Skip to main content Accessibility help
Hostname: page-component-cd4964975-8tfrx Total loading time: 0 Render date: 2023-03-27T12:04:15.241Z Has data issue: true Feature Flags: { "useRatesEcommerce": false } hasContentIssue true

Part II - The Fabric of Roman Comedy

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  30 March 2019

Martin T. Dinter
King's College London
Get access


Image of the first page of this content. For PDF version, please use the ‘Save PDF’ preceeding this image.'
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2019

Access options

Get access to the full version of this content by using one of the access options below. (Log in options will check for institutional or personal access. Content may require purchase if you do not have access.)


Further Reading

For a long time, Duckworth (1952) and Beare (1964) provided the only overviews of Roman comic stagecraft. Since Slater (1985) and the new vocabulary for discussing stage action that book provided, new approaches have yielded rich results, none more than Goldberg (1998). Moore (1998b) helpfully explores the interaction between the Roman actor and the audience. I have tried to synthesise these advances in Marshall (2006). Manuwald (2011) 41–125 and 301–25 provides the best available overview on production practices in the Roman Republic, and see now Petrides (2014) and Bexley (2014). Goldberg (2018) explores possible sites of performance within the forum at Rome, using computer-generated models. His stage design is based on South Italian vase illustrations, and differs from what is suggested here.

Further Reading

Moore (2012) is a thorough discussion of music in Roman comedy. For musical structure, see also Moore (1998a) and Marshall (2006). Gratwick (1982a) and Moore (1999) review the connections between music and character. Moore (2007) discusses music in Terence. For the connection between metre and musical accompaniment, see Moore (2008). Questa (2007) is the best introduction to Roman comedy’s metres. Those with no Italian will do best to start with the sections on metre in Gratwick (1993) and (1999) and Barsby (1999). Questa (1995) has scanned, and Braun (1970) has analysed, Plautus’ polymetric songs. For identification of metres in the rest of Roman comedy, the schemata metrorum in the texts of Lindsay (1904–5) and Kauer and Lindsay (1958) are invaluable. Lindsay (1922), though dated, is still useful, as is the chapter on music in Beare (1964). For singing in the ancient theatre, see Hall (2002). Wille (1967) is an encyclopedic compilation of evidence for music in the Roman world. Moore (2016) is an online database of all the metrical changes in the extant plays of Plautus and Terence.

Further Reading

A comprehensive appreciation of non-verbal language in Roman comedy is still a desideratum. For a helpful, if brief, account of the non-verbal in Roman comic texts, see Panayotakis (2005), who succinctly touches on many of the following items. For the study of the interplay between verbal and non-verbal in Roman comedy and its imitation of improvisation, see the influential approach of Slater (1985) (reprinted with additions in 2000), which is mostly focused on metatheatre (see the further reading section of Christenson in this volume).

For links between performative features of Roman comedy and the italic oral theatrical tradition, see Lèfevre, Stärk, Vogt-Spira (1991); Vogt-Spira (1993); Benz, Stärk, Vogt-Spira (1995) (with contributions in English), and Panayotakis in this volume. On eavesdropping and other stage conventions, see Bain (1977, on Roman comedy, see esp. ch. 10); on the door-knocking routine in Roman comedy and its antecedents, see Brown (1995) and (2000) and Traill (2001).

On Roman actors’ gestures (compared to orators’ gestures), see Graf (1992); Dutsch (2002); Fantham (2002); Fögen (2009). For lucid discussions of Plautus’ and Terence’s verbal humour, see respectively Fontaine (2010) and Vincent (2013).

