Theatricality and self-fashioning: Reading Apollonius’ dramatic performance in Historia Apollonii Regis Tyri chapter 16


  • Regine May



Apollonius’ performance of lyre-playing, comedy and pantomime in Hist. Apoll. 16 symbolises his status, past and hopes for the future. Not merely an emulation of Nero’s dramatic performances, it uniquely includes comedy. Apollonius’ lack of masks invites the association of his roles with his own life. Especially the unusual comedy performance, possibly intertextually linked to Diphilus and Plautus’ Rudens, allows for his identification as a young man who lost everything in a shipwreck but hopes for an improvement of his fortunes and possibly a love affair. Apollonius’ symposium clothes lend themselves to this kind of identification between role and actor, and his consummate performance suggests that there is a somewhat understated erotic attraction between him and the king’s daughter. The mix of Greek and Roman attitudes to dramatic performances by noblemen seems to suggest our text may have a Greek background but is directed at Roman readers.

Author Biography

Regine May

Regine May is Associate Professor in Latin Language and Literature at the University of Leeds and the author of three books on Apuleius: Apuleius and Drama. The Ass on Stage (Oxford: OUP 2006), Apuleius. Metamorphoses Book 1. With an Introduction, Translation and Notes (Oxford: Aris & Phillips 2013), and Apuleius. The Story of Cupid and Psyche. With Translation, Introduction and Notes (Manchester: Astrotalkpublications 2019). She has also written numerous articles on drama, women and characterisation in the novels, especially Apuleius. Cupid and Psyche. The Reception of Apuleius’ Love Story since 1600, edited together with S.J. Harrison, has just been submitted to de Gruyter for their Trends in Classics: Pathways of Reception series.