As for myself, I am ashamedly lacking readings of Seneca. I say ashamedly now, for I didn’t know what I was missing. Thyestes had no trouble holding my full attention, and even De Ira had me well grasped. I found it comparable to when I first discovered Milton as a bright-eyed undergrad. (I say “discovered.” Though I was exposed to him in high school, I lacked the patience to appreciate it).
On reflection, I find that I agree with Eliot in that Seneca’s plays make for a poor performance. Rather, they are meant to be recited, or as serves my purposes, read. I found myself looking back and forth to the Latin, occasionally pronouncing the words as I recalled my undergraduate Latin training (which is seriously lacking, being unpracticed for five years). Nonetheless, like Eliot I was stricken by the power of the words, the potency of the sentences, and the brashness of the description. Liberos avidus pater / gaudensque lacerat et suos artus edat. / bene est, abunde est. hic placet poenae modus. There is poetry in these words which the translation brings through, and so I admire both sides of our book.
That I believe is the true strength of Seneca and the reason for his influence. I found myself nodding again with Eliot, in that Seneca didn’t seem to have much concern with introductions, character subtleties, gathering suspense, or other “machinations of the stage” (to borrow from Eliot). Rather, it was the power of the words, the boldness of the description, and the power of the action that makes Thyestes stick in one’s mind. There is little foreshadowing, and little doubt of the play’s conclusion, but it nonetheless presents itself as a spectacle. Aequalis astris gradior et cunctos super / altum superbo vertice attingens pollum. / nunc decora regni teneo, nunc solim patris. Delightful.