Further Reading

The term ‘metatheatre’ was coined by Abel (1963) to describe what he saw as a new mode of drama (beginning in the Renaissance) that was centred on the concepts ‘all the world’s a stage’ and ‘life is a dream’. Barchiesi (1970) first applied Abel’s notion of metatheatre to Plautine comedy. Slater’s (1985) seminal study of Plautine performance elucidates metatheatrical strategies employed in several plays, but Slater is generally reluctant to explore connections between Plautus’ use of metatheatre and Roman society (cf. Slater 1990). Moore (1998b) includes an excellent chapter entitled ‘Metatheater and Morality’ (67–90). Sharrock (2009) is keenly sensitive to the metatheatrical features of Roman comedy. See also Gowers (1993) 50–108 (passim). Other brief treatments of metatheatrical topics in Plautus include Muecke (1986) and Hardy (2005). Rosenmeyer (2000) and Thumiger (2009), though highly critical of the application of metatheatre to ancient drama, provide insights into the important issues (and disputes) associated with the concept. Batstone (2005) defends the utility of metatheatre for Plautine studies and advances the case for an ancient Roman audience’s ability to perceive relationships between theatre and their own lives. Frangoulidis (1994), Knorr (2007), and Moodie (2009) treat aspects of Terence’s use of metatheatre. Among the many works on metatheatre outside the field of Roman comedy, Hornby (1986), Maquerlot (1992), Nellhaus (2000), and Dobrov (2001) are particularly insightful.

Further Reading

Palmer (1954) is a good introduction to the archaic and colloquial character of Plautine and Terentian diction as well as their rather artificial and stylised character; for EL features, apart from the various individual comments in commentaries of individual plays, a very good, concise discussion appears in Raios (1998) 120–6, while de Melo (2007) is a recent study of the archaic verbal forms in the comic corpus. Wright (1974) constitutes a classic discussion of the stylistic unity of the Roman palliata, while linguistic evidence for this unity from which Terence stands apart comes from Karakasis (2005), also dealing with instances of Terentian appropriation of Plautine language as well as the means employed by Terence in order to distinguish his characters from a linguistic point of view. A further very good discussion of colloquialism/spoken Latin in Terence appears in Bagordo (2001) and Papadimitriou (1998). A very good account of the use of Greek words in Plautus and Terence is offered by Maltby (1995) and (1985) respectively, whereas Maltby (1979) and (1983) have also become standard reference works for the linguistic characterisation of old men in Terence and the Plautine linguistic colouring of the Heauton Timorumenos’ last scene, respectively. What is more, Maltby (1976) is still the best comparative analysis of the language of Plautus and Terence. Last, Adams (1984) and Dutsch (2008) are two further excellent discussions of female diction in Roman comedy. Issues of figurative diction/imagery and abuse are aptly discussed in Fantham (1972), Maltby (2007), and Lilja (1965), respectively. For a persuasive approach to Plautine metrics through Latin linguistics, one should consult Fortson (2008), for Plautine nominal declension Gerschner (2002) is invaluable, whereas Plautine word-play is the focus of Fontaine’s (2010) serious philological work. De Melo (2011) is a further recent, compelling and systematic account of the language of Roman comedy, whereas the sub-chapter on Plautine language in the introduction of de Melo (2011b) offers a further concise but thorough overview and analysis of Plautine diction. Last but not least, Karakasis (2014) constitutes a further, up-to-date account of the language of the palliata with an emphasis on the EL/archaic, the colloquial, the elevated, and the unclassical features of comic diction, as well as on issues of linguistic characterisation.

Save book to Kindle

To save this book to your Kindle, first ensure is added to your Approved Personal Document E-mail List under your Personal Document Settings on the Manage Your Content and Devices page of your Amazon account. Then enter the ‘name’ part of your Kindle email address below. Find out more about saving to your Kindle.

Note you can select to save to either the or variations. ‘’ emails are free but can only be saved to your device when it is connected to wi-fi. ‘’ emails can be delivered even when you are not connected to wi-fi, but note that service fees apply.

Find out more about the Kindle Personal Document Service.

Available formats

Save book to Dropbox

To save content items to your account, please confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your account. Find out more about saving content to Dropbox.

Available formats

Save book to Google Drive

To save content items to your account, please confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your account. Find out more about saving content to Google Drive.

Available formats