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Part IV - The Reception of Roman Comedy

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  30 March 2019

Martin T. Dinter
King's College London
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Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2019

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Further Reading

Many books on Roman comedy, Plautus and/or Terence include some information on the reception of this dramatic genre and its poets; however, there is no comprehensive work on the reception of early Roman comedy, Plautus, or Terence in antiquity. The most useful overviews of the relevant passages illustrating the reception of Plautus and Terence, with brief discussion, are provided by J. Blänsdorf and E. Lefèvre at the relevant entries in Suerbaum (2002, in German), supplemented for Terence by Marti (1974, in German). Deufert (2002, in German) reviews the development of Plautus’ comedies in antiquity from a textual perspective, with a view to separating the genuine from the spurious passages.

There are, at any rate, dedicated studies on various aspects of reception. The important period of the first century bc, represented particularly by the works of Cicero, is discussed by Zillinger (1911, in German), Wright (1931), Laidlaw (1960), and Blänsdorf (1974, in German).The textual transmission of the comedies by Plautus and Terence is summarised by Reeve (1983), Tarrant (1983), and Grant (1986). Information about the authors of late-antique commentaries can be found at the relevant entries in Sallmann (1997a and 1997b, in German) and Herzog (1989, in German). The extensive extant work of Donatus is analysed by Jakobi (1996, in German).

Reactions of Christian writers to Republican comedy are surveyed by Hagendahl (1967), Jürgens (1972, in German), and Rapisarda (1987, in Italian).

Further Reading

Plautus and Terence manuscripts produced before the year 1200 are catalogued in Munk Olsen (1982). Plautus manuscripts kept in the Vatican Library are described in Tontini (2002b); those in other Italian libraries are described in Tontini (2010); and Plautus manuscripts kept in non-Italian libraries are listed in Tontini (2013). All extant medieval Terence manuscripts are listed and briefly described in Villa (1984) and (2015). The illustrated Plautus manuscripts are discussed in Fachechi (1998) and (2002); illustrated Terence manuscripts are discussed in Jones and Morey (1931), Meiss (1974), as well as Wright (2006), and are catalogued in Radden Keefe (2015).

Further Reading (* = in English)

Many good introductions to Hrotsvit exist, including Haight* (1965), Nagel (1965), Bertini (1980), Dronke* (1984), Wilson* (1984), and del Zotto (2009). Comprehensive analyses of Hrotsvit’s oeuvre include Kuhn (1950), Michalka (1968), Wilson* (1988), Giovini (2003), and Wailes* (2006). There are also several articles on single dramas: Sticca* (1969, 1971, 1985), Beutner (1974), Chamberlain* (1980), Bertini (1985), Stura (1985), Robertini (1989), Simonetti (1989), Giovini (2001, 2006b), and Brown* (2004). Wilson* (ed., 1987) and Brown, McMillin, and Wilson* (eds., 2004) are fine contextual studies. Bisanti (2005) offers an outline of Hrotsvit studies from 1985 to 2005. After the completion of this chapter, two more titles have appeared: Augoustakis* (2013) and Brown and Wailes* (2012).

Further Reading

T. W. Baldwin (1944) has written a foundational study on the educational curricula in England. Marvin Herrick (1960) and Louise George Clubb (1989) have explored the influence of Roman comedy in Italy. Bruce Smith (1988) reviews early modern adaptations and productions of Roman comedy. R. Hardin (2007) examines the critical controversy ignited by the discovery of Plautus regarding comic language and plots, audience response, and the nature of laughter. Some scholars have concentrated on Plautus and Terence in Shakespeare, among them Salingar (1974), Riehle (1990), and Miola (1994). Eleanor Lumley (1901) has done the same for Ben Jonson, George Rowe (1979) for Thomas Middleton. For work on other early modern playwrights and Roman comedy, one can consult the Modern Language Association bibliography, available online:

Further Reading

H. W. Lawton (1926) analyses the reception of Terence’s plays in French Renaissance education, drama, and literary theory, while R. F. Hardin’s article (2007) constitutes a recent comprehensive survey of Plautus’ reception. M. T. Herrick (1960), L. G. Clubb (1989), and R. Andrews (1993) cover Italian Renaissance comedy, both scholarly and popular, and its reception of earlier writers. B. Jeffery (1969) and P. de Capitani (2005) handle French Renaissance and seventeenth-century comedy, demonstrating the influence of Italian drama on the evolution of French comedy during this period. A. Nicoll (1963) provides an illustrated history of Italian commedia dell’arte, both within Italy and outside, from the sixteenth to the eighteenth centuries. G. P. Shipp (1973) studies Molière’s plays’ relation to classical comedy, while D. C. Boughner (1954) concentrates on one specific type of character, the braggart soldier, from his first appearances in ancient comedy to medieval and Renaissance comedy. European comic theory in the Renaissance is thoroughly explored by M. T. Herrick (1950), and its French peculiarities are reviewed by H. W. Lawton (1949).

Further Reading

Almost all literature on this topic is in German. Comprehensive collections covering the reception of comedy can be found in the works of Conrady (1954), Herrmann (1893), and above all Reinhardstoettner (1886) (available on Google Books), which are all still useful for their wealth of material. More recent publications, such as those of Dietl (2005), Korzeniewski (2003), and Riedel (1976), deliver a deeper analysis and an interpretation that meets modern demands. Riedel (2000) is to be especially commended for his breadth of horizons and comprehensiveness of themes. Kes (1988) presents the reception of the palliata in the late eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Fontaine (2015) is an important publication in English.

Further Reading

It could be stimulating for students and scholars to compare the academic editions and translations of Plautus and Terence available in university libraries to those adaptations intended for the stage, such as Amy Richlin’s three Plautus plays (2005) and Peter Oswald’s version of Rudens, The Storm (2006). Although several books survey the portrayal of ancient Greece and Rome in cinema, most of them remain focused on ancient history and only a few address the question of comedy. Among the latter are Jon Solomon’s study (2001), particularly 283–305, which compares screen adaptations of other comic films on antiquity, and also Margaret Malamud’s 2001 article on A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum. Among the several rewritings of Plautus’ Amphitruo mentioned in this chapter, only Giraudoux’s Amphitryon 38 is available in print and English translation (1967). Cole Porter’s Out of This World and Jean-Luc Godard’s Hélas pour moi are analysed respectively in Ethan Mordden’s study on Broadway musicals (2007) and in Richard Brody’s study on Godard (2008), particularly 545–65. As for the similarities of Wodehouse’s Jeeves and Tex Avery’s cartoons with Plautus’ and Terence’s plays, they do not seem to have been investigated thoroughly in any printed work, but further details on their legacies, organisation, and use of parody can be found in the general studies by Richard Usbome (1981) and Floriane Place-Verghnes (2006).

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