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Encountering Plautus in the Renaissance: a humanist debate on comedy.


Once upon a time in the West, classical comedy, to anyone who had studied rhetoric, meant Terence alone. Plautus did not go unmentioned, but his texts were scarce. Quotations from Plautus during the Middle Ages often rely on secondary sources such as florilegia, and almost all later medieval Plautus manuscripts derive from only two known copies from the eleventh and twelfth centuries. The well-informed thirteenth-century encyclopedist Vincent of Beauvais (ca. 1190-1264) knew Plautus only from the latter's incomplete Aulularia. (1) Even when texts were available, Plautus's earlier grammar and vocabulary could be difficult compared with Terence's familiar Latin, which found its way into school texts and dialogue exercises. In fact, Terence had already acquired chief acclaim for comedy in the late Roman Empire: Saint Augustine knew, and often cites, Terence, but never mentions Plautus. Charlemagne's library housed Terence but not Plautus. Furthermore, Plautus had largely disappeared during the Middle Ages, until 1428, when Nicholas of Cusa (1401-64) discovered a manuscript containing twelve lost plays. These brought the playwright's canon to the twenty complete comedies now read and (rarely) performed. (2)

Imperfect printed editions of Plautus began to appear in 1472, and continued with increasing frequency and some improvement over the next century. At the same time, Plautus was performed on the stage. Certainly Albrecht von Eyb's earthy German translations, made before 1475, could have been acted, but the earliest recorded vernacular performance appeared at the court of Duke Ercole d'Este at Ferrara. It attests to the esteem newly accorded to Plautus that by the late fifteenth century the first known public performance of any classical drama in any vernacular translation was that of his Menaechmi at Ferrara on 25 January 1486, as part of Duke Ercole's carnival entertainments honoring Francesco Gonzaga, betrothed to Isabella d'Este. A witness describes the play as "most beautiful and delightful." (3) The production had the traveling Menaechmus arrive in a realistic-looking galley with a sail, while the resident brother's city landscape was painted on a backdrop. Enthusiasm sparked another production of this play at the festivities for the marriage of young Alfonso d'Este to Anna Sforza, daughter of the Duke of Milan, when Menaechmi was one of three plays seen on successive February nights in 1491. Ercole d'Este's Ferrara, in fact, took the lead in the staging of Roman comedy in translation. In all, between 1486 and 1505, Ercole had an active role in producing at least fourteen different plays by Plautus and Terence. In 1493 he sent three productions to the Sforza court in Lombardy, an event that, as Ercole's biographer Thomas Tuohy observes, "suggests the preeminence of the d'Este theatre at that date." We may find it difficult to believe, but testimony reports that some 10,000 spectators saw Ferrara's first Menaechmi performance. (4)

Entering the sixteenth century, both Plautus and Terence found favor on the stage, while scholarly attention to Plautus led many humanists to draw comparisons between him and the familiar, but less prolific, Terence. Plautus also gave rise to the lively vogue of Italian commedia erudite (learned comedy), begun by Ariosto in 1508 and renowned in the comedies of Machiavelli. Praising Ariosto's Plautine Cassaria, the first of these comedies, a member of the aristocratic audience exclaimed that the play had a "variety of things half of which are not in [the comedies of] Terence." (5) The remark implies that, as of about 1500, Terence was the educated person's measuring-stick for comedy. He would not be so a century later, as a result not only of wider acquaintance with Plautus, but of altered European perceptions of comedy and theatrical performance.

In the last fifty years literary history has changed its perspective on this story. In 1950, Marvin Herrick's view went largely unquestioned: "It is well known that Renaissance comedy was modeled principally upon the plays of Terence, as its tragedy was modeled upon the plays of Seneca." Later work by Wolfgang Riehle and Robert S. Miola makes the case that in England, contrary to what earlier scholars like Herrick believed, Plautus was generally preferred to Terence. (6) This probably held true throughout Europe, but, especially in Italy during the early 1500s, we perceive a remarkable moment in the history of the reception of classical authors, as a reputation surges from minor to major in the space of a few decades. To read Renaissance comparisons of Plautus and Terence is to watch European culture grapple seriously for the first time with questions about comic language, audience response, comic plots, comic mimesis, laughter, and the ridiculous. The available tools of evaluative criticism--Aristotle and, more persistently, Horace--were inadequate to resolve these questions.

This is not to suggest that these tools were not employed. Aristotelian critics instinctively linked mimesis with the oft-quoted definition of comedy that Aelius Donatus (fl. fourth century CE) attributed to Cicero: "an imitation of life, a mirror of character, and an image of truth." (7) In his watershed commentary on the Poetics (1548) Francesco Robortello includes an essay on comedy as part of his effort to define genres that Aristotle had neglected. Comedy, he suggests, is an art of mimesis: it "imitates human actions that are rather base and vile"; New Comedy in particular "imitates behavior that is daily observed in the ordinary relations of men." (8) The term base, or vile, comes from Aristotle, but the category of "ordinary relations" descends from Donatus, as do other ideas in Robortello. Insofar as great comic artists can be pigeonholed, Plautus tends to fit with the Aristotelian notion and Terence with that of Donatus: hence, the source of at least some of the disagreements on the subject. Today many writers on comedy would deny that it imitates life. Edith Kern says it belongs to "the realm of fantasy and play rather than mimesis," while David Scott Kastan argues that it "is not a representation of life.... According to the generic definitions derived from later classical commentaries on Terence, comic action--unlike tragic--is to be feigned rather than drawn from history, testifying to comedy's freedom to shape its fiction into conforming patterns of wish-fulfillment." (9) In fact, a real achievement of modern comic theory--for example, in the work of Mikhail Bakhtin, C. L. Barber, Northrop Frye, Susanne Langer, and Erich Segal--has been to recognize that the best comic dramatists have not worked from the mimetic assumption. Mimetic theory via Robortello continued to hold sway in the seventeenth century, partly through the midwifery of Daniel Heinsius. His tendency to depend on Terence for his examples (he scarcely mentions Plautus) leaves the impression that he is partial to the later playwright. Yet in time, Terence, the premier Latin dramatist of the Middle Ages--the model for school and convent Latin drama as "Christian Terence" (10)--would yield ground to Plautus not just among theatrical people, but also among the smaller audience being considered here: the scholars, who mostly read Plautus rather than watched him.


Readers who collected sententiae (maxims) enlisted early in the Plautine ranks, as instanced in Bonus Accursius's Dicta Plautina, probably printed in 1478. "How can one write or say anything elegantly," the compiler asks in his preface, "being ignorant of Plautus, who perhaps attained the highest eminence among all the Latins, in the testimony of Cicero." (11) Erasmus (1468/69?-1536), who maintained a lifelong devotion to Terence, came to Plautus late, but was so won over that his final Adagia include more quotations from Plautus than any other Roman except Cicero. (12) In 1491 his countryman Jacobus de Breda produced a collection of sayings aimed at school children: the Vulgaria Plauti comici iucundissimi, with Dutch translations. Adages culled from Plautus are included in several early editions, and that of the Italian-Hungarian humanist and emblematist Giovanni Sambuco (Ioannes Sambucus), produced in 1568, groups the sayings under such topics as marriage and the passions, aiming to support his claim for Plautus's moral wisdom in the face of those detractors who claimed that he preached immorality. (13)

