COMMENTARY NOTES (TRANSLATION)
Title Page The quotation is Ovid, Epistulae ex Ponto IV.xiv.43. There is a punning self-reference in this line. The name Gwinne means white in Welsh, and Gwinne published bad Italian sonnets under the name Il Candido.
Dedicatory epistle Written to Thomas Egerton, Baron Ellesmere and Viscount Brackley [1540? - 1617], Lord Chancellor and Keeper of the Privy Seal; his son Sir John Egerton, destined to be created the first Earl of Bridgewater [1579 - 1649]; and Francis Leigh, married to Sir Thomas daughter Mary (articles on the two Egertons are in the D. N. B.). Gwinnes reason for dedicating Nero to these three is obscure, but we may note that in later life Sir John Egerton was the recipient of other such dedications, such as that of Sir John Davies Orchestra, and was very much involved with Milton, who wrote Comus in his honor. Cf. R. Fogle and Louis A. Knafla, The Country Chancellor: The Patronage of Thomas Egerton, Baron Ellesmere, in French R. Fogle and Louis A. Knafla (edd.), Patronage in Late Renaissance England (Los Angeles, 1983).
something of the kind is celebrated at Cambridge At Cambridge the Bacchalaureate festivities were celebrated on Ash Wednesday. This was a holiday, like the Athenian Dionysia, when plays were produced.
as the man said about Demosthenes Pliny the Younger, Epistles II.iii.10.
So that they may be celebrated freely Gwinne is probably thinking of a remark in the first chapter of John of Salisburys Policraticus from which he is about to quote (I prologus 387a, p. 15 Webb), that Decembers license might be employed. The license of the Roman Saturnalia (December) and the Greek Dionysia (March) were similar.
My leisure is so alien to my practice Terence, Heauton Timorumenos 75f.
a man who neglects his own affairs Horace, Satire II.iii.19.
as the man says Polemon, Second Oration (p. 61 Hinck).
this carper against everything Similarly, in his etter to Dr. John Rainolds of July 31, 1592, William Gager described Momus as a carper, and a pincher at all thinges that are done with any opinion of well dooinge.
taken from that very author These Tacitean quotes in favor of the theater are taken from Annales XIV.xxi.
Livys Aristo For Aristo cf. Livy, Ab Urbe Condita XXIV.xxiv.2.
Ciceros Roscius and Aesopus Roscius and Aesopus were the two most celebrated actors of Ciceros day; for the latter cf. D. F. Sutton, Aesopus and the Emotional Lability of Audiences, Quaderni Urbinati di Cultura Classica 19 (1985), 63 - 73. The orator was on friendly terms with these both and acted for both in a professional capacity.
our gentlemen-Rosciuses Cf. the epilogue to Gagers Panniculus Hippolyto Tragaediae Senecae Assutus (1592), 369f 369f.: We have not learned acting, we are ignorant of Roscius art. Gager went on to make his Rainolds-Momus jeer at this plea (402ff.).
a spokesman for all such The following quotation is from Pliny the Younger, Epistles V.iii.2.
he gave this verdict Ib. 6. It is perhaps surprising that Gwinne does not allude to one devastating fact. The prize Roman specimen of the evil of acting, not neglected by Rainolds, was of course the emperor Nero. Gwinne therefore could have scored a powerful debating point by noting that Neros most famous victim, the Stoic martyr Thrasea Paetus, was also an amateur actor (Tacitus, Annales XVI.xxi).
Reading aloud creates a greater impression Ib. 9.
leaden, stodgy, asinine in heart, hand, and head These words contain an echo of Terence, Heauton Timorumenos 877
As Aristaenetus said Gwinne paraphrases (but does not accurately quote) Aristaenetus, Epistle 1, p. 3 Mazal.
in the view of John of Salisbury Policraticus III. viii 490d, pp. 194f. Webb.
as Epictetus points out Enchiridion xvii.
souls who work deception by playing the fox Horace, Ars Poetica 437.
hide the cunning fox under a bland exterior Persius, Satire v.117.
those who don and put off masks Binns, Intellectual Culture 135, translated these words as those who assume and lay aside death-masks, as if Gwinne was thinking of the Roman practice of wearing the deathmasks of ones ancestors.
recooking the cookie An echo of Juvenal, Satire vii.154.
Is the gods wrath so great? Vergil, Aeneid I.15.
so that one might admire himself Horace, Ars Poetica 444.
if the tragic mode pleases Having disposed of his Puritan critics, Gwinne turns to another possible objection: that Nero does not adhere to the canons of ancient tragedy. The specific example he cites is Horaces rule (Ars Poetica 192) that a tragedy should employ only three actors. Oddly, perhaps, he does not put up what strikes the reader as an obvious defense, that Nero is a history play (fabula togata ) and and not a tragedy, and so is exempted from such traditional regulations as the three-actor rule and the Unities, which would be impossibly restrictive for that genre.
the old things are the best Gwinne quotes a Greek adage; I cannot identify the source.
more talent or art Gwinne is thinking of the passage in Horaces Ars Poetica contrasting the roles of native talent and acquired skill in the creative process. (408ff.).
which makes no mean tragedy by itself A hint that Act V could be performed as a separate play. See the discussion of this possibility in the Introduction
the multitude of roles Nero requires over eighty speaking parts.
the implausibility of producing such an intractable piece Not the implausibility of the subject matter, but of bringing such a huge work to the stage and of producing it with the resources available for Gwinnes college.
my particular friend Paddy Sir William Paddy [1554 - 1634], another member of St. Johns College, President of the College of Physicians (1609 - 11) and, like Gwinne, one of the Physicians to the King. Cf. the D. N. B. life.
for better or worse Terence, Heauton Timorumenos 643.
thinks nothing done properly Terence, Adelphoe 99.
this man may do what that one may not ib. 824f.
either Caesar or nothing For this saying cf Plutarchs Life of Caesar xi. Gwinne incorporates it into his play at 3593f.
The abscess is burst From the context this extraordinary phrase would seem to mean something like the cats out of the bag, but it is an idiom I have not before encountered.
But if my play has been repudiated Here, as often, Gwinne playfully dwells on double meanings. Earlier he has said that the play was turned down by his college (repudiata) ; now he uses this same word as if the play were a woman divorced by her husband.
to the degree it finds disfavor Pliny the Younger, Epistles II.xix.8.
whom nobody has ever mentioned A sidenote cites Auso. epist. 16.27. This, I suppose, actually refers to the dedicatory poem to Probrus included in Ausonius, Epistle xii (cited below).
minor matters are beneath his notice Ovid, Tristia II.i.218.
I should be sinning against the common weal Gwinne conflates Horace, Epistles II.i.3f. (with Caesar altered to Keeper in the second line) and Ovid, Metamorphoses V.334.
this is beneath the notice of a divine mind Ovid, Tristia II.i.216f.
to whom no adequate thanks can be given Ib. VI.16.
souls, the most honest the earth has ever borne Gwinne conflates Horace, Sermones I.v.41f. and Vergil, Aeneid XI.291.
Ausonius ut rogat Cf. Ausonius dedicatory poem just cited, lines 53 - 6.
devinctus ordini The Order of the Garter.
Sandsbury epigram This is appropriately addressed to the celebrated Flemish Humanist, Justus Lipsius, the leading Tacitean of the age. For Sandsbury, another member of St. Johns College, cf. the D. N. B. life.
6 The adjective millenus does not exist in the classical Latin lexicon.
10 Sandsbury compliments Gwinne by placing him on a level with those he regards as the three leading lights of neo-Latin drama, Theodore Beza [1519 - 1605], George Buchanan [1506 - 82], and William Gager [1555 - 1622].
Prologue Although this prose paragraph is printed on a separate page as if it were a hypothesis to the ensuing action, in reality it is an elaborate stage direction for a masque preceding the Prologue spoken by Nemesis, with the three Furies Alecto, Megaera, and Tisiphone standing silently by. The actions rather mysteriously mimed now are explained in the following narrative (perhaps the intention is thus to engage the audiences curiosity).
A couple of Senecan plays (Agamemnon, Thyestes ) begin with the appearance of an angry ghost from the netherworld, seeking vengeance (the Ghost of Agrippina also appears in the course of the Octavia, and the Thyestes prologue consists of a dialogue between the Ghost of Tantalus and the Fury). After the example of such passages, the appearance of Furies or similar creatures in academic tragedy is far from unusual, expecially as such apparitions cater to contemporary tastes for the supernatural and the macabre. A good parallel, surely known to Gwinne, who wrote a dedicatory epigram for the play, is Megaeras prologue to William Gagers Meleager (1582). But, as far as I know, a chorus of Furies is original.
6 as Adrasteia I make my attack The later Greeks identified Adrasteia with Nemesis, the goddess of vengeance (Robert Graves, The Greek Myths, New York, 1955, § 32.3, citing Strabo, Geography XIII.i.3).
19 And if there is to be a Chorus to govern these proceedings The sidenote cites Horace, Ars Poetica 191f. nor let a god have a part in your play,unless a problem worthy of his intervention should occur. The reason for this reference is not exactly self-evident. Either Gwinne is using these lines to explain why no gods participate in the action, or conversely he is inviting the reader to view Neros downfall as the result of the Furies behind-the-scenes machinations.
28 Satires sing of her boldness and lack of shame A sidenote refers to the very explicit description of Messalinas depravity at Juvenal, Satire vi.115ff.
30 Careless of her shame but hitherto false-modest The meaning of this paradoxical line seems to be that she was shameless but hitherto careful in hiding her proclivities.
31 she burned for Silius Gaius Silius, who is introduced by Tacitus, Annales XI.xii as iuventutis Romanae pulcherrimus.
35 the one remedy for his peril was to take risks This epigrammatic diagnosis comes from Tacitus, Annales XI.xxvi
38 slow to take precautions though quick to anger And this one comes from the same passage.
40 and Claudius household shuddered The following description summarizes Annales XI.xxviii - ix. The words such things were dared and done refer to the mock-wedding staged by the adulterous lovers.
41 Pallas was at the apex of his influence Pallas, Callistus, and Narcissus were three powerful freedmen who virtually operated Claudius government.
47 Quaking, he asked Claudius asks this question at Annales XI.xxxi
48 Hence he stalked away from the sacrifice This is a somewhat simplified version of the account at Ann. XI.xxxiv. The words either because she went unseen refer to Tacitus statement that Narcissus industriously attempted to keep Claudius from noticing her approach.
55 But Xiphilinus is not silent See the discussion of Gwinnes sources in the Introduction.
Act I, scene 1 Like most other academic dramas, Nero was originally divided into five acts, subdivided into scenes. But in academic drama the prevalent idea of a scene was different than ours. Cf. T. W. Baldwin, On Act and Scene Division in the Shakspere First Folio (Carbondale, Ill., 1965 - the first two chapters of this study are relevant.) 15:
As Sir Walter [Gregs] analysis makes sufficiently clear, the scene in sixteenth-century English practice is essentially the Terentian scene. In the manuscripts, and consequently in the editions of Terence, a scene was a unit of occupany upon the stage, marked by grouping at the head all the characters who were to appear in a particular unit. When the characters changed by addition or by subtraction the scene changed, marked by the consequent new grouping of characters. Scene in the sense of scenery or setting had nothing to do with the matter. A scene was simply a unit of stage-scene occupancy.
