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p238 Canticum

Unsigned article on p238 of

William Smith, D.C.L., LL.D.:
A Dictionary of Greek and Roman Antiquities, John Murray, London, 1875.

CANTICUM. In the Roman theatre, between the first and second acts, flute music appears to have been introduced (Plaut. Pseudol. I.5.169), which was accompanied by a kind of recitative, performed by a single actor, or if there were two, the second was not allowed to speak with the first. Thus Diomedes (III p489 ed. Putsch.) says:— "In canticis una tantum debet esse persona, aut si duae fuerint, ita debent esse, ut ex occulto una audiat nec colloquatur, sed secum, si opus fuerit, verba faciat." In the canticum, as violent gesticulation was required, it appears to have been the custom, from the time of Livius Andronicus, for the actor to confine himself to the gesticulation, while another person sang the recitative (Liv. VIII.2; Lucian, De Saltat. 30; Isidor. Orig. XVIII.44). The canticum always formed a part of a Roman comedy. Diomedes observes that a Roman comedy consists of two parts, dialogue and canticum (Latinae comoediae duobus tantum membris constant, diverbio et cantico). Wolf (De Canticis, p11) endeavours to show that cantica also occurred in tragedies and the Atellanae fabulae. There can be no doubt that they did in the latter; they were usually composed in the Latin, and sometimes in the Greek language, whereas the other parts of the Atellane plays were written in Oscan.


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