In the story of Plautus's reception in the Renaissance scholars found various reasons, in the contentious atmosphere of humanist culture, for choosing sides between the two Roman comic dramatists. Daniel Heinsius (1580-1655), in his Dissertation on the Judgment of Horace Concerning Plautus and Terence, inherits an Italian Aristotelian outlook that favors Terence, while Henri II Estienne (1531-98), in his Dissertation on Plautus's Latin, loves the variety and freshness of Plautus's language. Compounding such intellectual partisanship were various moments of cultural gravitas, as in Rome during the 1530s, when Terence came into higher regard because of his more serious tone. (14) The atmosphere there became so puritanical in the era of Trent that by 1566 one Lucio Olimpio Giraldi felt obliged to defend Terence from the charge of being morally dangerous to youth by declaring that Terence "fled from lascivious and obscene words--even though he had before him Plautus, who was very lascivious." (15) In 1565 the French playwright Andre de Rivaudeau used the words licentious and vicious to describe Plautus. Censorship took its toll on school texts of Plautus, with well over half of a play omitted in some cases. (16) This is not to say that all Terentians were prudes. An influential and lasting voice in their camp was that of Andrea Navagero (1483-1529), poet, official historian of Venice, and librarian of the Marcian library, who addressed the debate on more formal grounds. His letter, "In Publii Terentii Afri Comoedias," to Jean Grolier, bibliophile and secretary to the King of France, appeared in many sixteenth-century editions of Terence, at least as early as the Aldine edition of 1517, and was quoted by commentators including Bartolomeo Ricci, in his treatise on imitation, and Henri II Estienne. (17) (For some reason, the letter was always published under the name of Francesco Asolano, more familiarly Torresano.) It deserves consideration as a brief for the anti-Plautus Terentians of the early sixteenth century, lining up the kind of criticisms that would be heard well beyond the age. The foremost of these has to do with the language of the two playwrights, as seen in Navagero's declaration that "Plautus is somewhat crude; he uses certain harsh and obscure words. But people spoke that way then; he could not use any other language than that of his age. Terence is far more refined. There is nothing in him that is awkward, nothing that is not elegant. By that time Latin had doubtless become a more polished language.... Terence is more economical than Plautus, in leaving nothing to be desired. Plautus's comedies sometimes have missing parts and are not sufficiently unified; all of Terence's are so well joined together, such unity is produced from all the parts, that nothing more could fit into his plots, nothing could be more precise." (18)

In blunt terms, Plautus is a primitive: his foremost weaknesses are his crude Latin and his undisciplined, artless plotting. The charge of inferior Latin would vanish in the face of greater sophistication about the history of Latin and frequent reminders about the high esteem in which Plautus's language was held by some distinguished writers of antiquity. Indeed, a few years before his epistle, Navagero could have read the praise of the Strasbourg humanist Hieronymus Gebwiler on this score: "I don't reject the comedies of Terence, but as Phoebus outshines the rest of the stars with his light, so Plautus does Terence by far with his Latinity." (19) It is amusing to find that the real Francesco Asolano (Torresano) edited, at the Aldine Press, a beautiful large octavo collection of Plautus in 1522, with prefatory praise for "the extraordinary elegance and purity of his diction." (20) The claim for the superiority of Terence's "art," however, had staying power. For Navagero the comic art was one of "things rather than words." A quintessentially Plautine element was his clever wordplay and punning, a feature that left Terentians, like Navagero, cold: "There are two kinds of humor: one is based on the thing, the other on the word. That which deals with the thing is much more graceful and sober [gravis]; that of the word is sometimes keen and elegant, but mostly it falls flat, and very readily descends into buffoonery if not handled with moderation. Terence frequently uses the first kind, seldom the second; on the other hand, Plautus rarely uses the first, but very often the second.... The charming things that Plautus says can please once only; the more those of Terence are considered, the more they win us over. To sum up briefly, in the former we find banter [dicacitas], in the latter the highest refinement [urbanitas]." (21) Horace, so often the guiding light of literary theory in this era, is probably responsible for the words/things dichotomy in this definition, following the famous couplet in the Ars Poetica: "The Socratic texts could show you the thing, / and the words will readily follow when the thing is provided." (22) Additionally, dicacitas, or the adjective dicax, is a term that Horace uses to describe both the satirical impulse and the satyr play, suggesting that Plautus's (perceived) satiric tone pollutes the purity of his comedy. (23) In truth, Navagero is simply echoing a long-held opinion. A century earlier, in 1440, not long after Plautus's newly discovered plays could have been known, the Ferrara scholar Angelo Decembrio mapped the canon of classical literature. He based his ranking of Terence over Plautus on the same premises heard in much of the sixteenth century. Terence uses ordinary Latin [communi sermone], and Plautus "is so full of jokes that one is compelled to laugh too often, whereas Terence has just the right sort of humor, moderating in its effects." (24)

Over fifteen years after this defense of Terence came the Apologia in Marci Actii Plauti aliorumque poetarum et linguae Latinae calumniatores by Francesco Florido (called "il Sabino," 1511-47), born, it should be noted, almost thirty years after Navagero. Following his studies at Rome, while still in his teens Florido accompanied his patron Alberto Pio da Carpi to the court of Francis I. He began legal studies at the University of Bologna at age twenty-two, but two years later took up the study of Greek and Roman letters. Bologna had a long tradition favoring Plautus, from the time of the scholars Antonio Urceo ("Codro"), Filippo Beroaldo, Giovanni Battista Pio, and Achille Bocchi in the decades just before and after 1500. (25) Beroaldo finds in Plautus both a handbook of conduct and "a verbal cosmos, mimetic and formally protean," while Pio seconds this view, calling Plautus "multiform and many-headed," "a divine chameleon" whose text is an image of the world. (26) Although it does not measure up to the earlier generation's achievement, Florido's Apologia for Plautus and the Latin language testifies to its ferment at Bologna during his time there. It probably dates to the end of 1535, a year or so after he became interested in literature, and is dedicated to the nephew of his patron. The second edition of this book (1537) is the earliest to survive, while another appeared at Basel in 1540. Florido also served as tutor to Orazio Farnese, nephew of Pope Paul III, wrote works on law, and defended Erasmus's Ciceronianus against Etienne Dolet, an ardent Terentian and, coincidentally, resident at Lyon when the first edition of the Apologia was published there. (27) His printer, Sebastian Gryphius of Lyon, produced a widely-used, much-reprinted edition of Plautus, also in 1535, so perhaps the Apologia was seen as an investment to secure the acceptance of the Plautus edition among the learned community of the Lyon region, which in the era of Francis I would have included the court.

Early in the Apologia, Florido mentions that "A paper [libellus] against Plautus was recently published, placed in front of the works of Terence himself so that no one could be summoned as a witness against such libels, and Plautus's plays could from then on be erased from human memory." (28) Quotations from Navagero prove that he is the critic whom Florido is specifically answering, though, unlike Navagero, Dolet, and other Terentians, Florido maintains the need to respect both playwrights: "anyone with a modicum of education should be persuaded that those who peevishly embrace Terence alone are thinking so reductively that they are banishing Marcus Actius [sic] Plautus, who did the best service to the Roman tongue, in whose mouth we are certain that the Muses spoke, and whom no one I know surpasses in advancing the Latin tongue. He who, we know, was approved by all the ancients until now, in such a way that the most learned always applauded Plautus, is cast out of all the academies like a barbarian. On the other hand, in this time when one may say or do nothing without censure, others are showering down upon him other slanders, and hoping that all the world will accept them, now that they have rendered most wrongful judgment against this poet." (29) Turning to specifics, Florido takes up the attacks on Plautus's bad Latin: "I seem, moreover, to hear those voices crying out like a flock of sheep," he writes, that Plautus's Latin is full of strange and obsolete words. (30) The faults in the language are those of the early period in which he lived, says Florido, but in his (Plautus's) time the language was pure. Terence, Florido notes, sometimes used Plautine language, and he cites examples of supposedly obsolete diction that, according to Cicero, was used by Marc Antony. Terence is easy to imitate, Florido continues, but not Plautus. Terence wrote "elegantly," Plautus "most elegantly." Terence wrote six comedies "quite charmingly," but Plautus produced many comedies in the most delightful manner. (31) All in all, in Plautus one may very readily discern learning, inventiveness, seriousness, comic energy, and the kind of strength that is worthy of a man. Not so in Terence, in whom, all things considered, one will never find any particular excellence beyond a laudable propriety.