Just how artificial Gwinnes scene-divisions can be, when judged by modern standards, is shown by those between Act III, scenes 2 and 3, and Act IV, Scenes 2 and 3, where there is not only no discontinuity of time or place - the new scene occurs in the middle of an iambic line!
Initial speaker-lists sometimes serve to mark the entrance or exits of characters. Occasionally Gwinne deviates from standard practice, for example by using such introductory lists to indicate the presence of nonspeaking characters (such as the Ghost of Silius here). At other times, he combines an initial part-list with stage directions. In this scheme, all the speakers in a given scene are supposed to be included, whether they are onstage at its beginning or enter subsequently. Occasionally (as in the list prefacing Act 1, scene 3) he only includes those present towards the beginning of a scene. In other cases names may have have been inadvertently omitted by the printer; in such instances, the missing names are restored in angular brackets.
This speech is somewhat reminiscent of that of the Ghost of Agrippina in Ps.- Seneca, Octavia (594ff.).
61 the Fates to the funeral pyre The sidenote against this line refers to Tacitus description of the death of Messalina at the end of Book XI of the Annales.
83 an Argus for my crimes Sidenotes refer to the characterizaitons of Claudius at Suetonius, Claudius iii and the Apocolocyntosis attributed to Seneca, chapter 11.
84 Such your mother His mother was the younger Antonia, his sister Livilla, and his grandmother Livia Augusta.
87 but did not know that I died The anecdote about Claudius real or feigned ignorance of her execution is recounted by Suetonius, Claudius xxxix.
89 I have learned your fate aright, Nero It must be understood that in Act I, prior to Claudius adoption of Agrippinas son by Domitius Aenobarbus, Nero refers to Claudius, and Domitius to the future emperor.
90 I call on you, sister-wife of Jove At least in a very general way, this passage finds a parallel in Medeas invocation of the powers of the Underworld at Seneca, Medea 740ff.
91 on you, Trivia She invokes Trivia, i. e., Diana under her triform aspects of Diana, Luna, and Hecate.
109 but why am I calling it his government? Because Claudius is governed by women and freedmen.
Act I, scene 2 This scene (including the initial arguments advanced by the three freedmen in favor of their respective candidates) is closely modelled on the first two chapters of Tacitus, Annales, Book XII. At the same time, one cannot help wondering if this scene took its inspiration from the beginning of King Lear in which each of Lears three daughters delivers a short speech pledging her love to her father. The setting is presumably Claudius council chamber.
Although Domitius name is included in this list of parts, he has no speak-ing role in the present scene. Line 307 appears to establish his presence as a mute character.
112 Let whoever fears to govern This speech is very comparable to, and quite possibly took its inspiration from, the equally boastful and purblind speech of prosperous Oeneus at the beginning of Act II of William Gagers Meleager of 1582 (472ff.).
120 For twice four hundred years In fact, the present action happens in the year 49 A. D. = 802 A. U. C. (cf. the note on 383); Messalinas downfall had occurred in the previous year. For purposes of dramatic compression, Gwinne plays fast and free with the chronology of his story.
125 Beyond the borders of Bacchus I suppose that this phrase means India, whence Bacchus is supposed to have come.
130 With Caesars favor He means the deified Julius Caesar.
139 He showed us the fierce Britons, I subdued them Suetonius tells the story of his absurd invasion of Britain at Claudius xvii.
145 the distaff of Hercules The mythological allusion is to Hercules servitude to Omphale of Lydia (cf. Graves, The Greek Myths § 136). For an emperor to want to be placed in a similar position is absurd, and Claudius reveals his essential weakness.
150 soil already worked This seemingly bizarre apothegm may be meant as a specimen of Claudius mental eccentricity.
151 Only the Phoenix Because the Phoenix alone is perpetually self-begetting: cf. Pliny the Elder, Natural History X.ii.
153 Divine emperor, second only to Mars For the speeches of these three freedmen cf. Annales XII.ii.
157 Petina is worthy of your bed Aelia Paetina, whom Claudius had previously divorced for light reasons, according to Suetonius, Claudius xxvi.
161 August Caesar, viceroy of Jove These words reflect a contemporary Renaissance theory of kingship; although they were written before he assumed the throne, James I would have thoroughly applauded them.
164 Paulina was Caligulas bride Lollia Paulina, widow of Caligula (not to be confused with Senecas wife Pompeia Paulina, who appears in Act V).
168 Invincible prince, pillar of Augustus house For some reason, Pallas chooses not to mention the name of his candidate, Julia Agrippina, the daughter of Germanicus, and mother of the future emperor Nero by her previous marriage to Domitius Aenobarbus.
171 famous Thalestris sues for the bed of Alexander For the tale of Alexander and the Amazon Thalestris, cf. Quintus Curtius, Historia Alexandri Magni VI.v.24ff
185 This one and that one please me The seemingly irrational way in which the field is narrowed down to two is explained by a remark of Tacitus (Ann. XII.i) mentioning only Lollia Paulina and Agrippina. Nevertheless, the immediate juxtaposition of two similes, one involving a choice between two candidates and a choice between three, is jarring and might be meant to indicate Claudius muddled mental state.
191 I am a new Alexander The reference is of course to the Judgment of Paris.
198 Hercules has abandoned me These mythical allusions to unfaithful lovers are about Hercules and Omphale (cf. the note on 145), Jason and the daughter of Creon, and Paris and Helen.
204 Semele has been struck by lightning An angry Jupiter killed Semele with a lightning-bolt for demanding to see his true form: cf. Graves, The Greek Myths § 14c.
212 his marriage to either would not eclipse Lollia Because she has already been Caligulas consort.
221 Hercules by the Lydian girl Cf. the note on 145.
237 they are born of consuls Lollia Paetina was the daughter of Marcus Lollius, a former consul.
252 Do you summon, Julia? At about this point Paetina and Paulina retire along with their freedman supporters, leaving behind Claudius, Agrippina, Pallas, and Domitius. Evidently Vitellius has been present as a silent witness to the earlier portion of the scene.
254 May all go well, Vitellius. The Censor Lucius Vitellius, father of the future emperor, characterized by Tacitus, Annales XII.4. The ensuing dialogue in which Vitellius soothes Claudius qualms is inspired by the interview reported at Annales XII.v.
Although these lines are modelled on no specific example, such descriptions of the physical symptoms of anxiety of course constitute a stock Senecan topos, as is the soothing response of an interlocutor.
265 A healing hand soothes open wounds Throughout the play we shall encounter medical metaphors, which of course came readily to the authors mind.
268 And I have given my word to the Praetorians This is reported by Suetonius, Claudius xxvi.2.
275 Jove happens to be Junos brother and husband Vitellius sophistic arguments supporting incest are drawn from Tacitus. But they are also strongly reminiscent of those advanced by a character significantly named Pandarus in one of the extra scenes written for a 1592 Christ Church performance of Senecas Phaedra by William Gager under the self-mocking title Panniculus Hippolyto Senecae Tragaedia Assutus. Both arguments favoring incest are ultimately indebted to those advanced in Ovids tale of Cinyras and Myrrha (Metamorphoses X.323 - 33).
282 But what is permissible anywhere is permissible everywhere Vitellius alludes especially to the Ptolemies of Egypt, who practiced incest as a matter of routine.
294 I have nothing to request for myself At Annales XII.iii Tacitus describes Agrippinas campaign to marry her son Domitius to Claudius daughter Octavia; this involved the elimination of Lucius Silanus, who was betrothed to Octavia (Gwinne writes as if they were actually married, probably because he presumed that the betrothal sufficed to make Silanus Claudius son-in-law, as it would in English law).
Act I, scene 3 The setting is before a stage house representing the Senate building. For these temporary stage buildings erected in collegiate dining halls, cf. Bruce R. Smith, Ancient Scripts & Modern Experience on the English Stage 1500 - 1700 (Princeton, 1988) 74-76 and the discussion of the conditions of college drama in Alan H. Nelson, Records of Early English Drama: Cambridge (Toronto, 1989) 2.714-22.
In this case, the list of speakers indicates only those present in the first portion of the scene, which is suggested by Tacitus account of Silanus removal from office at Annales XII.iv.
330 And you did not sufficiently clear your sister For Silanus sister cf. the Commentary note on 254f.
339 let this Procrustes Procrustes (or Procustes) was a notorious mythological ogre, defeated by Theseus (Graves, The Greek Myths § 96k).
349 Die, Silanus, die! At Annales XII.viii Tacitus records that Silanus committed suicide on the wedding-day of Octavia and Nero.
350 enter Vitellius and the Senators Although he provides no stage-direction, it is likely that Gwinne wanted the curtain of the house to be drawn, revealing the assembled Senate within.
For the speech, cf. Tacitus, Annales XII.v, and for its sequel see the following chapter.
383 THE CONSUL POMPEIUS Gaius Pompeius and Quintus Veranius were the consuls in 49 A. D. For the sentiment, cf. Tacitus, Annales XII.vii.
393 as Prince of Youth This last clause seems inspired by Suetonius, Nero vii, tener adhuc necdum matura pueritia circensibus ludis Troiam constantissime favorabiliterque lusit. In 49 A. D. Nero was twelve or possibly thirteen years old (Suetonius, Nero vii, wrongly says eleven).
398 Nobody has heretofore been adopted into the Claudian clan So. Tacitus, Ann. XII.
401 Nero bids his brother This incident is based on Tacitus, Annales XII.xli; it is also mentioned at Suetonius, Nero vii.
416 But why is this centurion hastening hither? This imitates a standard Senecan entrance cue, which often describes the manner in which an approaching character is walking.
417 three hundred knights have fallen This incident is recorded by Suetonius, Claudius xxix.2. But Suetonius does not say that it occurred when Claudius married Agrippina.
424 Great hope of your father Claudius advice is reported by Tacitus, Annales XII.lxv and Suetonius, Claudius xliii. Both writers make it clear that the emperor uttered such wishes because he was aware of Agrippinas adulterous affair with his freedman Pallas, alluded to in lines 443f.
The subsequent stage-direction shows that Agrippina and the others are still onstage, and her outburst at the beginning of the following scene establishes that Claudius is being so indiscreet as to give voice to these sentiments within her hearing.
Act I, scene 4 This is not a new scene in the modern sense: the stage clears, leaving Agrippina and Pallas behind.
477 Burrhus controls the army Afranius Burrus (spelled Burrhus by Gwinnne), commander of the praetorian guards, and Lucius Annaeus Seneca, the philosopher, who will serve as Neros chief advisors during his minority. According to Tacitus (Annales XII.viii) Agrippina had Seneca recalled from banishment to serve as Neros tutor. At the same time he was appointed a Quaestor, hence his influence in the Senate.
484 By poison The story of the poison plot is told by Tacitus, Annales XII.lxvi.
491 Agerinus is now returning from the auguries In describing Agrippinas murder of Claudius (Annales XIV.ix) Tacitus adds the information that she had been plotting for a long time to place her son on the throne, inspired by prophecies of his coming rule.
