This chapter focuses on two key words: amici (friends) and risum (laughter). Both terms run the length of the Ars Poetica, appearing sometimes singly and at other times in unison, such that the senses of each crystallize further, both individually and together, with every appearance. Horace explores the paradox that the obligation of a true friend is to criticize, especially through laughter, even at the risk of causing pain, and that criticisms issued by a friend are necessarily true. Within the framework of Roman and, especially, Epicurean amicitia (friendship), Horace boldly negotiates for himself the position of “friend” vis-à-vis the Pisones, although these figures are mentioned nowhere else in his corpus. This ruse of friendship is nevertheless what allows Horace to criticize his addressees' literary talents and discourage them (along with perhaps every reader) from attempting to write poetry.
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