Florido questions the exclusive attention to Plautus's words at the expense of his meaning, exclaiming, "I will not be evasive, I think there is something to declare openly on this matter, that as much fruit can be most readily derived from six Plautine comedies as from all of Terence," a playful reminder that Terence left only six comedies. (32) As for the charge about Plautus's immorality, even if one avoids those parts of Plautus that are unsuitable for children, "there is still so much more learning and Latin to be discovered." (33) The apologist also echoes a frequently-heard response to the moral zealots: if reading were restricted to that which is appropriate for children, most of the canon of classical literature would have to be discarded. Florido's enthusiasm, his readiness to speak of his love for Plautus, hints at an affectionate tone that is increasingly encountered among supporters of the playwright as the era progresses. (34)

Yet Florido had a blind spot. In quoting Navagero's question--"What is there, in this author, that the reader in his chair cannot experience and yet someone else can while clapping in the theater of the giddy populace?"--Florido seems not to mind the Terentians' denigration of Plautus's appeal to theatergoers. (35) Despite the widespread performances of Roman comedy by this time in front of cultivated audiences, the humanists tended to undervalue performed comedy in favor of comedy on the page. Navagero writes: "Thus it happens that Plautus may seem more witty to the rude populace and to spectators who more often delight in the buffoon than the poet. Surely nothing must appear funnier than Terence to educated ears and to the wise reader." (36) Note Plautus's appeal to "spectators" (spectatoribus) and Terence's to "educated ears and the wise reader." What can this suggest but an invidious comparison between read and performed comedy, between drama as text and drama as theater? In Navagero's assertion that Plautus "thought that nothing else was required for the comic poet than to provoke laughter in people," we read a kind of antitheatrical prejudice that has been insufficiently discussed in the history of this subject. (37) In fact, classical scholars now believe that Plautus's Roman audience was really rather sophisticated. (38)

Reference to the "rude populace" serves as a reminder of the class-consciousness often underlying humanist declarations on this subject. The debates over Plautus evolved at a time when it mattered that, as Bernardo Pino da Caglia writes, Terence had been patronized by the noblest Romans like Scipio and Laelius, while Plautus, "who was, in fact, a slave and of low class," depended for his success on a plebeian audience. (39) Juan Luis Vives believed that, in his desire to provoke laughter, Plautus gave more freedom than he should have to his slave characters. (40) Bartolomeo Ricci charged that when Plautus allowed his wit to wallow in scurrility it had value only for a plebeian audience. (41) Etienne Dolet draws a contrast between Plautus's "plebeian and servile wit" and Terence's "liberal style." (42) It was in reaction to this elitism that Larivey, the French playwright, and Jacques Cahaignes, translator of the Aulularia, chose to cultivate more popular tastes by imitating Plautus on stage. (43) If, as Riehle has said, "the greatest 'affinity' between Plautus and Shakespeare surely lies in the fact that both are consistently aware of the performative character of comedy," such a choice results from an understanding of the stage that was slow to penetrate some of the more academic literary minds of this period. (44)

The desire to treat comedy as a serious art may help explain these reservations, as serious scholars, patronized by powerful aristocrats, thought twice about polluting the canon with clownish shows and vulgar farces that drew the laughter of ordinary people. Although the century of Erasmus and Francois Rabelais (1494-1553) is often seen as a period marked by the rehabilitation of laughter, there remain the likes of commedia grave (serious comedy) in the later Cinquecento and, in England, the plays of Shakespeare's later career which featured mixed comedies like Measure for Measure. Should there be limits to comic humor? Terentians would have especially applauded Alexander Leggatt, who says, "Laughter, in so far as it is derisive and aggressive, works against the concord the comic ending tries to create." (45) To this view, of course, Henri Bergson would have replied that derision, in fact, preserves social harmony by undermining risible behavior. (46)

Antonio Minturno deserves credit as a major literary theorist who grasped the necessity of validating the role of laughter in comedy with a simple directness. "Can there ever be a comic dramatist who does not jest?" he asks. "Joking and playing seem to me to take up the greatest part of comedy, as I will soon demonstrate." (47) This centrality of laughter in his theory leads to a prolonged discussion, invoking Plautus's Casina, of the ridiculous and its sources, such as deformity, scurrility (depravatio), and obscenity. (48) Minturno suggests that there is, however, an art, "a certain amount of careful planning [ratio]," to be observed in the ridiculous, as was exemplified in the Sicilian poet and humanist Pietro Gravina, known for his iocunditas. (49) A decade earlier Vincenzo Maggi had tried, in a short treatise, to compensate for Aristotle's brevity in discussing the ridiculous--more accurately, the "laughable"--but Minturno's treatment in book 4 of De Poeta is far more extensive. (50) Minturno never disparages Plautus, and his many examples of the ridiculous and its varieties show an intimate knowledge not only of Plautus, but also of Terence and Aristophanes. However, he sometimes singles out Terence for special esteem, and he suggests that Plautus was sometimes defective in ratio, as, for example, in his Asinaria, an Oedipal comedy in which father and son pursue the same woman. He refers to the moment when (in act 3, scene 3 of modern editions) the young lover needs a large sum of money for his prostitute. (51) Two of the father's servants offer the youth a bag of money, but make him beg for it: requiring him to touch their knees in the Roman sign of submission, to kiss them, and then to carry one of them around the stage on his back. "Indeed," Minturno writes, "how silly, how crude is the comic action in Asinaria, how devoid of any wit! When the young master, in supplication, by command grasps the knees of one servant, then carries the other like a horse. Terence was always more restrained about this sort of thing." (52) Class sensibility is also at stake here: recall Vives's objection to Plautus's freewheeling servants. An anonymous translation two decades earlier had labeled the play a "Comedia ridiculosa," but even a champion of the ridiculous like Minturno drew the line at horsing around with servants. (53)

The De Poeta appeared at a time when the audience for Plautus was expanding on several fronts. The 1550s saw Spanish translations of Miles Gloriosus and Menaechmi, and, most significantly, the first appearance of Joachim Camerarius's edition of Plautus, based on two highly-valued, hitherto unedited manuscripts: the Codex Vetus Camerarius and the Codex Decurtatus. In the 1560s came Copland's English Amphitryo and Baif's French translation of Miles, entitled Le Brave, the first translation of a Roman comedy performed in France. In his 1568 edition Sambuco draws a distinction between Plautus and Terence that becomes widely accepted: "Although Terence may be elegant, pure, and polished, we may say that Plautus is truly a comic playwright, if indeed we know what it is to write a comedy or tell a tale not only using the hand and the ear, but also careful planning." (54) Sambuco's enthusiasm may have infected his more famous protege Justus Lipsius, an important advocate of Plautine style.