492 Enter Agerinus Agerinus was one of Agrippinas freedmen, mentioned at Tacitus, Annales XIV.vi, etc. In some manuscripts his name is given as Agermus.
Act 1, scene 5 A room in the Palace, shortly thereafter.
498 Oh harsh fates! Agrippinas hatred of Narcissus is recounted by Tacitus, Annales XII.lxv, and his death at her instigation at XIII.i.
507 this wanton Hydra The Hydra was the multi-headed snake killed by Hercules: as soon as one head was cut off, more grew in that ones place. Cf. Robert Graves, The Greek Myths § 34. For the Chimaera, cf. Ovid, Metamorphoses IX.647f.
534 all the other good things have escaped The speaker is of course thinking of the myth of Pandoras jar.
541 I am ruined! This soliloquy is based on Tacitus description of her frame of mind at Annales XII.lxvii
554 Oh worlds eye and soul, god of medicine This striking (albeit, in context, very hypocritical) prayer to Asclepius was written by a medical man.
568 O Mother, may I visit my ailing father? This interchange is suggested by Tacitus, Annales XII.lxviii.
578 Like Ulysses, shut with in the belly of the Trojan Horse She is of course thinking of the story of Laocoon, the Trojan priest who mis-trusted the gift of the Trojan Horse, and was destroyed by two serpents which appeared from the sea, recounted by Vergil in Book II of the Aeneid. Sinon was the Greek who pretended to have been marooned by his comrades, and who opened the Horse after it had been brought within the walls of Troy.
627 to everlasting Gehenna Gwinne also invokes the idea of the Jewish Gehenna at 2133 and 3802; Gehenna, the reader may be interested to learn, was the Jerusalem city dump.
Act II, scene 2 Before the Senate-building. In the book this scene lacks a speaker-list.
Gwinne adopts a device evidently invented by Legge for Richardus Tertius and employed in a number of subsequent vernacular history plays, includig some by Shakespeare, of writing a scene in which anonymous men in the street give voice to contemporary public opinion.
For Neros movements in this and the next scene, cf. Suetonius, Nero viii. Gwinne presumably envisioned a dumb-show representing him being carried past on a litter.
675 Wheres Britannicus? For public curiousity about Britannicus whereabouts cf. Tacitus, Annales XII.lxix.
695 who has scarce passed his seventeenth year Nero was seventeen at the time of his accession. In the previous Act, for purposes of dramatic economy Gwinne telescoped events that spanned five years, so that the reader receives a very imperfect sense of times passage (Claudius died on October 13, 54 A. D.)
696 Africanus and Corvinus in the flower of their youth As a military tribune Scipio Africanus rallied the survivors of the Roman defeat at Cannae when twenty years old. Gwinne seems to have confused Valerius Corvinus, a supporter of Brutus and Cassius, with Valerius Corvus of the fourth century B. C., who served as Consul when only twenty. Octavian, the future Augustus, became a member of the First Triumvirate at the same age. Pompey commanded an army at nineteen.
710 Better for Junius Silanus to wield the scepter Junius Silanus, proconsul of Asia and brother of Octavias former betrothed, thus described by Tacitus (Annales XIII.i, where his death by the contrivance of Agrippina is recounted). Like Nero, he was descended from Augustus.
Act 2, scene 3 There is no scene-break here in the modern sense. Again, it is likely that the curtain of the house opens, so that Nero can eulogize Claudius before the assembled Senate. As can be gathered from the sidenotes, Gwinne took the main lines of this speech from Tacitus, Annales XIII.iii - iv, fleshing it out with details from other writers. But he does not repeat Tacitus information (XIII.iii) that this oration was ghost-written by Seneca.
717 Now that the divine Nero has ceased to linger Sidenotes refer to reports of Neros sarcastic jokes about Claudius death set down by Suetonius, Nero xxxiii, and to Tacitus account of Neros funeral eulogy at Annales XIII.iii.
719 distinguished for his own triumphs A sidenote refers to Suetonius, Claudius xvii, about the triumphal titles decreed Claudius by the Senate.
720 author of Greek and Latin histories A sidenote refers to Suetonius, Claudius xli, about his activities as a historian.
721 the supervisor of the grain supply A sidenote refers to Suetonius, Claudius xviii, about this function.
723 as was shown by his life under Caius A sidenote refers to Suetonius, Claudius xxxviii, who records that Claudius feigned imbecility to avoid trouble under Caligula. Another sidenote directs the reader to the Senecan Apocolocyntosis, in which much is said about Claudius stupidity.
726 draw him up into the heaven by the hook of our piety The sidenote acknowledges that this odd expression is drawn from Dio Cassius, Epitome LX.xxxv.4.
729 And now, inasmuch As indicated by a sidenote, this part of the speech is based on Tacitus, Annales XIII.iv.
769 L. ANTISTIUS The emperor Nero and Lucius Antistius were consuls for the year 55 A. D.
776 which my youth denies me This modest plea is reported by Suetonius, Nero viii
781 Tarpeian Father Jupiters title in connection with his Capitoline cult. Romulus was worshipped as Romulus Quirinus after his death, and of course Augustus was similarly deified.
790 THE BEST OF MOTHERS For the watchword cf. Suetonius, Nero ix.
792 Now, Caesar, put your hand to this tablet A sidenote cites ib. x, about the young Neros reluctance to execute felons.
793 Dont press me, Burrhus As with Agrippinas hypocritical prayer to the gods of healing in Act I, this use of medical imagery betrays its authors enthusiasm for medicine.
807 when I have deserved it. This modest statement is preserved at Suetonius.
810 But you should go to meet her For Senecas advice cf.Tacitus, Annales XIII.v.
811 there will be another occasion for hearing the Armenians The incident of the Armenian ambassadors is taken from Dio Cassius, Epitome LXI.iii.3.
Act II, scene 4 Again, the stage clears save for Agrippina and Pallas, so that there is no scene-break here in the modern sense. In view of the rythmic architecture Gwinne is imposing on his material, as discussed in the Introduction, the parallel between this sequence and that of Act 1, scenes 3 and 4, in which a large group dissolves leaving an insulted Agrippina behind to plot a crime with Pallas, acquires structural significance.
845 That virago Semiramis A sidenote refers to Suetonius, Nero xxviii, where rumors are reported that Nero and Agrippina had an incestuous relationship. Semiramis is supposed to have had a similar one with her son.
851 unless Acte is to be transformed For Neros mistress Acte see Suetonius, loc. cit. and Tacitus, Annales XIII.xii.
857 water will give birth to fire Such lists of adunata are a standard rhetorical feature in the Senecan corpus. Cf., for example, Ps. - Seneca, Octavia 222 - 6. But if this catalogue of adunata is traditional, the mention of planets is not, and may probably be accounted a reflection of the new Copernican astronomy.
869 happy love exhausts itself A sidenote against 862 probably belongs here and refers to Tacitus, loc. cit., where Neros disgust for Octavia is described.
882 Why remind me of those gifts? For the incident of these gifs cf. Tacitus, Annales XIII.xiii,.
Act II, scene 5 Again, there is no break in the action here.
903 Holy piety! Is my mother thus to begrudge me Tacitus, Annales XIII.xiii, records the growing estrangement between Agrippina and Nero.
944 I remove from office that familiar of yours Tacitus tells the story of Pallas downfall at Annales XIII.xiv.
961 Whats this? You will hear This impassioned speech is suggested by Tacitus, Annales XIII.xiv.
967 I pray he will live, grown to manhood Tacitus makes it clear (Annales XIII.xv) that this quarrel broke out on the day before Britannicus fourteenth birthday, when he assumed the toga virilis.
981 Seneca the exile with his lying tongue Seneca had been exiled by Claudius.
Act II, scene 6 A room in the Palace, slightly thereafter.
989 Is this the womans audacity? Neros frame of mind is described by Tacitus, Annales XIII.xv.
1009 What hope have I of harming her? This soliloquy about the advisability of killing young Britannicus is an internalization of the debate between Agamamnon and Pyrrhus about the need for killing the infant Astyanax in Senecas Troades (203ff.), a scene which was a popular subject for imitation by University playwrights. It serves as the model for the debate between Catesby and Buckingham about the necessity of killing the little princes in the Tower in Thomas Legges Richardus Tertius (1579), I.v.i 1245ff., and also for that among the Suitors about the possible murder of Telemachus in William Gagers Ulysses Redux (1592) 1479ff., very possibly written under Legges influence.
1020 Pollio, fetch that convicted poisoner Locusta Neros plot is narrated by Tacitus, Annales XIII.xv, and Suetonius, Nero xxxiii
1031 the Julian law ought to be feared by me The lex Iulia de sicariis, a law against assassinations instituted by Sulla and renewed by Julius Caesar.
1050 and I shall grant you pupils Her rewards are mentioned by Suetonius.
Act II, scene 7 A banquet room in the Palace. Probably, like other banquets in University drama, such as those in Thomas Legges Solymitana Clades and William Gagers Dido and Ulysses Redux, this was meant to be represented as an interior scene.
1054 My nets are well spread This is Neros equivalent of Atreus ghastly banquet as dramatized in Senecas Thyestes, and Neros speech contains several elements reminiscent of Atreus at Thy . 491ff.
1064 I ask you, brother, to sing a fine song This scene is suggested by Tacitus, Annales XIII.xv.
1101 and you be seated with us, Otho M. Salvius Otho, the future emperor; he is currently married to Poppaea Sabina.
1103 Let these happy goblets of heated wine be quaffed.Tacitus tells the story of Brittanicus murder at Annales XIII.xvi.
1135 May I have your permission to retire, Caesar? The following dialogue is suggested by Tacitus, Annales XIII.xlvi.
1137 Does my Feast of Salvation displease you? Neither Tacitus nor Suetonius supplies the detail that the poisoning occurred on the day of the festival of Salus. But cf. the phrase sacra mensae in the Tacitean passage quoted in the note on 1310ff.
Act II, scene 8 There is no real scene-break here. It may or may not be coincidental that the first words of this duet recall beginning of John Dowlands song Flow My Tears (Second Booke of Songs or Ayres, 1600), Flow my teares, fall from your springs.
This passage, reminiscent of a ritual lamentation or kommos from a Greek tragedy, is suggested by the remark of Tacitus (Annales XIII.xviii) to the effect that her wrath against Agrippina led her to embrace Octavia.
1161 Now that Phaethon has died The allusions are to the myths of Phaethon and of Caunis and Byblis, as told in Books I - II and IX of Ovids Metamorphoses respectively.
1163 With Memnon dead let Aurora shed her dew daily Agrippina matches this with two more Ovidian transformations, of Aurora and Hecuba, both narrated in Book XIII of the Metamorphoses.
1173 Diomedes fed his monstrous horses were two wayfarer-molesting ogres in mythology: Busiris sacrificed strangers on his altars, Diomedes fed his victims to his man-eating horses.
