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