From the beginning of his rediscovery, Plautus's linguistic idiosyncrasies had made him an object of both deep philological interest and of the kind of belittlement witnessed in Navagero's comments on his "harsh and obscure words." J. C. Scaliger explicitly prefers Terence's work on the grounds of Terence's "speaking well." (55) The idea, also dear to Ciceronians, that earlier or later Latin vocabulary had no place in good prose falls under the scrutiny of Henri Estienne in his De Latinitate Falso Suspecta, which includes the lengthy "De Plauti Latinitate Dissertatio, et ad Lectionem Illius Progymnasma," specifically devoted to the language and achievement of Plautus. Estienne's love for the comic poet is inherited. Although, he writes, many who have undertaken this subject depend on the opinions of Horace, Cicero, and other ancients, "I won't pretend that I am making such judgments based on ancient writers; the love with which I pursue Plautus is hereditary, since this comic dramatist, of all the Latin writers except Cicero, was most dear to my father before he reached old age, and (insofar as was possible with the editions available at this time) most familiar to him. It is surely appropriate that the French, more than any other people, love Plautus's Latinity, because in many kinds of discourse there is a stronger relationship between his language and French than any other; indeed, one may hear many expressions that are almost the same in both languages." (56) Both great lexicographers, the Estiennes, father and son, played an important role in improving Plautus's stature in France--Henri with the tract under discussion, and his father, Robert, with the handsome edition of Plautus's Comoediae XX, which Robert published in Paris in 1530, a year after his edition of Terence.

Henri declares that he is writing his defense of Plautus's language and his "Progymnasma" or introduction both for students and for teachers unfamiliar with Plautus. Together they must contend with those who, seeking to avoid the work of reading Plautus's unfamiliar language, readily join his detractors, sometimes echoing Horace's opinion as a cover. (57) People, he suggests, who say that the language is too obsolete to understand simply reveal that they have never read a single page of Plautus, while those who claim the text of the plays is unreadable because of errors are often using outdated early editions. (58) "To those who always mouth the verses of Horace and disparage the praises of this comic playwright, and do not know any other tune, I could respond with the words of Varro, Cicero, and certain others, or oppose their testimonies against the disparagement of him [Horace] to whom they lend their ears. And similarly I could bring up various opinions of ancient authors all but contradicting other authors"--thus implying that the customary game of citing ancient authorities in support of particular preferences is specious. (59) This is followed with a sly reminder, implicitly aimed at purist Ciceronians, that Cicero himself loved Plautus. Estienne adopts the largely unconventional tactic of collecting the various linguistic and textual misreadings that have given Plautus his undeserved reputation, so much at odds with the esteem in which he was held in antiquity. One of the many examples that occupy the bulk of the essay may serve here: some texts of Pseudolus (line 743) have the title character say, "Bravo, wittiest Charinus, now you gladden [iam beas] me in my scheme." "Instead of iam beas," Estienne says, "Adrian Turnebus, a man very learned in every way, substitutes, from an ancient manuscript, lamberas, and adds that according to Festus lamberare is to tear apart or to mangle, so that the servant (Pseudolus) is saying that he is beaten at his own scheme." (60) This better fits the context of the play. To absolve the dramatist of carelessness, Estienne aims to reconstruct the past century of textual scholarship on Plautus, since the earliest, deficient printed editions. It did not hurt that Turnebus (also Adrien Turnebe), professor of Greek in Paris until his death in 1565, was French and, therefore, as Estienne suggests, supposedly closer than non-French scholars to the spirit of Plautus's language.


Two events from the first decade of the seventeenth century reveal the distance traveled by Plautus and the Plautus-Terence debate since 1500: the first, a festive Plautus edition; the second, a treatise on Horace's criticism of the two Roman dramatists that, in part, reacts to the esteem newly accorded Plautus over the previous half-century. The voluminous prefatory material in Johann Philipp Pareus's (1576-1648) 1610 edition of Plautus includes a dedicatory letter to the Elector Palatine, whose library now held the chief manuscripts used by Camerarius; commendations of both the edition and editor by eleven learned men; Pareus's praemonitio (foreword) to the reader; his account of Plautus's life and works, quoting the usual classical authorities; and a compilation of ancient and modern authorities praising Plautus, the latter group including Frederic Taubmann, both Scaligers, Melanchthon, Camerarius, Sadoleto, Lipsius, Isaac Casaubon, Henri Estienne, Paolo Manuzio, and Sturm: an obviously tramontaniheavy cast, owing to the contributions of Northern humanists such as Camerarius and Taubmann. (61) Special mention goes to Janus Gruter ("my Thales"), who would have his own edition of Plautus published in 1621. (62) Pareus himself published an important Lexicon Plautinum in 1614. Furthermore, each play in the edition is generally introduced by a testimonial, a sort of publisher's blurb, from an ancient or modern authority. These often derive from two earlier editors who had written their own brief appreciations of each play, Camerarius and Janus Dousa. (63) Truculentus, a comedy noted for its portrayal of sexual misbehavior, receives five such blurbs. Of Amphitryo, J. C. Scaliger says it is "a tragicomedy in which the dignity and greatness of the characters are intermingled with the lowliness of comedy," while Adrien Turnebe claims that "Plautus's Amphitryo has both the kind of dialogue and subtlety of humor that can dispel darkness from the reader." (64) For Lipsius, Casina is "that delightful play." Aulus Gellius says, "Pseudolus is a very funny play," and Camerarius adds, "The plot of Pseudolus is varied and simply wonderful." When it comes to Plautus, Dousa is typically animated: "I don't know how much Plautus rejoiced in his Pseudolus: I know this, that for a long time I have read none of that poet's comedies with equal pleasure, nor would I imagine that I could easily put it aside. So it should be no wonder that Cicero liked it so much. For that comedy (to say much in a few words) is the gem of Plautus's plays." (65) It is refreshing to hear the Dutch scholar (Dousa) testify to his own experience of a play, rather than appeal, as is so often done at this time, to the opinion of other authorities. While the collective effect of all the comments Pareus has gathered makes an appeal to authoritative opinion, the frequency of relatively recent testimonials suggests that contemporary opinion on this ancient carries unprecedented weight.

With all this acclaim, the support for Terence in Horace's literary observations still resounded among those who found the Ars Poetica to be the starting point for all critical discourse. Faced with the authority of Horace, a Plautine like Lipsius could only shrug, signing off on a letter championing Plautus, "There remains the judgment of Horace, which, I pray, may be passed over for the sake of Horace." (66) Horace does castigate Plautus several times, but he refers directly to Terence only once: "Plautus hurries along like his model, Epicharmus of Sicily. Caecilius wins the prize for dignity, Terence for art." (67) Renaissance champions of Terence, not to mention those of Horace, invested considerable energy in what Horace means here by art. The contribution to this effort by another Dutch humanist, Daniel Heinsius, in The Dissertation on Horace's Judgment of Plautus and Terence, began in the first decade of the seventeenth century as a long footnote, but in 1618 took the shape of a developed treatise (fourteen pages in its modern edition) as part of his edition of Terence.