1229 The sons of Oedipus were killed by mutual wounding Eteocles and Polyneices, and Romulus and Remus are cited as two examples of fratricidal hate inspired by a lust for power
1231 and the Triumvirs attacked each other Now the reference is to the elimination of Pompey by Caesar, and of Mark Antony by Octavian.
1243 A ruler, whether good or bad Unless both passages are based on an undentified common source, these lines are imitated at lines 1195 - 7 of William Gagers hexameter poem on the Gunpowder Plot, Pyramis (written for presentation to King James in 1608, and very much in accord with that sovereigns political philosophy), where the same right-hand - left-hand image is used.
1279 It is not permitted my skiff to bear an unburied corpse Cf. the Commentary note on 2315.
1284 With its waters it washed away the gypsum Both Tacitus (Ann. XIII.xvii) and Suetonius (Nero xxxiii.3) describe how Britannicus received a shabbily hasty funeral during a downpour. But neither historian mentions any such divine portents as are described here.
1310 The abodes of the Blessed do not await those guilty of debauchery. Nero had corrupted Britannicus according to Tacitus, Annales XIII.xvii.
1326 impious Neros pious five-year span A sidenote appears to acknowledge that this dictum is taken from Aurelius Victor, de Caesaribus xiii.7 A second sidenote refers to Battisto Egnazio, De Caesaribus Libri III (Florence, 1519) p. 2v, where much the same observation is made. Cf. J. G. Anderson, Trajan on the Quinquennium Neronis, at Journal of Roman Studies 1 (1911) 173ff.
Act III scene 2 The Palace banquet-room. Nero is feasting and drinking late into the night, in the company of Poppaea. The present scene is based on Annales XIII.xlvi.
1359 Let Anteros be Eros partner For Anteros cf. Cicero, de Natura Deorum III.lx.3. Here, obviously, Anteros means loving in return. Cf. G. de Tervarent, Eros and Anteros or Reciprocal Love in Ancient and Renaissance Art, Journal of the Warburg and Courtauld Insitutes 28 (1965) 205 - 8.
1401 He is a dead man by his own testimony, like Candaules The reference is to the story of Gyges and Candaules in Book I of Herodotus Histories. Candaules, who in a very Otho-like way boasted of his wifes beauty, compelled Gyges to witness her naked. She found out and informed Gyges that he must help her kill her husband and supplant him as king of Lydia, or die himself. Thus Candaules was undone.
1403 let him depart and govern the province of Lusitania For Othos banishment cf. Tacitus, Annales XIII.xlvi.
1405 so that he will not commit adultery with his own wife A sidenote refers to a rather different account given by Suetonius at Otho iii: the marriage of Otho and Poppaea was merely a sham to cover the fact that she was Neros mistress - but Otho betrayed his imperial friend by seducing his own wife!
1413 But, Jupiter, you have your sister-wife Juno. Poppaeas campaign to bring down Octavia is described by Tacitus, Annales XIV.i.
1423 either for me, a Creusa Creusa tried to poison Ion, not realizing that he was her son (the subject of Euripides Ion ). Deianira destroyed Hercules by means of a cloak tainted with the blood of the centaur Nessus, as dramatized in the Hercules Oetaeus.
1444 not Ninus but Ninus son A sidenote seems to refer to a strong man mentioned at Martial, Epigrams V.xii.8f. and not to the husband of Semiramis
1459 loving ones mother in this manner is an abomination A sidenote refers to Tacitus, Annales XIV.ii, where the historian records rumors that Agrippina employed her sexual allures in an attempt to control Nero.
1469 No longer does a German garrison guard her house For the removal of her German bodyguards cf. Annales XIII.xviii.
Act III, scene 3 There is obviously no genuine scene-division at this point (the break even falls in the middle of a line). The present scene is suggested by Tacitus, Annales XIII.xix - xx.
1485 This is no Hecuba or Helen With one exception, the tragic heroines listed here are to be found in the plays of Euripides. Althaea appears in no surviving ancient tragedy. Possibly Gwinne included this name as a compliment to his old Oxford friend William Gager, whose Meleager was first produced in 1582.
1497 Of what Plautus are you speaking? Rubellius? As intimated by Tacitus in passage upon which this scene is based, Rubellius Plautus, like Nero, was a great-grandson of Augustus, and therefore a potential heir to the throne.
1534 What should I urge on an emperor? This portion of the scene is suggested by Tacitus, Annales XIII.xx
1565 Uncertain, I am caught between being Caesar and being a son Neros moral predicament is quite reminiscent of that of Althaea in Gagers Meleager ( cf. the Commentary note on 1485), torn between the conflicting urges of a protective mother and an avenging aunt. But of course Althaeas vacillation is based on that of Senecas Medea, as expressed in her great speech at Me. 895ff.
1581 By what means? Nero mulls over (although not with the help of Poppaea) the methodology for eliminating Agrippina, and settles on the idea of the collapsing boat, at Tacitus, Annales XIV.iii.
1605 In the amphitheater I saw a ship A sidemote cites the description of this ship at Dio Cassius, Epitome LXII.xii.2.
1611 let the machinery suddenly give way The language seems suggested by a somewhat different contrivance described by Suetonius, Nero xxxiv.2.
Act III, scene 4 The scene shifts to Agrippinas apartment in the Palace.
1623 Silana, being barren This speech is based on Tacitus, Annales XIII.xxi.
1632 I thank Domitia most heartily for her hatred Neros aunt Domitia, the sister of Messalinas mother..
1689 Let Silana go to distant shores as an exile These banishments are mentioned by Tacitus, Annales XIII.xxii.
1693 A mothers anger must be borne These placatory sentiments come from Tacitus, Annales XIV.iv.
1707 He who is always afraid of death is always dying These words look very much like an echo of Caesars famous dictum at Julius Caesar II.ii 32f.:
Cowards die many times before their deaths;
The valiant never taste of death but once.
1730 So sail with me to the banquet I have prepared The purport of this line would be impossible to understand for someone unfamiliar with Tacitus. Nero is now proposing that they sail to Antium, where the plan sketched by Anicetus is to be put into action (Annales XIV.iv). As we shall see, Gwinne imperfectly represents the geographical setting of Agrippinas murder and its sequel.
Act III, scene 5 This song looks as if it is inserted to mark the change of setting from Rome to Antium, and to cover for whatever scene-shifting might be required.
1743 No more happily did Nereus opulent daughter once take a husband For the wedding of Peleus and Thetis cf. Catullus LXIV. There is something palpably sinister about this comparison of Thetis marine wedding with the watery reception being planned for Agrippina.
Act III, scene 6 The scene is now Neros villa at Baiae, near Naples. The change of scene is very feebly marked and bound to confuse the spectator. Since at 1730 Nero, still at Rome, has suggested that they sail to Antium, one would be led to suppose the setting is still the same as that of scene 4. This vagueness about location is perhaps Gwinnes most serious defect as a dramatist: cf.the initial note on the final scene of the play. On the other hand, in fairness, such weaknesses might have been noted and corrected had the play been produced.
1813 Augusta my mother, oh my sweet mother The first part of this scene is based on Tacitus, Annales XIV.iv.
1826 A sumptuous ship awaits you Neros mawkish farewell to his mother as he places her on the fatal ship is described by Suetonius, Nero xxxiv.2 - 3.
1854 The sun went backwards The reference is to the sun standing still when Atreus killed Thyestes sons and fed them to him, as dramatized by Seneca in the Thyestes.
1883 When the ship received her The following narrative is based on Tacitus, Annales XIII.v, and Ps. - Seneca, Octavia 309 - 44
1892 well-equipped with Bacchus gold and purple The detail that Agrippina was in her cups comes from Dio Cassius, Epitome LXI.xiii. 3.
1944 I do not know whether she kept quiet The narrative follows Ps.-Seneca, Octavia 346 - 56.
1958 So she has escaped? This speech is based on the description of Neros frame of mind at Tacitus, Annales XIV.vii, as is also the ensuing exchange between Nero, Seneca, and Burrhus.
Stage direction Herculeius and Olaritus (as his name is given in modern editions) are named as Anicetus accomplices at Tacitus, Annales XIV.viii.
2051 But see, happy Agerinus comes The destruction of Anicetus is also described at Annales XIV.viii.
Act III, scene 7 The setting shifts to Agrippinas nearby villa The final stage-direction shows that it is meant to be played as an interior scene.
2088 Has Agerinus not yet returned? This scene is based on Tacitus, Annales XIII.viii.
2100 but nevertheless that you not appear to be aware Perhaps there is supposed to be some irony in Agrippinas repetition of the sentient expressed by Anicetus in the previous scene.
Act III, scene 8 We are returned to Neros villa.
2132 How hesitantly my mind freezes! This soliloquy is based on a remark about Neros mental state at Suetonius, Nero xxxiv.3 (although in Suetonius this refers to his waiting for the ship to collapse).
2147 Keep your name of Unconquerable Such is the meaning of his name in Greek.
2155 Will Pentheus drive Agave Nero thus summarizes the contents of Euripides Bacchae. Pentheus opposed the coming of Dionysus to Thebes, tried unsuccessfully to keep his mother Agave from joining the maenads, and in the end was torn apart by them.
2210 he is deemed to have been created from stone Gwinne is thinking of the creation of mankind in the myth of Deucalion and Pyrrha, for which cf. Ovid, Metamorphoses I.211 - 421.
2214 The Age of Iron For this last and worst age of mankind, cf. Ovid, Metamorphoses I.128ff.
2216 we the Kindly Ones The sidenote refers to the Furies euphemistic title of the Eumenides (The Kindly Ones), the title of a tragedy by Aeschylus in which they serve as chorus. The note also refers to Orphic Hymn lxx, to the Eumenides.
2221 What Busiris, what Diomedes Cf. the note on 1173ff.
2222 what Sicilian Phalaris Phalaris was a tyrant of Sicily who had constructed a brazen bull in which he roasted his victims. The Thracian tyrant is Tereus, the oppressor of Philomela (Robert Graves, The Greek Myth § 46).
Act IV, scene 1 The reader may care to compare this passage with the similar apparition of the Ghost of Agrippina at Ps. - Seneca, Octavia 592 - 645.
2231 Pious Orestes and pious Alcmaeon Orestes and Alcmaeon were two famous mythological matricides; both killed their mothers to avenge their fathers, and were subsequently hounded by the Furies and driven to madness. The story of Orestes was of course dramatized by Aeschylus in the Oresteia. For Alcmaeon killing his mother Eriphyle cf. Graves The Greek Myths § 107. Cicero summed up their quandary in a speech cited in a sidenote below (pro Sexto Roscio Amerino lxvi), a passage that seems to have helped Gwinne frame the present soliloquy.
2236 but not before placing a curse on my pregnancy and your birth This detail comes from Suetonius, Nero vi.
2245 It amuses this adulterer to gaze at me, murdered Descriptions sof Nero gloating over his mothers corpse are preserved by Dio Cassius (Epitome LXI.xiv.2), Tacitus (Annales XIV.ix), and Suetonius (Nero xxxiv. 4).
