Playing the part: the role of the client in Horace's Sermones and Epistles
Klein, Viviane Sophie
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This dissertation proposes a new interpretative approach to the theatrical material in Horace’s Sermones and Epistles. In particular, it focuses on a selection of poems in which Horace employs a wide array of dramatic devices to depict and discuss the patron-client relationship (Sermones 1.9, 2.5, 2.7 and Epistles 1.17 and 1.18). These devices include dialogue, stage directions, stock characters, expressly theatrical metaphors, and diction echoing playwrights such as Plautus and Terence. I argue that Horace intentionally activates the language of the stage in order to spotlight the theatricality involved in performing the role of a client. In so doing, the poet characterizes the client as an actor and underlines the scripted nature of the words and gestures that he directs toward his patron. In each of these poems, Horace employs a variety of negative stereotypes in order to associate the client with different kinds of performers (e.g., the parasitus, captator, servus, scurra, and planus). In the process, he confronts criticism that he himself likely received in the extrapoetic world impugning his amicitia with his own patron, Maecenas. Horace defends himself against charges of acting and sycophancy by demonstrating that an element of performance is endemic to the patron-client relationship itself. The dissertation is organized as a series of close readings of the five poems that best illustrate Horace’s correlation between dramatic and social performance. For each poem, I identify and interpret the dramatic elements and illustrate how they complement and enhance the dramatic subtext. Chapter 1 concentrates on Sermones 1.9, in which Horace encounters a pest seeking an introduction to Maecenas. Chapter 2 deals with Sermones 2.5, the dialogue between Tiresias and Ulysses on the subject of inheritance-hunting (captatio). Chapter 3 explores Sermones 2.7, in which Horace’s slave Davus accuses him of proteanism when it comes to Maecenas. Chapter 4 presents comparanda from Horace’s Epistles 1.17 and 1.18, in which Horace utilizes the same dramatic devices to shape his advice to two prospective clients. Taken together, these analyses uncover new layers in Horace’s multifaceted depiction of the patron-client relationship, and provide additional insight into his poetic personae and poetic program.