It is informative to consider this essay in the context of the author's longer and more influential De Tragoediae Constitutione (1611, translated as On Plot in Tragedy), which urged precepts that would come to dominate the aesthetics of drama in the age of Racine, and which played a critical role in mediating between, on the one hand, sixteenth-century Italian Aristotelians (especially Robortello) and, on the other, seventeenth-century French classicists. The reader of De Tragoediae encounters a surprising number of opinions about Plautus and Terence for a book on tragedy, such as the criticism of Plautus for his dependence on a deus ex machina in resolving the plot of Amphitryo. (68) In chapter 14, Heinsius quotes an array of passages from Terence to advance a contention that his language is grounded in the character of the speakers (really character types): the agreeable man, the wrathful man, the lucky adolescent, the old man in adversity, and so forth. His one specimen from Plautus in this chapter supposedly exemplifies the failure to fit discourse with character. The example certainly does not speak for itself. The speaker is Therapontigonus, the miles gloriosus in Curculio: "'Tis now in no common rage I ragefully stride on, / But in that selfsame rage in which I have learned so well to root up cities." (69) The puffed-up ego, the redundant phrasing, the claim of personally laying waste entire cities--all of this seems boastful enough and silly enough to fit this character. Elsewhere, Plautus is instanced among ill-advised users of Grecisms in Latin. (70)

The Dissertatio may have begun as a rumination on Horace's views of the Roman comic dramatists, but the intervening work on tragedy apparently led Heinsius to expand his inquiry into the Plautus-Terence debate along the lines of Aristotelian stylistic and structural principles. In fact, despite the Horatian subject, the Aristotelian and Platonic concerns of the Cinquecento frequently color the pages of the Dissertatio. Like the Italian Aristotelians, Heinsius is preoccupied with plot in dramatic imitation: "The chief thing in comedy and tragedy is arrangement." (71) He finds specific fault, as had Navagero, with Plautus's carelessness regarding plot. At the end of Amphitryo, the dramatist settles for a deus ex machina, "which is always the Poet's last refuge, since he cannot untie the knot that he himself has tied, a matter that he has handled with too little foresight." (72) Amphitryo also fails in its temporal unity because Alcmena conceives and gives birth in the same play. Captivi is similarly defective, since a character is supposed to have journeyed to Elis and back between acts 2 and 4. (73) Heinsius notes: "In Terence, to whom alone Horace attributes artistry, there is none of this: all is done with judgment, reason, care, and deliberation." (74)

If, Heinsius maintains, the chief aim of comedy should be to teach and delight, the ridiculous must hold a limited priority in comic art: "He who thinks to provoke laughter distorts his voice, just as he does his face." (75) Nearly all the schools of antiquity judged laughter itself unworthy of the wise man: "Just as vinegar cannot be good unless the wine has gone bad, things that are honest and true cannot arouse laughter." (76) Referring to the reluctant Plautus-lover Saint Jerome, and to Plutarch's unfinished essay comparing Aristophanes and Menander, he applauds the arrival of New Comedy in the ancient world because its best practitioners, Menander and Terence, unlike Aristophanes and Plautus, aimed chiefly to know and to imitate human behavior. The followers of Socrates were accustomed to engage in wit (chareintizesthai) rather than in buffoonery (gelotopoein). (77)

Examples of what he has in mind (the treatise provides specific passages for these observations) include the flatulence jokes in Curculio. In Trinummus a con-man gives an absurd description of the length of his name and tells a silly tale about going up to heaven in a fishing boat. There is also "frigid," or tiresome, wordplay, like the following from Stichus: "the evil that is the least of many evils is the least evil." (78) Sixty years earlier Trissino had classified Plautus's comedy as ridiculous, Terence's as moral. (79) Heinsius extends this dichotomy to conclude that since Plautus's comedies are by nature ridiculous, they lead to a moral deterioration of his art: "Now as we come to speak of charm, wit, grace, and beauty, almost all these are certainly canceled out by the ridiculous, just as virtue is canceled out by excess." (80) Recalling the class-consciousness of sixteenth-century Terentians is the view that "laughter is mostly to the liking of the less respectable burghers, such as plebs and spongers": thus a correct comedy should tone down, if not eliminate, the sort of humor that appeals to the lower classes. (81) In the late seventeenth century, Rene Rapin similarly declared that "Plautus, who studied more to please the common People," made his characters outlandishly wicked, "but Terence, who would please the better Sort, confined himself within the bounds of Nature, and he represented Vices without making them either better or worse." (82) In Restoration England, Laurence Echard had been reading Rapin--who had likely been reading Heinsius, or even Navagero--when he proposed that Plautus's lines, "by their Trifling and Quibbling, appear to have been calculated for the Mob"; Echard goes on to compare Plautus's plays to comedies of his own era, which too often "degenerate into Farce, which seldom fail[s] of pleasing the Mob." (83)

Yet moral edification and serious audience-appeal constitute only a part of the Horatian agenda in the literary epistles. Heinsius also focuses on the theory now called verisimilitude, the idea that the poem and all its parts should be true to life. He sees Horace as especially in accord with Aristotle's premise regarding mimesis, and argues that if dramatic poetry imitates life, so should comedy. The mimetic theory of comedy would not go unchallenged today, but was holy writ in the seventeenth century:
 For this reason, as witness Aristotle, all poets who imitate, as do
 all painters, portray people as the same as, or better, or worse than
 they are. Plautus represents slaves as worse, Terence as the same,
 never better; but he presents some whores as the same, some better.
 The same, for example, Thais; better, for example, Bacchis. But
 Plautus always presents parasites as worse and more voracious like
 Dossenus [a trickster type in the Atellan farces of south Italy,
 mentioned by Horace], never better; he attended to such characters
 almost exclusively, falling flat with the others. Terentian Phormio
 is clearly admirable, and Gnatho too, in his character type. Because
 Plautine characters aim at laughter, they lose versimilitude in
 language and thoughts. Now language suited to character, which is
 called ethical, requires three virtues: fairness, simplicity, and
 truthfulness; and this places before our eyes that which is innate and
 instilled in each person. But the ridiculous is violent or turbulent,
 because it is corrupt, as we said above, and is prompted by corrupt
 causes. The character-suited language, because it is like nature,
 pleases gently when in amazement we see the image of life or of
 different ages or nations on the stage. Clearly, just as a picture
 that departs from the truth and portrays a foot-long nose or a
 contorted face provokes laughter, so one that is truthful is
 delightful. (84)

First, Heinsius applies the familiar ut pictura poesis (as in painting, so in poetry) formula in a curiously un-Aristotelian proposition. As is well-known, Aristotle had said that characters in a comedy are usually worse than those in common life, but Heinsius, having studied Robortelli and other Italian Aristotelians, suggests they can be the same as ordinary people or even better. Making characters less vile concurs with the shift toward romantic comedy and commedia grave in the later sixteenth century. Writing in the 1580s, Bellisario Bulgarini insists that the characters of comedy were to be "good men of middling condition," rather than wicked. (85) Once Heinsius affirms that "Because Plautine characters aim at laughter, they lose versimilitude in language and thoughts," he can infer that, not being truly mimetic, Plautus's plays must belong to the merely ridiculous. Heinsius next introduces the idea of "language suited to character" (sermo moratus), with moratus, rather like the Greek ethikos, relating to behavior, not morality (ethos is, of course, usually rendered as "character" in translations of the Poetics, though this translation can be misleading). (86) The concept is discussed at length in On Plot--in chapter 14 as "discourse rooted in character" (87)--reminding us of Heinsius's typically Aristotelian, formal links between tragedy and comedy. But the phrase also involves the ruling principle of Horatian decorum: characters should act as befits them and their types. With what follows, Heinsius sets up a contrast between the "violent" ridiculous, and the decorous language that "pleas[es] gently": that is, between the effects of buffoonery and the effects of nature. The last sentence from this part of the Dissertatio takes us back to the pictura-poesis theme, with a spirited defense of mimesis on the stage.

