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1.

PROLOGUE TO THE COMEDY RIVALES

Having been acted once before, this comedy returns again to the stage. Again? Therefore it’s the death of us, not a comedy, it’s a twice-baked cookie. But I pray you hear my reponse. Things that truly please once will give pleasure ten times. Fair things can be said twice. So are these things fair? Let boasting be far removed from our troupe, but since these things once gave you delight, they strike us as worthy of being put back on the stage. The decision about what is a good play is entirely your choice, of which our chorus stands in awe, and which our poet cultivates, as he always should. And see, Ulysses-like, this play has come back after ten years. And as often as it settles here, who is to know if it is the same? But it returns entirely unchanged, although perhaps less well appointed. But we don’t want to perform no comedy, and even less to perform any at all. Should I say it was hard to invent a new one? Or that we didn’t want to? Or that we didn’t have the leisure? Or anything else? Was this accident or destiny? Count it your blessing that any kind of comedy is being put on; it was produced with difficulty, it almost wasn’t produced at all. However it happened, I pray you to think well of it. Funny things twice produced customarily get a laugh.

2.

APOLLO ADDRESSES A PROLOGUE TO HER MOST SERENE MAJESTY QUEEN ELIZABETH, 1592

Leaving the famous ridges of Woodstock’s forest, worn out by the hunt and having had my fill of venision, the time for slaying the beasts now spent, in the company of the Muses I have revisited this noble house. But whence has this new guest approached our dwelling? With what a countenance she bears herself! What loftiness! What majesty is upon her! Are  you Elisa, whom the fair-haired nymph Syrinx bore to her Pan by the waters of the Thames? Are you she who first came to this hearth six and twenty years ago? I recall that you are she, I recognize your pristine glory. Hail, virgin queen, goddess of this world, special charge of heaven, wonder of our times, our world. Oh, the singular zeal of your heart! Has it pleased you to reenter this sacred shrine of the Muses, and approach this monument to your father (and would that it were perfect and worthy of a father of yours)? You have twice come as a guest, twice welcome to myself, Phoebus, to the Fates, Muses, to us all. And that some measure of our gratitude may be paid to you, for your benefit Thalia will don the comic slipper. Pray be happy, divine lady, and lay aside the weight of your famous scepter, your grave mein. The playful Muse will furnish you with amusing jokes.

3.

Yesterday the stage gave you ridiculous Mopsus.

4.

What kind of comedy was produced yesterday? Rivales, loved without a rival by its supporters, a twice-baked cookie, a death, not a comedy. How pleaant was that bawd with her depraved morals. Wasn’t she sufficiently rife with her own vices, without having to fill the theater full of whores, unless fun turned into wantonness under the guise of pointless songs and jokes? Hasn’t the stage given us a playwright more eloquent and learned? Hasn’t it produced a good poet?

5.

In Riuales, what Cato might not be delyted to see the fonde behaviour of cuntrye wooinge, expressed by cyvill men, or the vanytye of a bragginge soldier? by the spectacle of the drunken mariners(?)

6.

Rivales fond, & amarous; mariners beastly dronken.

7.

…as your Rivales, in which some of the wooers perhaps kissed Phoedra.

8.

Hee would not haue his youth to counterfeit a womans voice: you procure Minerva, Penelope, Euryclea, Antinoe, Eurynome, Hippodamia, Melantho, Phaedra, the Nurse, the Nymph, besides I know not whom in the vnprinted Comedie, to bee played by yours.

9.

If they shuld not as much as salute Terence, the finest Comicall Poet, for purnes of the Latin toung in Tullies judgement: much lesse should they be made will acquainted with Plautus; and lesse yet with Rivales.

10.

Indeed, you yourself strengthen my opinion when you declare that the actors of plays, such as Terence’s which are stained with shameful and vile words and deeds, are justly condemned. For Ulysses Redux, Hippolytus, and Rivales (about which the Momus of your friend incited this dispute between us) suffer no less from these faults than some of Terence’s plays, nay Rivales much more. And granted that you add certain things, perhaps not undeserving of refutation, as when you assert that mimes, in female costume, performed the part of a man, of a procurer, of an adulterer, of a drunkard, in order that the drunkard might not seem similar to them in Rivales. With the example of Theophrastus, who taught in school and allowed every gesture appropriate to the matter which he treated, so that the extended tongue licked his lips when he described the glutton, you demonstrate that the dramatic art is necessary for the orator. [trans. Markowicz]

Finis