Monthly Archives: September 2011

Seneca

Seneca

SenecaLucius Annaeus Seneca (often known simply as Seneca) (ca. 4 BC – 65 AD) was a Roman Stoic philosopher, statesman, dramatist, and in one work humorist, of the Silver Age of Latin literature. He was tutor and later advisor to emperor Nero. He was later forced to commit suicide for alleged complicity in the Pisonian conspiracy to assassinate this last of the Julio-Claudian emperors; he may have been innocent. His father was Seneca the Elder and his older brother was Gallio.

Miriam Griffin says in her standard modern biography of Seneca that “the evidence for Seneca’s life before his exile in 41 is so slight, and the potential interest of these years, for social history as well as for biography, is so great that few writers on Seneca have resisted the temptation to eke out knowledge with imagination.” It is thus necessary to regard what one reads as alleged fact with extreme skepticism.

Griffin infers from ancient sources that Seneca was born in either 8, 4, or 1 BC. She thinks he was born between 4 and 1 BC and was resident in Rome by 5 AD. Seneca says that he was carried to Rome in the arms of his mother’s stepsister. Griffin says that, allowing for rhetorical exaggeration, means “it is fair to conclude that Seneca was in Rome as a very small boy.”

His family was from Cordoba in Hispania (the Iberian Peninsula), and he may have been born there, although there is no documentary evidence for it. There is no way of knowing when the family came to Spain. According to Griffin, the family probably came from Etruria or the “area further east towards Illyria.” He was the second son of Helvia and Lucius Annaeus Seneca, the wealthy rhetorician known as Seneca the Elder. His older brother, Gallio, became proconsul in the Roman province of Achaea. His younger brother Annaeus Mela’s son wasMarcus Annaeus Lucanus.

At Rome he was trained in rhetoric and was introduced to Hellenized Stoic philosophy by Attalus and Sotion. Seneca’s own writings describe his poor health. At some stage he was nursed by his aunt; as she was in Egypt from 16 to 31 AD, he must have at least visited and perhaps lived for a period in Hellenistic Egypt.

Seneca and his aunt returned to Rome in 31, and she helped him in his campaign for his first magistracy.

Caligula began his first year as emperor in 38, and there was a severe conflict between him and Seneca; the emperor is said to have spared his life only because he expected Seneca’s natural life to be near its end.

In 41, Claudius succeeded Caligula, and then, at the behest of his third wife Valeria Messalina, banished Seneca to Corsica on a charge of adultery with Caligula’s sister Julia Livilla. Seneca spent his exile in philosophical and natural study (a life counseled by Roman Stoic thought) and wrote the Consolations, fulfilling a request for the text made by his sons for the sake of posterity. In 49, Claudius’ fourth wife Agrippina the Younger had Seneca recalled to Rome to tutor her sonNero, then 12 years old; on Claudius’ death in 54, she secured recognition of Nero, rather than Claudius’ son Britannicus, as emperor.

From 54 to 62, Seneca acted as Nero’s advisor, together with the praetorian prefect Sextus Afranius Burrus. Seneca’s influence was said to be especially strong in the first year. Many historians consider Nero’s early rule with Seneca and Burrus to be quite competent. However, over time, Seneca and Burrus lost their influence over Nero. In 59 they had reluctantly agreed to Agrippina’s murder, and afterward Seneca wrote a dishonest exculpation of Nero to the Senate. With the death of Burrus in 62 and accusations of embezzlement, Seneca retired and devoted his time again to study and writing.

There is also speculation in Peter Salway’s History of Roman Britain that Seneca had been involved in forcing large loans on the indigenous British aristocracy in the aftermath of Claudius’s Roman conquest of Britain, and then calling them in suddenly and aggressively. The suggestion is that this contributed to Boudica’s rebellion, and so possibly to his own fall.