If theory could be proved to affect practice, Heinsius could be blamed for the decline of comedy (whether real or imagined) in the late seventeenth century. What comic dramatist would not have felt hemmed in by the demand that characters must be modeled on familiar and recognizable people? "In comedy and in romance," says Northrop Frye, "the story seeks its own end instead of holding the mirror up to nature." (Frye later tells an amusing story about a doctor who was "unable to enjoy a performance of Twelfth Night because it was a biological impossibility that boy and girl twins could resemble each other so closely.") (88) The same fallacy underlies Heinsius's criticism that the Menaechmus twins would not have looked alike because the clothing of Sicilians and Macedonians at that time differed greatly, or Castelvetro's complaint that in Amphitryo characters swear by Hercules before the hero was born. (89) Like their beloved Plautus, the great comic dramatists of the Renaissance--Machiavelli, Shakespeare, Jonson, and, to extend the period a bit further, Moliere--all enjoyed the liberating impulses of comic license.

Heinsius, whose early patron was the Plautine scholar and enthusiast Janus Dousa, makes it clear from the start that he is of two minds on this subject: "All will be said, however, following Horace's judgment rather than our own; we indeed love Plautus so much that we rarely think to put him down from our hands." (90) His conclusion repeats the point: "Let these words have been said on behalf of Horace, the greatest of men, rather than against Plautus, whom we love, take up, delight in, and read even more often than Terence himself." (91) Heinsius is perhaps too honest not to admit that his feelings are at odds with his theory. This kind of literary affection for, if not seduction by, Plautus is noted in Florido, Estienne, Lipsius, Dousa, and others, but not in such a strong supporter of Horatian criticism. Implicit in these moments of the treatise is an ambivalence, a tension between formal theory and subjective response that remains unresolved. In the 1629 revision of the Dissertatio--the one that Ben Jonson knew--Heinsius deletes the clause "and read even more often than Terence himself." (92)


In concluding his history of Renaissance Italian criticism, Bernard Weinberg observes that Aristotelian poetics led to a revolution in ways of discussing tragedy, but left no new topics or criteria for the criticism of comedy, which was forced simply to rely on the ample discussion of comedy stretching back to the Middle Ages. (93) Essentially rhetorical, this tradition emerges from an approach that is oblivious to comedy's theatrical dimension. The discovery of Aristotle's lost treatise on comedy would have shifted the whole landscape. But while Neo-Aristotelian attempts to formulate comic theory remained mostly convention-bound and even simplistic, it could also be said that the neglect of comedy in the Poetics potentially liberated it from Aristotle's authority (which arguably had no salutary effect on Renaissance tragedy in Italy). Comedy, however, flourished on the Italian and French stages during the headiest years of Aristotelian theory. (94) The history of the concurrent critical fortunes of Plautus and Terence reveals that they greatly enriched the conversation on comic theory during the Renaissance; practical criticism of these playwrights always took up larger issues. Weinberg says that "Robertello cited the usages and practices of Aristophanes, Plautus, and Terence, and derived from them further clarification and improvement of his precepts": (95) he was not alone in doing so. Questions about the ridiculous--What is it? How important is it?--remained in fruitful irresolution, as did the related questions about promoting or restraining laughter, with its attendant surprise and wonder. (96) Regarding the social dimension of comedy, some worried that, because it appealed so readily to the lower classes, it deprived serious spectators of their dignity. Thoughtful critics also gained from the conflicts between their own responses to plays and those of classical authorities. The practice of comic artists from Machiavelli to Moliere suggests the influence of a Plautine "comic impartiality," the sense that nothing is sacred in the comic world: neither married love, nor romance, nor political or religious authority. (97) This recklessness accounts for much of the unease discernible in humanist critics. Is comedy then subversive? Echoing Cicero's metaphor of comedy as a mirror, Luther appreciated the nasty behavior of some of Plautus's characters because they thereby constituted "a mirror of man's morality." (98) He would seem to imply, as do Heinsius and other Terentians, that comedic characters are not abnormally base and vile, as in the Poetics, but are imitations of ordinary people. Others pointed out bad behavior onstage to discredit Plautus, and even Terence, for the Christian reader. Everywhere it is observed that Plautus's plots violate principles of decorum (for example, genre purity) and verisimilitude. These principles, carried over from Aristotle's statements on tragedy, were applied to comedy despite the nagging suspicion--for example, in Heinsius's final ambivalence about Plautus--that comedy could succeed without them. Finally, Plautus raised questions about the language of comedy and its place with respect to the (supposedly) more important elements of plot and character. Is comic language always a means or can it be an end in itself? Wordplay for its own sake especially troubles the priorities of Aristotelian theory.

Besides touching on these theoretical points, the Plautus debates would seem otherwise implicated in the history of comedy. They spill over into vernacular comedy of the Renaissance, but scholars have only rarely incorporated them into historical accounts of the field. In English literary scholarship, where studies of Roman comedy's influence have a rich history, there is more to be discovered about the reception of ancient comedy and its effect on European imitations. One consequence of Plautus's entry on the scene was to posit a model of classical (therefore, significant) comedy that violated Terentian decorum, bringing the highest standards of comic art uncomfortably close to those of low, clownish, popular comedy. Plautus signified that perhaps mere laughter could constitute the chief end of comedy. At the beginning, English stage comedy inclined toward the Terentian: it was Terence's braggart soldier, not Plautus's, who found his way into Udall's Ralph Roister Doister. Sir Philip Sidney (1554-86), who modeled his five-part Arcadia on perceived Terentian structure, was surely thinking about the debate over Plautus when he contrasted the comedy of laughter with the better sort: the comedy of delight. "But our comedians think there is no delight without laughter; which is very wrong, for though laughter may come with delight, yet cometh it not of delight, as though delight should be the cause of laughter ... nay, rather in themselves they have, as it were a kind of contrariety; for delight we scarcely do, but in things that have a conveniency to ourselves, or to the general nature; laughter almost ever cometh of things most disproportioned to ourselves and nature. Delight hath a joy in it, either permanent or present. Laughter hath only a scornful tickling." (99) When John Lyly says he sought in his comedy "to move inward delight" and "soft smiling, not loud laughing," it is true, as numerous critics have said, that he could have been reading Sidney, but by this time the idea was a European commonplace. (100)

A decade after Sidney, Francis Meres voiced a younger generation's viewpoint about the "best," saying in his Palladis Tamia, "As Plautus and Seneca are accounted the best for Comedy and Tragedy among the Latines, so Shakespeare among the English is the most excellent in both kinds for the stage." (101) In linking Shakespeare to Plautus, Meres reminds us of what some critics have judged a fault in both--their fondness for puns, or for comedy of words over things. Shakespeare's quintessential comedian Feste calls himself his mistress's "corrupter of words" in Twelfth Night 3.1.35. Ben Jonson began his dramatic career as a Plautine in The Case Is Altered (based on Aulularia and Captivi), but much later sounds a Terentian-Horatian note in Timber, probably reflecting his own bitter experiences with the popular audience: "They [the multitude] love nothing that is right and proper. The farther it runs from reason or possibility with them the better it is." He appropriates Heinsius's vinegar-wine analogy to demonstrate the corrupting influence of laughter. (102) Yet Jonson is unwilling to fault Plautus entirely, quoting Varro (as had many humanists before him) that he was a "prince of letters and elegancy in the Roman language." (103) A commonplace about the two major English Renaissance dramatists held that Shakespeare, though he was eminently gifted by nature, "wanted art," while Jonson, in his "learned sock," was the consummate practitioner of art. Such comparisons may well originate in Plautus-Terence discussions: Florido is not the first or last to say, "On the whole, as Terence stands out to some extent in painstaking effort, in Plautus certainly there is more nature." (104) But by Jonson's time, the vigor of public theater in the European Renaissance had completely vindicated Plautus. The early Baroque-era French practice of staging comedy favored Plautus because of his wider repertory of comic themes, and especially because of a "vision of man that is more ample and more impartial than that of Terence," as a French scholar writes. By 1657, she adds, even a humanist Terentian like the Abbe d'Aubignac, had to admit that Plautus always met with more success on the stage. (105)

