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The Arraignment

By Author: Mark Gary
Total Articles: 61

Later Tibullus discovers that a song Crispinus sings is plagiarised from Horace, resulting in much envious threatening. Demetrius Fannius, a 'dresser of plays' is hired to abuse Horace on stage. A conspiracy is formed to defame the master poet. Jonson juxtaposes this literary squabble with the witch-hunting paranoia of the informer Lupus, whose terror of sedition leads him to accuse Ovid of writing a treasonable play. Ovid's drama is actually compromised not so much by its politics but by Ovid's flagrant relationship with Julia, whom Augustus has to be Replica Cartier restrained from killing. Horace and Maecenas upbraid Lupus for exposing this absurd 'treason' but in so doing make themselves another enemy to add bite to Crispinus's whispering campaign.

The original performing title of the play was The Arraignment, and the various legal aspects of the plot are combined in the final act, in which Augustus literally holds court, presiding in person over the judicial scene.20 But the officers of the court, in this fantasy of literary power, are virtually all poets: it is a literal 'sessions of the poets' of the kind that became popular in the seventeenth century. Augustus welcomes Virgil to give a poetry reading from his work-in-progress, the Aeneid; he reads the passage on fama from book IV, in a direct translation by Jonson, which establishes a classical mastery over the instability of report immediately before Lupus arrives to accuse Horace of treason. Virgil's noble recital of his own work is travestied in Lupus's absurdly perverted close reading of Horace's manuscripts, and Augustus is absolutely unmoved. Crispinus and Demetrius are arrested 'on the statute of calumny', with Horace writing the indictment, despite modestly claiming to be 'the worst accuser under heaven'. The formal indictment, in very close parody of an actual court document, is Cartier Replica Watches read out by Tibullus; Crispinus,' poetaster and plagiary' and Fannius, 'play-dresser and plagiary' are accused under the lex remmia, of.

Not having the fear of Phoebus or his shafts before your eyes, contrary to the peace of our liege lord Augustus Casesar, his crown and dignity, and against the form of a statute in that case made and provided, have most ignorantly, foolishly, and... maliciously, gone about to deprave and calumniate the person and writings of Quintus Horatius Flaccus, here present, poet, and priest to the Muses. Virgil, who presides at Augustus's command, administers oaths. The evidence against them does not actually relate to Horace at all but consists simply of quotations from their own abysmal writings. After Virgil has formally absolved Horace of the crimes imputed to him by Crispinus and Demetrius, Horace forgives Demetrius on the grounds that detraction can do nothing to him when he is loved by Tibullus, Augustus and Virgil; but he makes Crispinus take a pill 'somewhat bitter. but very wholesome' a 'light vomit that should purge His brain and stomach of those tumorous heats'. In a remarkable bit of stage business, Crispinus vomits up all the ludicrous windy rhetoric he is guilty of in his writing. 'Who would have thought there should ha' been such a deal of filth in a poet', Gallus remarks; but Crispinus is made to shove his finger down his throat to vomit some more. The purge proceeds under the sign of judicial sentence, being authorised both by Augustus and by Virgil; but in its low physical comedy it stands in some contrast to the high noble language that surrounds it: a reminder, perhaps, that this play was performed by boy actors, suddenly hitting a mode of practical joking that was in that respect appropriate and which might have prompted a thought to a later Augustan poet.

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