octavia urges the populace, who are espousing her cause, not to grieve about her divorce. The chorus, however, does grieve for her sad lot.[1]

Act IV[edit]

Poppaea, being frightened, in her sleep, narrates her dream to the Nurse; the Nurse treating the dream as nonsense, consoles Poppaea, with some silly interpretation. The Chorus praises the beauty of Poppaea. The Messenger describes the mood of the populace, on account of the divorce of Octavia and the marriage with Poppaea.[1]

Act V[edit]

Nero, boiling over with rage, on account of the tumultuous rising of the populace, orders the most severe measures to be taken against them, and that Octavia, as the cause of such a rising, shall be transported to Pandataria and there slain. The Chorus sings regarding popular favor, which has been destructive to so many, and after that brings into notice the hard fates which have befallen the Caesarean Dynasty.[1]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d e Bradshaw, Watson (1903). The ten tragedies of Seneca. S. Sonnenschein & Co.  This article incorporates text from this source, which is in the public domain.

Editions[edit]

  • Otto Zwierlein (ed.), Seneca Tragoedia (Oxford: Clarendon Press: Oxford Classical Texts: 1986)
  • Octavia: A Play attributed to Seneca, ed. Rolando Ferri (Cambridge Classical Texts and Commentaries No.41, Cambridge UP, 2003) [1]
  • John G. Fitch Tragedies, Volume II: Oedipus. Agamemnon. Thyestes. Hercules on Oeta. Octavia (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press: Loeb Classical Library: 2004)

Further reading[edit]

  • F. L. Lucas, "'The Octavia', an essay," Classical Review, 35,5-6 (1921), 91-93 [2].
  • P. Kragelund, Prophecy, Populism, and Propaganda in the "Octavia" (Copenhagen, 1982).
  • T. Barnes, "The Date of the Octavia," MH, 39 (1982) 215-17.
  • Harris, W.V., Restraining Rage: The Ideology of Anger Control in Classical Antiquity (Cambridge, Harvard University Press, 2001).
  • T. P. Wiseman, "Octavia and the Phantom Genre," in Idem, Unwritten Rome (Exeter: University of Exeter Press, 2008).
  • Girolamo Cardano 'Nero: An Exemplary Life' Inkstone, 2012.

External links[edit]

Octavia-- translated, with notes, by Watson Bradshaw