Although neither playwright flourishes onstage today, an annual play festival continues in Plautus's hometown of Sarsina, where, in 2001, Pasolini's Il vantone, a translation of Miles Gloriosus, was performed. Plautus's Pseudolus, Casina, and Mostellaria came together in 1962 as A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, which was successful on stage and screen. No such luck for Terence, despite his unique legacy in the history of comic plot construction and romantic and sentimental comedy. When Segal claims that around 1900 "Terence was still high on a pedestal" but "[a]t mid-century the pendulum swung in the opposite direction," he does not seem to realize that by then the larger pendulum had been swinging in Plautus's direction for several centuries. (106) F. A. Wright, notable popularizer of the classics, observed in the early twentieth century that "For the reader to turn from Plautus to Terence is as though one were to pass from a crowded market-place into a secluded churchyard." (107) This is not a wholesale dismissal of Terence, since a churchyard can induce a kind of pleasure unavailable in a marketplace. However, a recent comment puts Terence's case bluntly: "Terence is little read these days, and it is easy to see why: his plots are absurdly complicated, and to us the plays seem to be comedies only in the sense that they end happily." (108) A classics scholar, commenting on the twentieth-century reputation of both playwrights, argues that criticism has been biased by reception: "The view of Plautus as the people's choice, while Terence is a lonely aesthete flinging his pearls before swine, has had a profound effect on the interpretation of both poets." (109) The phrasing of the sentence--"people's choice" and "pearls before swine"--recalls the social aspect of the Renaissance controversies surveyed here; at the same time, the sentence touches on the aesthetics of comedy, signaling the entirely different range of issues that these debates also entailed. In a century when, for the first time in European history, public theater became a fixed element of cultural life, a "new" old playwright and his many imitators helped audiences, even scholars, to appreciate the range, possibilities, and variety of the comic art.



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*I wish to acknowledge the helpful criticism of Professors Barbara Bowen, Janette Dillon, and Robert S. Miola, as well as assistance from the library staffs of The University of Kansas and Cambridge University. Parts of this article benefited from airing at meetings of the Central Renaissance Conference. Translations, other than published ones, are my own.

(1) The text of the Aulularia is available in volume 1 of Plautus.

(2) Segal, 255-58, provides details of Roman comedy's afterlife. Petrarch, who enjoyed the playwright, registers disappointment that a learned correspondent had never even heard Plautus's name: see Petrarch, 4:216 (letter 15). Bishop, 296, admits that "no one can establish that Chaucer knew Plautus directly," claiming, rather, that Plautus came to him indirectly through medieval sources like Vitalis of Blois's long-lived twelfth-century imitation of Plautus's Amphitryo, entitled Geta: the latter play is available in Elliott, 26-49.

(3) Uberti, 45: "belletissima e piacevole." A scribal error altered the play's title to Menechini; Uberti edits two early Ferrara translations. The Menaechmi deals with twin brothers, separated in childhood, who then rediscover each other as adults. For the text of the play, see volume I of Plautus.

(4) Tuohy, 258, who adds (259) that Ercole's unfinished Sale dalle Commedie, with walls some seventeen meters high, was "the first purpose-built theatre of the Renaissance."

(5) Ariosto, xix.

(6) Herrick, 1. Riehle and Miola are anticipated by Salingar, 172, at least as regards Shakespeare.

(7) Donatus, 45: the phrase does not exist in any known works of Cicero. Donatus also mentions (46) Livius Andronicus's definition of comedy as a "mirror of daily life."

(8) Robortello, 1:517, 519-20: "imitatur actiones hominum humiliores et viliores"; "nova comoedia magis [that is, more than Old Comedy] accessit ad imitationem morum qui quotidie in communi hominum convictu cernuntur."

(9) Kern, 26; Kastan, 576.

(10) Duckworth, 404, who notes the frequently Plautine qualities of these "Terentian" plays.

(11) Accursius, [paragraph]2v-3: "Nam quo pacto quis eleganter quicquam aut loquatur aut scribat Plauto ignorato? Qui inter latinos omnes vel Ciceronis testimonio maxime excellit?"

(12) Norland, 550, who refers to the last edition of the Adagia, which Erasmus augmented in 1533.

(13) Sambuco, a3v.

(14) Greco, 81.

(15) Weinberg, 1961, 1:288.

(16) McPherson, 28, who also notes (20, n. 6) that in 1511 Erasmus discouraged having students read any Plautus play containing obscenity. See also Weinberg, 1950, 213, 216.

(17) Navagero, 1565. I use the version from a later edition of Terence, but have compared it with that in the standard edition of Navagero's writings (ibid., 1718). Francesco Asolano, today known as Francesco or Gianfrancesco Torresano, was brother-in-law of Aldo Manuzio (Aldus Manutius).

(18) Navagero, 5v: "Durior est Plautus asperis quibusdam, atque obscuris verbis utitur: sic enim tunc loquebantur: non poterat ille alio, quam aetatis suae sermone uti. Longe Terentius cultior, nihil in eo non lene, nihil non elegans: limatior tum scilicet Latina lingua facta est.... [I]llo Terentius parcior, ut nihil ab eo tamen, quod desiderari possit, relin-quatur. Hiant nonnumquam, neque satis cohaerent Plauti Comoediae: ita omnia Terentii inter se nexa: ita ex omnibus unum quoddam conficitur, ut nihil aptius illius fabulis, nihil magis fieri ad unguem possit."

(19) Gebwiler, a7v: "Terentii comoedias non reiicio, verum quam Phoebus caeteris astris lumine, tam Plautus Terentium longe praecellit latinitate."

(20) Asolano, *ii: "incredibilem elegantiam, & dicendi puritatem." The edition contains a lexicon of obscure words.

(21) Navagero, 6: "Duo sunt facetiarum genera: in re alterum, alterum in verbo est positum. multo id venustius, & gravius, quod re tractatur. acutum nonnunquam, & elegans, quod in verbo est: sed frigidum tamen plerunque est: & facilime in scurrilitatem delabitur, si quis sibi in eo non moderetur. Creber primo in genere, in secundo parcus Terentius: contra Plautus in primo rarus, in secundo frequentissimus. Hinc factum est, ut rudi fortasse populo, & spectatoribus, quippe qui scurra saepius, quam poeta, delectentur, salsior sit Plautus visus: peritis certe auribus, & sapienti lectori, nihil Terentio festivius videri debet. Illius, quae lepida dicta sunt, placere semel possunt: huius, quo magis inspiciuntur, eo venustiora apparent. Risum ille persaepe, sed & saepe cachinnum movet: nunquam cachinnum Terentius. Atque ut uno omnia verbo complectar, in illo dicacitas, in hoc urbanitas conspicitur maxima."

