MARIA HALEY (University of Leeds)
Abstract: Latinists are becoming open to the theory that Seneca’s tragedies were staged. Whilst this began as a reaction to the traditional case for tragic recitation in Seneca’s time, contemporary evidence suggests that staging and recitation need not be considered as mutually exclusive modes. Faced with the possibility of these performances, it is now worth considering not if, but how these different performance modes may have shaped Seneca’s tragedies when they were performed in Nero’s Rome. Taking Seneca’s Medea as a case study, the focus of this paper will be on the infanticide monologue and the infanticide itself. The most likely forms of performance will be outlined based on evidence from Latin sources, that we may then consider how a staged performance of the infanticide episode alone would shift the emphasis of the scene, in comparison to a full recitation of the play. The benefits and limitations of each performance mode will also be evaluated throughout with reference to AD 1C Roman performance theory, from sources such as Cicero and Quintilian. Ultimately, the discussion will highlight the performative potential of Seneca’s tragedies, to consider how these performances shaped meaning for a Roman audience.