2236 In my innocence I did not know I had so fair a mother his saying is preserved by Dio Cassius
2256 Are so great, so many sins to be committed with impunity? Statements about his remorse and subsequent mental suffering are to be read at Suetonius, Nero xxxiv.4, Tacitus, Annales XIV.X, and Dio Cassius, Epitome LXII. xiv.4. Doubtless because of this same tradition, the Ghost of Agrippina makes an appearance in the Octavia.
2265 What about the sack A sidenote refers to the lurid description of a parricides punishment given by Cicero, Pro Roscio Amerino lxx - lxxii.
2286 Burned but not buried Tacitus, Annales XIII.ix, describes how Nero had Agrippina cremated but refused her ashes a decent burial.
Act 4, scene 2 The scene is still (or at least ought to be) Neros villa at Baiae, where Poppaea has joined him: cf. the note on 2349.
2298 Where are you fleeing? A sidenote refers to Ps. - Seneca, Octavia 712 - 37. Gwinne has transformed that account of Poppaeas guilty nightmare into that of a dream shared by Nero and Poppaea
2299 Crispinus my husband Rufrius Crispinus, to whom she had been married before her marriage to Otho.
2314 Havent you heard the blare of trumpets These portents are mentioned by Tacitus, Annales XIV.x, and Dio Cassius, Epitome LXI.xiv.4. At least to the reader familiar with these writers, these passages shows tht Nero is presently still at Baiae, and 2317 alludes to his proposed removal to Naples. But again, this scenes setting is poorly indicated, and is in fact very problematic: cf. the Commentary note on 2349 below.
2315 where my mother has her tomb This reference to Agrippinas tomb evidently contradicts her ghosts previous statement that she is unburied (2287). Just such a seeming contradiction occurs at 1279 when Charon refuses to transport Britannicus across the Styx on the grounds that he is unburied, although in the very next line Britannicus alludes to the shabby funereal rites that had been performed for him.
2317 Let us move elsewhere Nero s panicky impluse to flee is reported by Dio Cassius in the passage just cited.
2318 You are fleeing like a stricken stag Here Gwinne echoes a famous Vergilian simile (Aeneid IV.69 - 73):
2324 I drag out my sleepless nights in panic A sidenote refers to the allusion to Neros guilty insomnia in the passages cited in the note on 2256ff.
2332 of Euryphyle or Clytaemnestra For Eriphyle and Clytemnestra cf. the note on 2231. This is another good example of the repeated metatheatrical self-referentiality we encounter throughout Nero (justified, of course, because of its protagonists theatrical proclivities).
2337 I prefer this be interpreted for the better Neros soothing response is based on the equally optimistic interpretation of Poppaeas nightmare by her nurse at Ps. - Seneca, Octavia 740 - 55.
2349 The sound is coming from the tomb of the Caesars For this portent cf. Suetonius, Nero xlvi. For anybody who reflects on it, a difficulty arises: previous indications have suggested this scene is set at Baiae, but the Caesars tomb was at Rome.
2357 or at least it has this baleful dream For his nightmare see Suetonius, Nero xlvi.
2386 the triple judge of Dis Cf. Graves, The Greek Myths § 31b., newly arrived ghosts are daily judged by Minos, Rhadamanthys, and Aeacus at a place where three roads meet.
2389 Acheron prepares its aches He names the three principal tributaries of the Styx: their functions here are in accordance with their names, since Phlegethon means burning and Cocytus means wailing.
2397 What earth can hide me? The end of this speech is a very condensed version of guilt-stricken Hercules rant at Seneca, Hercules Furens 1321 - 42.
2399 Let the shades be summoned Suetonius, Nero xxxiv, mentions this recourse to wizardry, and a purificatory pilgrimage to Mysteries of Eleusis in Greece, during which Nero could not tolerate the heralds decree that the unclean should depart the rites.
2408 People report many prodigies Astral portents presaging a change in government are mentioned by Tacitus, Annales XIV.xxii (pertinent to 60 A. D.).
2410 The sun stood still In this passage the astronomical portents of Senecas Thyestes (cf. the note on 1854) are combined with the appearance of a comet. Tacitus mentions two such comets, in 60 and 64 respectively, at Annales XIV.xxii and XV.lxvii, and the latter is also recorded at Suetonius, Nero xxxvi. Despite the sidenote against 2412, Dio Cassius does not refer to this portent.
2414 And your dinner suddenly burst into flames I do not know where Gwinne got the idea for this case of spontaneous dinner combustion, as it is not mentioned by any of his principal sources.
2419 Another woman is ruined by lightning while sleeping with a man Here Poppaea is hinting at Octavias alleged adultery with her Alexandrian flute-player (cf. the note on 2484).
2422 the Tarpeian Father For this phrase cf. the note on 781ff.
Act 4, scene 3 There is obviously no genuine scene-break at this point (again, the division falls in the middle of a line).
2433 With glad enthusiasm, Caesar For Burrus instrumentality in securing the loyalty of the army cf. Tacitus, Annales XIV.x.
2441 I grant each man a mina The donative is mentioned at Dio Cassius, Epitome LXI.xiv.3.
2444 nor can I help being sad His tearful grief is describedin the Tacitean passage just cited.
2462 stranglers sent by Messalina to kill you The story is told by Suetonius, Nero vi.
2470 Thus you ought to cast aside This speech incorporates elements from Poppaeas reported speech at Tacitus, Annales XIV.i .
2484 that Egyptian virtuoso on his flute This rumor is reported by Tacitus, Annales XIV.lx.
2494 nothing - save an honest mind By a misprint, a sidenote against 2494 erroneously cites Tacitus, Annales XIII. The correct reference is Ann. XIV.li, which gives sketches the downfall of Burrus and his replacement by the more pliable Tigellinus.
2506 And so give her back her dowry This dialogue is taken from Dio Cassius, Epitome LXI.xiii.1 - 2.
2535 I think you both know my requirements Sidenotes refers to Suetonius, Nero xxxii, andJohn of Salisbury, Polycraticus I.vi (p. 45 Webb), where such greedy sayings of Nero are recorded. It would appear that Rufus and Tigellinus only make their entrance at this point.
2539 Burrhus does not live in me This speech is based on Tacitus, Annales XIV.lvii.
2544 in the Gauls Gallias because Gaul was organized into two provinces.
2545 that man, to whom the great dictator Sulla lends his name Cornelius Sulla Felix, a descendant of the dictator Sulla, had been a son-in-law of Claudius. He had been banished to Massilia (Marseilles) because Nero had suspected him of complicity in a previous plot (Tacitus, Ann. XIII.xlvii).
2547 he wears the paupers horns Cf. Horace, Odes III.xxi.18, addis cornua pauperi, and Ovid, Ars Amatoria I. 239, tum pauper cornua sumit. The idea is that the horns represent the audacity that a pauper is obliged to display.
2549 Wrom the direction of Asia, Plautus For Rubellius Plautus cf. the note on 1497.
2558 I must expiate the vision of a comet with a distinguished murder For the extraordinary idea that one can perform an act of self-purification by committing a murder, see Suetonius, Nero xxxvi.
2587 So many thousands have been given to death by a woman Sidenotes inform the reader that 80,000 Britons were killed in the uprising (this from Tacitus, Annales XIV.xxxvii) and that the woman in question was Boudicea.
2570 Why recite a catalogue The catalogue in question comes from Tacitus, Annales XIV.lii.
2585 he denies me as your wife The basis of this charge is a statement at Tacitus, Annalex XIV.ii.
2594 as Sejanus was to your grandfather A sidenote refers to Tacitus description of the downfall of Sejanus in Book V of the Annales (is it significant that Ben Jonsons Sejanus His Fall was first produced in the year Nero was printed?) Since Tiberius confiscated Sejanus fortune, he turned a handsome profit on the transaction. Poppaeas enemy Doryphorus had succeded Callistus as libertus a libellis (Annales. XIV.lxv).
2604 my consort, sterile and tedious For Neros campaign against Octavia, see Tacitus, Annales XIV.lx.
Act IV, scene 4 The Senate house at Rome, slightly later. The letter Seneca had been commanded to write is now read.
2612 VIPSANIUS Caius Vipstanius and Caius Fonteius were consuls in 59 A. D. (Tacitus, Annales XIV.1); perhaps Gwinne employed an edition of Tacitus which printed Vipsanius.
2614 0I shall read them Tacitus summarizes the letter at Annales XIV.x - xi. But the beginning of this letter is taken from that of another imperial letter to the Senate (cf. Annales VI.vi).
2632 How much effort it cost me Nero is referring to the incident dramatized at the end of Act II.3.
2645 ecause I cannot say what I wish Thrasea Paetus was the leading Stoic martyr under Nero. His disgust is described by Tacitus, Ann. XIV.xii, and the remark attributed to him here comes from Dio Cassius, Epitome LI.xiv.2
2652 If Nero were to execute me These sentiments are recorded by Dio Cassius, Epitome LXI.xv.3.
2661 who can believe all this to be accidental? This analysis is put in his mouth by Tacitus, Annales XIV.xi.
2671 It is decreed thus These servile measures are itemized by Tacitus, Annales XIV.xii.
Act IV, scene 5 A room in the Palace. Octavia, probably surrounded by a military guard, is being bundled off into exile. This is designed to match the similar representation of Octavia going into exile at the end of the pseudo-SenecanOctavia (lines 899ff. of that play).
2625 Agamemnons daughter and Orestes sister She means Electra.
2719 A philosophical courtier is a monstrosity A sidenote acknowledges that this sentiment is taken from John of Salisbury, Policraticus V.x 567a (pp. 329f. Webb).
2722 in the manner it received Hannibal Capua freely surrendered itself to Hannibal (Livy XXIII.vii).
2731 the gods have joined you in exile This line would be all the more meaningful for one who recalls (the character) Senecas description of the goddess Astraea deserting the world at Ps. - Seneca, Octavia 424ff.
2745 the world is my fatherland A sidenote cites the view on retirement stated at de Tranquillitate Animi iii.2-3. But in fact there is a much closer Senecan parallel to the sentiment expressed in this and the next line at Dialogues IX.iv.4.
2749 Let there be a limit to your power A sidenote refers to de Tranquillitate Animi x.6.
2753 Great fortune is a great servitude A sidenote refers to Senecas ad Polybium de Consolatione , chapter 26. Since in modern editions this essay is divided into only eighteen chapters, I am not sure to what it alludes, although in the course of this essay Seneca does make this point. Cf. vi.3 si volebas tibi omnia licere, ne convertisses in te ora omnium, and vii.2, ex quo Caesar orbi terrarum dedicavit, sibi eripuit, et siderum modo, quae irrequieta semper cursus suos explicant, numquam illi licet subsistere nec quicquam suum facere. But, again, it is curious that the sidenote does not advert to the actual Senecan model for 2753, Dialogues XI.vi.5, magna servitus est magna fortuna.
2763 You must tolerate reproaches, give thanks for them The sentiment comes from Seneca, Dialogues IV.xxxiii.2.
2778 Is he not banishing Octavia from his bedchamber? A sidenote cites Tacitus, Annales XIV.lix, where Neros plans to eliminate Octavia are mentioned.