In 65, Seneca was caught up in the aftermath of a plot to kill Nero. Although it is unlikely that he conspired, he was ordered by Nero to kill himself. He followed tradition by severing several veins in order to bleed to death, and his wife Pompeia Paulina attempted to share his fate. Tacitus (writing in Book XV, Chapters 60 through 64 of his Annals, a generation later, after the Julio-Claudian emperors) gives an account of the suicide, perhaps, in light of Tacitus’s Republican sympathies, somewhat romanticized. According to it, Nero ordered Seneca’s wife to be saved. Her wounds were bound up and she made no further attempt to kill herself. As for Seneca himself, his age and diet were blamed for slow loss of blood, and extended pain rather than a quick death; taking poison was also not fatal. After dictating his last words to a scribe, and with a circle of friends attending him in his home, he immersed himself in a warm bath, which was expected to speed blood flow and ease his pain. Tacitus, however, in his Annals of Imperial Rome says that Seneca suffocated by the water vapor rising from the bath. “He was then carried into a bath, with the steam of which he was suffocated, and he was burnt without any of the usual funeral rites. So he had directed in a codicil of his will, even when in the height of his wealth and power he was thinking of life’s close

New Amsterdam Theatre

New Amsterdam Theatre


The New Amsterdam Theatre is a Broadway theater located at 214 West 42nd Street in the heart of Times Square in New York City. It is operated by Disney Theatrical Productions, and is currently showing the musical Mary Poppins.

Construction and original run

new amsterdam theatre

The New Amsterdam, the first concrete example of architectural Art Nouveau in New York, was built in 1903 by the partnership of impresarios A.L. Erlanger and Marcus Klaw and designed in the Art Nouveau style by architects Herts & Tallant. Decorating was carried out by an extensive team of painters and sculptors that included George Gray Barnard, Robert Blum, the brothers Neumark, George Daniel M. Peixotto, Roland Hinton Perry and Albert G. Wenzel. At the time of construction, it was the largest theatre in New York, with a seating capacity of 1,702. Along with the Lyceum Theatre, also built in 1903, it is the oldest surviving Broadway venue.,
The New Amsterdam opened in November 1903 with a production of Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream. For many years, it hosted the Ziegfeld Follies, showcasing such talents as Olive Thomas, Fanny Brice and the Eaton siblings. A racier sister show of the Follies, the Midnight Frolics, played in Read the rest of this entry

Marquis de Sade

Marquis de Sade

de sadeDonatien Alphonse François, Marquis de Sade (2 June 1740 – 2 December 1814)  was a French aristocrat, revolutionary politician, philosopher, and writer famous for his libertine sexuality and lifestyle. His works include novels, short stories, plays, dialogues, and political tracts; in his lifetime some were published under his own name, while others appeared anonymously and Sade denied being their author. He is best known for his erotic works, which combined philosophical discourse with pornography, depicting sexual fantasies with an emphasis on violence, criminality, and blasphemy against the Catholic Church. He was a proponent of extreme freedom, unrestrained by morality, religion or law.

Sade was incarcerated in various prisons and in an insane asylum for about 32 years of his life; eleven years in Paris (10 of which were spent in the Bastille) a month in Conciergerie, two years in a fortress, a year in Madelonnettes, three years in Bicêtre, a year in Sainte-Pélagie, and 13 years in the Charenton asylum. During the French Revolution he was an elected delegate to the National Convention. Many of his works were written in prison.

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Melodrama

Melodrama

melodramaThe term melodrama refers to a dramatic work which exaggerates plot and characters in order to appeal to the emotions. It may also refer to the genre which includes such works, or to language, behavior, or events which resemble them. It is also used in scholarly and historical musical contexts to refer to dramas of the 18th and 19th centuries in which orchestral music or song was used to accompany the action. The term originated from the early 19th-century French wordmélodrame, which in turn is derived from Greek melos (music) and French drame (drama)

18th-century origins: monodrama, duodrama and opera

Beginning in the 18th century, melodrama was a technique of combining spoken recitation with short pieces of accompanying music. In such works, music and spoken dialog typically alternated, although the music was sometimes also used to accompany pantomime. The earliest known examples are scenes in J. E. Eberlin’s Latin school play Sigismundus (1753). The first full melodrama was Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s Pygmalion, the text of which was written in 1762 but was first staged in Lyon in 1770. The overture and an Andante were composed by Rousseau, but the bulk of the music was composed by Horace Coignet. A different musical setting of Read the rest of this entry