2782 he is more welcome than Plautus the actor The famous comic poet Plautus acted in his own plays.
2789 Oh, how huge it was! This mockery is recorded by Dio Cassius, Epitome LXII.xiv.1.
2794 Many deaths do not befit a doctor The aphorism comes from Seneca, de Clementia I.xxiv.1. Cf. the exchange between Nero and Seneca at Oct. 443f. (which reminds us that the present debate is quite similar to that between these two individuals at ib. 4 40ff.). The heavy use of medical imagery in the following passage reminds us that the author was a physician.
2807 Merciful Augustus attained to the stars Augustus clemency was proverbial: cf. Ovid, Epistulae ex Ponto I.ii.59 and Tristia IV.iv.53.
2808 The triumvirs execution-list Nero refers to the proscriptions under the Second Triumvirate of Octavian, Marcus Antonius, and Lepidus.
2809 He spared Cinna Seneca, de Clementia ix.2ff., tells how Augustus forgave this former enemy.
2811 But the Fathers vote removed this man from the Senate His disgrace is recorded by Tacitus, Annales XIV.lix.
2815 you will never be able to kill your successor beforehand A saying preserved by Dio Cassius, Epitome LXI.xviii.3.
2820 Oh that such a massacre would erupt! Suetonius, Nero xxxvii.3, provides an example of Neros ambitions in this direction.
2830 The people are angry Octavias popularity with the common people is described by Tacitus, Annales XIV.lxi.
2839 And now, Caesar This speech is based on Senecas one at Tacitus, Annales XIV.liii - liv.
2867 Seneca, you have taught me Neros response follows ib. lv - lvi.
2892 Thus I hide my hatred behind pleasantries Neros machinations are described by Tacitus, Annales XIV.lxii.
2897 Nor is a creditor welcome to his debtor Gwinne glossed this remark with a statement at Tacitus, Annales IV.xviii, about a similar view held by the emperor Tiberius.
Act 4, scene 6 Although the printed text places no scene-division here, the next numbered scene is 7. There is no change of setting; we are still in the Palace apartment of Octavia. This scene is suggested by the account at Tacitus, Annales XI.lx and also Dio Cassius, Epitiome LXI.xiii.3. In reading this gruesome scene one wonders whether Gwinne, in his capacity as Physician to the Tower, was required to attend the torturing of the Gunpowder Plotters.
2928 You can just as easily join crow This list of adunata or natural impossibilities is a familiar feature of Senecan rhetoric. Cf., for example, H. F. 373 - 8.
2957 No, she must be given a hearing Anicetus role in these proceedings is described by Tacitus, Annales XIV.lxii and lxiii.
Act IV, scene 5 The setting is the Forum (cf. 2983).
2984 I DO NOT TAKE YOU UP This jape is recorded by Dio Cassius, Epitome LXI.xvi.2.
2993 If you show no hurt These were actually the enlightened sentiments of the emperor Augustus (Tacitus, Annales IV.xxxiv). For Neros tolerance of rumors that he had murdered Agrippina, cf. Dio Cassius, Epitome LXI.xvi.2 - 3 and Suetonius, Nero xxxix,.
3000 A sack affixed to my statue? For the jape of the ack, cf. Suetonius, Nero xlv. For its point cf. the Commentary note on 2265.
3002 NERO, ORESTES, ALCMAEON This and the following pasquinade are quoted by Suetonius, Nero xxxix.
3014 they resound with their rioting This description of the riot draws on Tacitus, Annales XIV.lxi, and Ps. - Seneca, Octavia 792 - 803:
3031 the cruel debaucheries of Tarquin the tyrant When Tarquinius Superbus, the last king of Rome, had raped Lucretia, under the leadership of Brutus the people ejected him and his dynasty and founded the Republic. Not long thereafter the decimvir Appius Claudius is supposed to have been assassinated for aiming at a dictatorship.
3056 You kindle hates with hate How Poppaea worked on his feelings is told by Tacitus, Annales XIV.lxii.
3063 so that a single stroke could cut it off Gwinne transfers to Nero a variant of a famous saying of Caligula (Suetonius, Caligula xxx.2), utinam populus Romanus unam cervicem haberet! Curiously, in Francis Herrings hexameter narrative about the Gunpowder Plot Pietas Pontificia (1606), sig. C 1, this sentiment is also attributed to Nero. Evidently Herring had found it in the present play.
3067 Let it be overcome by steel, ruination, and fire Gwinne takes his cue from Octavia 820 - 42 in identifying outrage at this riot, coupled with a craving for revenge, as Neros motive for setting Rome afire.
3075 The die is cast This was of course Caesars famous exclamation as he crossed the Rubicon. The following sentences are from Suetonius, Nero xxxviii.
3095 But let the people hate me, as long as it fears me Gwinne attributes to Nero Caligulas penchant for quoting this line from Accius Thyestes (Suetonius, Gaius Caligula xxx).
Act V, scene 1 In the Introduction I have explained how a series of marginal numbers are meant to indicate how Act V could be performed as a separate five-act play.
3140 They loved the Manlii and the Gracchi, then destroyed them In the fourth century B. C. Marcus Manlius is supposed to have been a champion of the plebeians, and was condemned for aspiring to make himself king. Titus Manlius Torquatus, after serving thrice as consul, was put on trial for abusing his office of dictator. The two popular leaders Tiberius and Gaius Gracchus tried to improve the lot of the Roman commons in the second century B. C., and were killed for their troubles. Marcus Livius Drusus was another social reformer of the early first century B. C. whose efforts came to naught.
3155 but let me live as a sister These lines are based on Tacitus, Annales XIV.lxiv.
3165 so that Nero may marry another man She alludes to Neros marriage to the eunuch Sporus, for which cf. Suetonius, Nero xxviii.
3178 my wife, mother, and father bid me die As recorded by Suetonius, Nero xlvi, it was considered ominous that Nero acted in a play entitled Oedipus the Exile which contained this significant line.
Act V, scene 2 The setting is a street in Rome. This scene is based on Tacitus, Annales XV.xxxviii. Its beginning was suggested by Dio Cassius, Epitome LXII.xvi.2.
3235 burning all our temples and the gods with them Tacitus describes damage suffered by temples at Annales XV.xli.
3242 captured and burnt it on this same day of the month The sidenote cites Tacitus, Annales XV.xli, to this effect. Rome had been partially burned by Brennus and his Gauls on July 19, 390 B. C.
3244 For Rome had fourteen districts Cf. the damage estimate at Tacitus, Annales XV.xl.
Nero on the tower of Maecenas Probably Gwinne imagined Nero appearing on the so-called heaven, the loft or balcony traditionally employed in academic drama for such purposes. The picture of Nero singing on the Tower of Maecenas comes from Suetonius, Nero xxxviii.
3254 Priam strikes me as having been altogether blessed This sentiment is attributed to Nero by Dio Cassius, Epitome LXII.xvi.1.
3266 Neros song Neros composition The Sack of Troy is referred to by Dio Cassius, Epitome LXII.xviii.1, Suetonius, Nero xxxviii.2, and Juvenal, Satire viii.221.
3271 Venus guardianship tried to ward off these fires The gods who supported Troy in the Iliad are overcome by those who favored the Greeks.
3292 Let nobody begrudge you your joy A sidenote refers to accounts of the persecution of the Christians, blamed for the fire, by Tacitus, Annales XV.xliv, and Suetonius, Nero xvi, as well as to Marcantonio Sabellicos gloss on this passage in his edition of Suetonius (Milan, 1491).
3296 as palm-trees are wont to do Gwinne was evidently thinking of Pliny, Natural History XIII.xlii, where palm tree that is reborn miraculously, Phoenix-wise, is described.
3307 We feel threatened by what was once sung These sinister oracles, and the attempts Nero made to calm the public disquiet they caused, are mentioned by Dio Cassius, Epitome LXII.xviii.1.
3317 My care will rebuild Neros megalomaniacal plans for rebuilding the city are described by Suetonius, Nero lv (see also Tacitus, Annales XV.xliii). His boast that he would transform into marble what had heretofore been wood was really that of the emperor Augustus (Suetonius, Augustus xxviii.3).
3324 you must call this city…Neronia For Neros ambition to rename Rome after himself cf. Suetonius, Nero lv.
Act V, scene 3 The scene shifts to Senecas house.Tacitus, Annales XV.xlv, tells how the freedman Cleonicus was ordered by Nero to bid Seneca commit suicide.
3337 PAULINA Senecas wife Pompeia Paulina, not to be confused with Lollia Paulina, who appeared in Act 1.
3345 One hand offered bread, the other held a stone Gwinne was doubtless thinking of Matthew 7:9, or what man is there of you, whom if his son ask bread, will he give him a stone?
3358 that I suffer from neuralgia For Senecas feigned illness cf. Tacitus, Annales XV.xlv.
3364 Oh useless wealth A paraphrase of the philosophers sentiment at de Tranquillitate Animi viii.
3371 He is harmed because of his wealth And of the one at his Epistulae Morales lxxxvii.33.
3376 I have wanted to live like Socrates For Senecas philosophical heroes cf. Epistulae Morales xlviii.12.
3377 The evil man imbibes a portion of his own venom Cf. ib. lxxxi.22.
3385 my life depends on yours Paulina turns against Seneca his argument at Epistulae Morales civ.4
3410 It should not terrify you The following speech is a pastiche of sententiae drawn from Epistulae Morales lxv.16, Naturales Quaestiones VI.xxxii.4, Dialogues XI.ix.8, Epistulae Morales lxx.28, and evidently ib. lxi.3
3416 Hear, philosopher, what I have somehow heard Paulina rhetorically defeats her husband, largely by quoting him passages of his own works. She also repeatedly draws on the speech beginning at Josephus, Jewish Wars III.362 in which Josephus denounces suicide.
343 You may be destined to migrate elsewhere Epistulae Morales lxx.17,.
3433 Await the end decreed by Nature Ib. lxx.14
3434 Even if you do not love life, do not hate it Ib. 30.15
3438 what God is in the world, such is the soul in Man Ib. lxv.24.
3448 God grants us to exist Josephus, Jewish Wars III.371.
3450 The greatest sorrow awaits suicide souls A sidenote evidently refers to Epistulae Morales lxx.14.
3459 but nevertheless drives him to die Cf. Seneca, Epistulae Morales lxx.7, to die out of fear of death is folly.”
3461 It is as if a captain were to sink his ship Josephus, Jewish War III.368.
[Act I, scene 4] This interview is built on various hints in Tacitus: 1.) in denouncing Seneca for alleged complicity in the Pisonian conspiracy, the informer Natalis stated that he had been sent to Seneca to enlist him in Pisos conspiracy against Nero (Tacitus, Annales XV.lx); ( 2.) the historians report (lxi) that Faenius, a conspirator, shrank from carrying out the order for Senecas execution, and 3.) the passage cided in in the note on 3517ff. below. The other participants in this scene were named co-conspirators in the plot. Gwinnes purpose in adding this is fictitious scene was to establish that Seneca did not play a part in the conspiracy he is invited to join.
Faenius Rufus and Tigellinus had been appointed joint Prefects of the Praetorian guard. The name of the other character was actually Subrius Flavus, though it is given as Flavius in some Tacitean mss.
3479 He alleges that I have debauched murdered Julia The accusation is reported by Tacitus, Annales XIV.lvii.
3488 sending them beneath the yoke A phrase taken from the philosophers de Providentia iv.1.
3502 Chaerea, weak and ancient, was able to overcome Caius Caligula was assassinated by Cassius Chaerea. Suetonius, Gaius Caligula lvi.2, tells the story.
3503 Here is a double Brutus Brutus the regicide and Brutus the tyrannicide are familiar figures from Roman history. Cassius Longinus and Cassius Parmensis were two of Caesars murderers.
3507 The prefect whom Nero appointed This roster of military members of the conspiracy is taken from Tacitus, Annales XV.l, who names Statius Proxumus, Maximus Scaurus, and Venetus Paulus. He mentions nobody named Granius, but immediately preceding the name of Statius Proxumus stands that of Gavius Silvanus. Either Gwinne has taken a liberty with the name or this is a printers error.
3510 but Piso is popular C. Calpurnius Piso, whom we shall meet below: the conspirators will halfheartedly agree to set him up as the next Caesar.
3512 He is approved by no virtue Cf. the unfavorable characteral appraisal given by Tacitus, Annales XV.xlviii. For Piso as a tragic actor cf. Suetonius, Nero xxi. Flavius remark about an actor being no better than a zither player is reported at Annales XV.lxv.
3530 Natalis bursts in The equestrian Antonius Natalis, whom Tacitus describes (Ann. XV.lv) as an intimate of Piso.
Fifty So Machiavelli in his commentary on the first decade of Livy, III.vi (p.203 Mazoni - Casella).
3533 Men are compelled and incited to subscribe This appraisal of the conspirators mixed motives is extracted from passing remarks in Tacitus lengthy catalogue of the conspirators at Annales XV.xlix - l.
3559 Your villa, Piso, is suitable for the killing This suggestion, and Pisos refusal, is mentioned by Tacitus, Annales XV.lii.
3570 Let him be murdered while singing on the stage Flavius proposal is recorded at Annales XV.l.
3574 there that place which Caesar haunts This idea is set forth at Annales XV.liii.
3593 within a short time Cf. the note on either Caesar or nothing in the dedicatory epistle.
3595 Oh men - if you are men Epicharus, the heroine of the conspiracy, is introduced by Tacitus at Annales XV.li. For the sequel cf. the note on 3637ff.
3602 SCEVINUS, HIS FREEDMAN MILICHUS The remainder of this scene, which dramatizes the unravelling of the plot, follows Tacitus, Annales XV.liv.
3614 and Brutus impressed Superbus Brutus killed the last king of Rome, Tarquinius Superbus, for having raped Lucretia, and established the Republic. For Chaerea, cf. the note on 3502.
Act V, scene 4 Gwinne provides no clue as to where this scene is supposed to be set: perhaps in the Servilian Gardens (cf. the note on 3730ff.). This scene, dramatizing the way in which the plot was divulged to Nero is based on Tacitus, Annales XV.li.
3653 he wants to destroy the knights and senators For Neros hatred of the Senate, cf. the Suetonius passage cited in the Commentary note on 2820f.
3730 NERO DELIBERATING This portion of the scene is based on Annales XV.lv. For Faenius Rufus part in the transaction cf. also Annales XV.lviii
3787 How fares Epicharis now? The death of Epicharis is told by Tacitus, Annales XV.lvii
3803 with Acherons urn, wheel, rock, starvation This line summarizes the sufferings of the famous damned, as described, for example, by Seneca at H. F. 750 - 8. For Sicilian torments see the Commentary note on 2222.
3822 What about the man? The downfall of Scevinus is told by Tacitus, Annales XV.lvi.
3835 Let Lateranus be cut down And that of Lateranus at ib. lx.
3838 Seneca answered that conversation For the denunciation of Seneca cf. Tacitus, Annales XV.lx
3850 Lucan The poet Lucan, Senecas nephew, and Quinctianus, are denounced at Annales XV.xlix. Senecios downfall occurs in the following chapter.
3858 Seneca says that Natalis was sent to him This speech is based on Annales XV.lxi.
3870 What is Granius dithering about? Cf. Annales XV.lxi.
3886 Flavius subscribed This part of the scene dramatizes Annales XV.lxvii.
3917 For a long while they made their denials These facts come from Annales XV.lvii.
3941 Thus you all should This speech is probably suggested, in a general way, by Tacitus description of Neros reign of terror at Annales XV.lviii.
Act V, scene 5 The setting shifts to Pisos house. This description of his suicide follows Tacitus, Annales XV.lix.
Act V, scene 6 The setting is Senecas villa outside of Rome. The scene is based on Annales XV.lxi - lxii.
3898 Good doctor Annaeus, Seneca addresses his kinsmen, the physician Statius Annaeus (whose presence is mentioned at Annales XV.lxxix), his adoptive brother Junius Gallio (ib. XV.lxxiii), and Novius Priscus, a friend mentioned at Annales XV.lxxi. Lucilius was the addressee of Senecas Epistulae Morales.
4063 my wound does not hurt Here Gwinne transfers to Seneca Martials account of the death of the death of Caecina Paetus and his wife Arria (Epigrams I.xiii); for this episode cf. the note on 4461.
4112 either like Cato Cato the Younger committed suicide by falling on his sword at Utica in 46 B. C. Seneca recounts the exemplary death of his contemporary Julius Canus at de Tranquillitate Animi xiv.4ff.
4117 let a cock be offered up to Aesclepius This echoes Socrates dying words as reported by Plato, Phaedo p. 118A. As rather unnecessarily noted by Gwinne in a sidenote, Socrates death-scene is also described in Book I of Erasmus Apophthegmata (§ 74 and 75). Perhaps he had read these in the translation of Nicolas Udall (1564, reprinted Boston, 1877, pp. 32f.).
4120 I return myself to you A sidenote refers to the sentiment expressed by Seneca, de Tranquillitate Animi xi.2f.
4128f. But since Paulina was scarcely ordered to die This speech is based on Tacitus, Annales XV.lxiv.
Act V, scene 7 We are now transferred to the house of the poet Lucan. Besides the Tacitean passage quoted in the Commentary note on 3822ff., cf. Annales XV.lxx.
4144 No life is short Lucan recites pastiches the death-speeches of various characters in his Bellum Civile. This first passage is a pastiche of lines from Vulteius speech beginning at Lucans Bellum Civile IV.476ff.
4152 Either no sense is left A similiar pastiche of lines from B. C. III.626ff.
4160 The best fate for men Lines from B. C. IX.
4166 He hastened to them These lines = B. C. IX.885 - 7.
4170ff. Blood was his tears An abbreviated version of B. C. IX.811 - 14.
4174ff. He was torn asunder These lines = B. C. III.638 - 41.
Act 5, scene 8 The scene reverts to Neros palace. As indicated by sidenotes on 4180f., it is inspired by Tacitus, Annales XVI.vi,
4199 I shall be your Juno, your Medea… Nero interrupts her before she can complete the equation by threatening to be a Deianira - who killed her husband.
4216 for he killed Megara Nero compares himself, not unreasonably, to the protagonist in Senecas Hercules Furens, who also killed his wife Megara in a spell of madness.
4219 may it overwhelm this Athamas! In mythology Athamas, driven mad by Hera, killed one of his sons and tried to kill Ino his wife; for the story cf. Robert Graves The Greek Myths § 70g).
4224 by which Coronis perished Apollo killed Coronis for betraying him with her lover Ischys, and cursed a crow for not pecking out Ischys eyes, but then repented: cf. Ovid, Metamorphoses II.612ff.
4236 your Sabine name Suetonius, Tiberius i.1, and Aulus Gellius, Noctes Atticae XIII.xxiii, advise us that the name Nero was Sabine in origin.
4242 Antonia can stabilize your reign Nero executed Antonia, daughter of Claudius, because she refused his offer of marriage: Suetonius, Nero xxxv.2.
4245 Poppaea was savage According to Tacitus, Annales XVI.vii, although Nero outwardly grieved at Poppaeas death, he inwardly rejoiced because such was her character.
4249 Nor do I desire her to be cremated Tacitus, Annales XVI.6, explains that she was not cremated according to Roman custom, but buried as if she were an oriental queen.
4259 I desire her to be stuffed with spices A sidenote directs us to the discussion of such spices by Pliny the Elder, Natural History XII.lxxxi.1.
4263 I wish to castrate Sporus Neros disgraceful marriages to Sporus and Pythagoras are recorded by Suetonius, Nero xxviii, and Dio Cassius, Epitome LXII.xxviii.2, respectively.
4284 Caius Cassius maintains an effigy For the emperors murders of Cassius and Silanus cf. Suetonius, Nero xxxvii, and Tacitus, Annales XVI.vii,.
4288ff. Mella, Lucans rich father And his murder of Lucans father (his name was actually Mela) is narrated at Annales XVI.xvii.
4291 But Arbiter, so learned in luxury For the denunciation of Petronius cf. Annales XVI.xviii
4302 And so does Soranus love Caesar, or Thrasea? And for bill of particulars against Thrasea Paetus, cf. Annales XVI.xxif. For the consular Barea Soranus, another of the Stoic martyrs, cf. ib. XVI.xxiii. For Plautus cf. the Commentary note on 1478.
4307 Now Servilia is complicit with her father For Bareas daughter Servilia cf. Annales XVI.xxx. The Stoic Carrinas Celer Secundus, mentioned (adversely) by Tacitus at ib. XV.xlv, is listed among Thraseas denouncers by Dio Cassius, Epitome LXII.xxvi.1.
4312 May Thrasea love Caesar so greatly! Neros wish to be loved by Thrasea is mentioned by Suetonius, Nero xxxvii, Plutarch, πολιτικὰ παραγγέλματα p. 810Α, and Cato Minor xxxvii.
4317 celestial voice Tacitus, Suetonius, and Dio Cassius all allude to Neros allegedly celestial voice.
4342 Let this priest, this upright senator, visit the Senate house Although the preceding portion of this speech (and likewise its conclusion) are closely modeled on Tacitus, Capitos concrete proposals are Gwinnes own invention).
4355 he himself acted in a tragedy Both Tacitus (vide supra) and Dio Cassius, Epitome LXII.xxvi.4, record that Thrasea acted in a tragedy: it is perhaps strange that this avocation was considered discreditable for Nero but not for the great Stoic martyr.
Act V, scene 9 In the absence of any mention of Petronius detention at Cumae, evidently we are to think the setting is Petronius house. As indicated by the sidenote on 4365, this scene is based on the narrative of his death at Tacitus, Annales XVI.xix. Cf. also Suetonius, Nero xxxvii.
4378 Unlucky fellow, The boys sing some lines from a dirge about the loss of hair at Satyricon 109.
4385 Oh the cheating nature A pastiche of lines taken from verse in the Satyricon, enhanced by one that is evidently of Gwinnes own invention.
Act V, scene 10 The scene is Thrasea Paetus house. This scene is based on Tacitus account of his condemnation at Annales XVI.xxv - xxvi
4416 Nor will Capito be the one man Cossutianus Capito and Eprius Marcellus, two of Thraseas enemies who were parties to the prosecution (cf. the note on 4302ff.).
4445 Oh Paetus, would you had appeared late! For the martyrdom of Thrasea Paetus, cf. Annales XVI.xxxvi. At which point the extant portion of Book XVI of the Annales breaks off; Gwinnes main source fails him, and so he is obliged to rely primarily on Suetonius.
4461 I prefer to be brief about it His saying is preserved by Arrian, Discourses of Epictetus I.i.26
the image of my mother Arria Her mother Arria, wife of Caecina Paetus, had committed suicide with her husband after he had become involved in a failed attempt against Claudius. Cf. the note on 4063.
4469 He is banished from Italy Tacitus records this sentence of banishment on Helvidius Priscus and Paconius Agrippinus at Annales XVI.xxxiii.
4473 there to dine This brave saying is recorded by Arrian, ib. I.i.30.
4483 But she shuns the lands Gwinne was no doubt thinking of Senecas description of Astraea, the goddess of justice, deserting the earth at Ps. - Seneca, Octavia 423ff.
4495 If anything troublesome or sad occurs Dio Cassius gives these (in Greek) as Thraseas dying words at Epitome LXII.xxvi. 4.
4504 There will be some avenger The Latin word he uses is vindex. Thus this line acquires the significance of a dying mans curse in view of the Vindex revolt about to happen, the first in the chain of catastrophes leading to Neros downfall.
Act V, scene 11 Although Suetonius says that Nero first learned of the Vindex revolt while at Naples (cf. the next note), the following passage in which Nero reacts to posted libels and barbs against himself would seem to suggest that the setting is a street in Rome, or perhaps the Forum.
4518 Now Aenobarbus Vindex, the governor of Gaul, was the first of Neros generals to rebel against him. A sidenote refers to Suetonius, Nero xl.4, which states that was at Naples that Nero learned of the revolt and that the day in question was May 20.
4520ff.For Vindex vituperative speech cf. Suetonius, Nero xli, and Dio Cassius Epitome LXII.xxii.1ff. Aenobarbus literally means bronze-bearded.
4525mud stained with blood Gwinne appropriates Thodorus of Gadaras famous mot about Tiberius quoted at Suetonius, Tiberius lvii.1.
4537 this Medea, this Canace, this Phaedra, this Helen Suetonius (Nero xxi.3) describes him playing Canace, Orestes, Oedipus, and Hercules.
you plan ill for yourself, good for us Neros supreme self-confidence at this time is described by Suetonius, Nero xl.4.
4540 a rotten zither-player For Neros annoyance at this charge, cf. Suetonius, Nero xli.1.
4548 scarce unequal to Roscius? For Roscius cf. the note on Ciceronis Roscium, Aesopum in the dedicatory epistle.
4564 a hundred thousand golden coins This bounty is mentioned by Dio Cassius, Epitome LXIII.xxiii.2
4568 the Gauls are waking you Cf. Suetonius, Nero xlv.2, ascriptum et columnis, Gallos eum cantando excitasse. The note of J. C. Rolfe, the Loeb Library translator, on this is there is obviously a pun on Galli, ‘Gauls, and galli, ‘cocks, and on cantare in the sense of ‘sing and of crow. There may also be a secondary involving Gallus, eunuch: by their singing your wakeful catamites arouse you.
4571 Let every tribe be summoned to a muster Nero now plans his fantastic campaign against Vindex, as detailed by Suetonius, Nero xliv.1.
4579 I shall sing of him out of Vergil According to Suetonius, ib. liv, Nero vowed that he would celebrate his victory by singing Vergil-derived stuff to the accompaniment of a pipe organ.
4590 I approve that auspicious remark The contents of this speech come from Suetonius, ib. xliii.2.equenti die laetum inter laetos cantaturum epinicia, quae iam nunc sibi componi oporteret.
4593 I shall come forth unarmed A sidenote attributes this plan to Sir Henry Savile, The Ende of Nero and Beginning of Galba. Fower Bookes of the Histories (1591) sig. ¶ viiv.
4604 But behold the favorable omen The omen in question is described by Suetonius, Nero xli.2.
4613 Even Galba has deserted Suetonius, Nero xlii.1, tells how Nero was prostrated when he learned that Galba, commander of his armies in Spain, had defected and proclaimed himself emperor.
4637 Virginius campaigns against the rebels abroad Titus Virginius Rufus, governor of Germany, was charged to put down the revolt of Vindex, but sided with the rebel, as described by Dio Cassius, Epitome LXIII.xxiv.1. A sidenote refers to Sir Henry Savile, The Ende of Nero sig. ¶ iiiir, Of high Germany Verginius Rufus was Lieutenant, with three Legions, next neighbour to Vindex, only of a mean gentlemans house.
4656 Delphic Apollo once gave a response Cf. the anecdote retailed at Suetonius, Nero xl.2.
4666 she favored me even in my cradle According to another anecdote in Suetonius (ib. vi.4), some snake-skins were found in his cradle. These were made into a lucky bracelet. We have seen him discard this bracelet at 2467ff.
4669 The astrologer said I should be destitute For the prophecy cf. Suetonius, ib. xl.2.
4678 I brood on the rebels and lampoon their leaders For such futile japery, cf. ib. xlii.2.
4680 and a hooked nose He means Galba: cf. the physical description at Suetonius, Galba xxi.
4684 I am a second Archilochus Archilochus was an early Greek poet who wrote harsh iambic invectives against his enemies (cf. Horace, Ars Poetica 79). When he was betrothed to Lycambus daughter and then the betrothal was called off, he supposedly lampooned this family so savagely that they all committed suicide.
4686 I shall play publicly upon a water-organ Neros rather bizarre enthusiasm for music at this point in his career is attested by Suetonius, Nero xli.2.
4691 He tears them up For mood swings cf. Sir Henry Savile, The Ende of Nero sig. ¶ vii, The Senate, receiuing the letters, flattering and fearing, adiudged Vindex a traitour…[Nero] tore his clothes, beat his head, and would in no wise receiue anie confort, til such time as the Senate by decree had declared Galba enimie to the state. Then resuming courage, and somewhat reuiued with some rumours out of Germanie, hee returned to his ryot and carelesse licentious life, and putting Galbas seruants in prison seized his goods and set them to sale.
4692 Vindex places a bounty on your head For the bounty cf. Dio Cassius, Epitome LXIII.xxiii.2,
4693 He tears them up A detail taken from Suetonius, Nero xlvii.1, nuntiata interim etiam ceterorum exercituum defectione litteras prandenti sibi redditas concerpsit.
4698 the entire Senate will pay the price For his desire to exterminate the Senate cf. ib. xliii.
4708 Should I seek the Parthians? Suetonius describes his fantastic scheming at ib. xlvii.2.
4734 Let the fleet be readied This order is given at Suetonius, Nero xlvii.1.
4741 like a Themistocles, a Mithridates, a Hannibal All three of these great leaders committed suicide by poison.
4750 Now let tranquil sleep Neros final night is described by Suetonius, ib. xlvii.2.
4763 For that grove, which gave laurels For Nero as the last of the Caesars, and for these trees, cf. Suetonius, Galba i.
Act V, last scene The setting is a little difficult to visualize. It would apper that, deserted by his guards, Nero spends one last night in the Palace, where he is rudely awakened by a nightmare. But the rest of the scene is immediately outside of Phaons suburban villa. Stage features include sections of a road and of the marshy ground surrounding the villa. Probably one house was meant to represent the Palace, the other Phaons villa, and the audience would have been invited to imagine that the space between the two structures was the open highway along which the refugees travel. Still, one receives the impression that Gwinne had not fully thought out the staging complexities: how, for example, would the stage direction after 4804, He goes around, knocking on doors., be enacted? He would perhaps done better to divide this scene into two separate ones.
4787 the unquiet Forum of my guilty mind This passage may have been inspired by scenes in such vernacular plays as Richard III in which the ghosts of a murderers victims appear to him immediately before his downfall. Certainly, it is very much calculated to appeal to contemporary tastes.
4795 The quaking earth yawns An earthquake at the time of Neros death is mentioned by Dio Cassius, Epitome LXIII.xxviii.1.
4836 If your will is to go to my suburban villa Neros last hours are chronicled by Suetonius, Nero xlviii.1, closely followed here.
4872 how worse is shameful flight Neros words are not an identifiable quotation from Seneca, but the sentiment is ineluctably his. There is doubtless intended irony in having Nero, reduced to this extremity, dredge up this nugget of the wisdom of his philosopher-victim.
4894 Neros famous potion Pliny the Elder, Natural History XXXI.xl, tells how Nero liked to drink his water cooled with snow.
4894 The Fathers adjudge Nero to be an enemy This portion of the scene follows Suetonius, Nero xlix.
So why not employ a single death Again, although this statement cannot be exactly matched in the philosophers writings, it is as if Neophytus is delivering Nero a lecture out of Seneca.
4924 The culprit is stripped naked This method of execution is described by Eutropius, Breviarium vii.ix.
4939 this is the very day Information about the date comes from Suetonius, Nero lvii.
Let our laments resound Nero weeps over his his impending death at ib. xlix.
4946 of Alcyone lamenting Ceyx Alcyon claimed that she was Juno and that her husband Ceyx was Jupiter. Hera drowned Ceyx and Alcyon threw herself into the sea. Then both were transformed into kingfishers. The story is told at Ovid, Metamorphoses XI.410 - 748.
I am not miming anothers woes A statement suggested by Dio Cassius, Epitome LXIII.xxviii.4. These lines bring to a climax the series of metadramatic references to the theater that have recurred throughout the play.
4953 play the role of Eros Eros was a slave who assisted Mark Anthony in his suicide (Plutarch, Life of Antony lxxvi.7).
4959 as was done for Cassius and Brutus A sidenote alludes to the final chapter of Plutarchs Life of Brutus, in which it is told how Brutus friend Strato helped him commit suicide.
4961 The thunder of swift-hooved horses strikes my ears He quotes Iliad X.535.
4996 the citizens of Rome cheered The sidenote cites Sir Henry Savile, The Ende of Nero and Beginning of Galba. Fower Bookes of the Histories (1591) sig. ¶ iiiv, Nero being slaine, the people and gentlemen, but principallie the nobilitie, the principall object of tyrannie, sacrificed to the gods and feasted for ioie: some also ware Bonnets, as beeinge newlie enfranchised.
4999ff. here reigns the daughter of peace A conclusion praising Elizabeth is not uncommon in the epilogues to academic dramas (such as those of Legges Richardus Tertius of 1579, William Gagers Meleager of 1582, Dido of 1583, and Ulysses Redux of 1592); partly as a convention, and also, no doubt, for reasons of metrical convenience, Anglo-Latin poets often referred to the Queen under the name Elisa or Eliza (as also did vernacular poets: cf. E. C. Wilson, Englands Eliza, Cambridge, Mass., 1939).