(22) Horace, 156 (Epistulae 2.3.310-11): "rem tibi Socraticae poterunt ostendere chartae, / verbaque provisam rem non invita sequentur." The res/verba theme receives Weinberg's attention at several points in the History, including his brief comments on Navagero's letter (1961, 1:91-92). Along with dicacitas, it is a subject of Cicero's comments on the ridiculous in De Oratore 2.60, though comedy is not specifically mentioned here.

(23) Horace, 18 (Sermones 1.4.82-83), 153 (Epistulae 2.3.225).

(24) Celenza, 59. For the reference to "communi sermone," see ibid., n. 74.

(25) The title of Achille Bocchi's Apologia in Plautum (Bologna, 1508) is misleading, since it is a defense of the textual practice in his teacher G. B. Pio's edition of Plautus.

(26) Chines, 120-22. Raimondi, 251, praises Codro's completion, or "supplement," of Aulularia as his happiest and most significant work.

(27) See Pignatti; Sabbadini (the latter dates Florido's death as 1548). With the patronage of the king of France, Florido also translated eight books of the Odyssey into Latin (1545), though the source remains silent regarding which eight.

(28) Florido, 15: "Libellus enim in Plautus nuper editus fuit, in fronte ipsius Terentii operum collocatus, ut nemo tantis maledictis testis non adhiberetur, ex hominumque mentibus Plautinae fabulae prorsus expungerentur."

(29) Ibid., 13-14: "Itaque ut ad pravam iudiciorum rationem redeamus, cum varii de scriptoribus optimis multa decernant, hoc uno nemo vel mediocriter eruditus non commoveri debet, quod cum aliqui solum Terentium petulantissime amplectantur, eo rem redegerint, ut Marcum Actium Plautum de lingua Romana optime meritum, cuius ore Musas locutas fuisse haud dubie cognoscimus, quove nescio an alius quispiam Latinae linguae magis profuerit, tanquam barbarum ex omnibus academiis ejectum, exulare compellunt, quem antiquis omnibus hactenus probatum fuisse scimus, ut quo semper doctiores fuerint, eo impensius Plautum laudarint: cum contra hoc tempore, quo nihil non impune & dicere & facere licet, alias alii calumnias in hunc congerant, & tunc maxime orbi se placituros sperent, cum de hoc poeta pessime pronuntiarint."

(30) Ibid., 20: "Audire porro illorum voces gregatim clamantium videor."

(31) Ibid., 22-24, "eleganter," "elegantissime," "perlepide," "lepidissime."

(32) Ibid., 22: "Non equidem subterfugiam & in hac re quid sentiam ingenue profiteri: tantundem quippe fructus ex sex Plauti Comoediis, quantum ex integro Terentio commodissime percipi posse."

(33) "Ibid., 22: "eruditius, Latinius denique excogitari."

(34) Ibid., 38: "Nec diffiteor tamen, sic me cupere Plautum ab omnibus amari" ("Nor do I deny that I so desire that Plautus should be loved by everyone"). The comment is made regarding his desire that Terence should also be admired.

(35) Ibid., 22. Florido approximately quotes Navagero: "quid est quod in hoc autore sedatus lector extra illum in teatro concitati vulgi plausum non probare possit?"

(36) Navagero, 6: "Hinc factum est, ut rudi fortasse populo, & spectatoribus, quippe qui scurra saepius, quam poeta, delectentur, salsior sit Plautus visus. Peritis certe auribus, & sapienti lectori nihil Terentio festivius videri debet."

(37) Ibid., 5v: "nihil ille [Plautus] aliud propositum comico poetae credidit, quam populo risum movere."

(38) See Beacham, 42-43; Handley.

(39) Pino da Caglia, 2:640: "Questa medesima considerazione fa parer belle e da gentiluomo le comedie di Terenzo, essendo gia stata opinione che fussero di Scipione e di Lelio, nobilissimi Romani, e poco gravi e da plebeo quelle di Plauto, il quale fu veramente schiavo e di vile condizione."

(40) McPherson, 27, quoting Vives's De Tradendis Disciplinis.

(41) Ricci, 1:443: "Nam sive risum quaeras creberrimum, quod populo maxime placere intelligo, id ex Plauto sumas licebit (sed ne risum tamen excedat, erit tibi magnopere vedendum: sales enim et facetiae usque eo sales sunt, quoad intra legem suam continentur; cum vero ad scurrilitatem luxuriantur, tum plebeio tantum dignae sunt theatro)."

(42) Dolet, A1v: "Servile Plauti ingenium, & plebeium nimis / Terentius liberali stylo, & extra sales / Vulgares posito non vulgariter superat." Dolet's verses also dismiss Volcatius Sedegitus in a manner recalling Navagero.

(43) Delcourt, 39.

(44) Riehle, 271.

(45) Leggatt, 137. Nelson, 179-86, also discusses this tension between laughter and harmony as a critical problem of comic theory.

(46) See Bergson.

(47) Minturno, 304: "An comicus cuiquam is erit, qui non iocetur? Mihi vero videtur comoediae partem maximam iocus ac ludus, ut mox ostendemus, occupare." He reports (ibid.) that Pomponio Gaurico, professor at Naples and his spokesman in book 4 on comedy, maintained that comic action must be ridiculous.

(48) Ibid., 309.

(49) Cerroni, 770. Gravina, a Neapolitan (ca. 1453-1528/29), does not seem to have written comedies.

(50) On Maggi's De ridiculis (1550), see Weinberg, 1961, 1:417.

(51) See Plautus, 1:83-85 (Asinaria, 669-712).

(52) Minturno, 305: "Ille vero ludus in Asinaria quam inepte, quam illiberaliter? Quam sine ulla mica salis? Cum herus adolescens servi alterius iussu genua supplex confricat, alterum quasi equus vehit. Moderatior in omni hoc genus Terentius fuit, cui tamen non desunt, qui credant abfuisse id facultatis."

(53) The title page of the Comedia ridiculosa di Plauto intitolata Asinaria (Venice, 1530) advertises its performance in the monastery of Saint Stephen in Venice.

(54) Sambuco, a3-3v: "Sit quamvis elegans, purus, et politus Terentius: Plautum tamen vere comicum esse dicemus: siquidem quid sit comoediam scribere, aut fabulam dare, non modo digitis & aure, verum multo magis recta ratione callemus."

(55) Scaliger, 148a: "Why then do we prefer him [Terence] to Plautus? Because with us, nowadays, the highest pursuit is for speaking well" ("Cur igitur nos pluris hunc quam Plautum facimus? Propterea quod summum nobis nunc studium est bene loquendi").

(56) Estienne, 366-67: "Verum ut talia de vetustis scriptoribus iudicia missa faciam, dissimulare nolo, haereditarium mihi eum quo Plautum prosequor, amorem esse: quum hic comicus patri meo, antequam ad ingravescentem aetatem pervenisset, omnium Latinorum scriptorum post Ciceronem & charissimus, & (quantum licebat per ea quae turn temporis suppetebant exemplaria) notissimus fuerit. Gallos certe prae quibuslibet aliis populis Latinitatem Plauti amare par est, quod in plurimis loquendi generibus maior sit eius sermoni cum Gallico quam cum alio ullo affinitas: & quidem ita voces etiam pleraeque propemodum eaedem utrobique audiantur."

(57) Ibid., 363.

(58) Ibid., 364.

(59) Ibid., 365: "[I]llis qui Horatianos versus, quibus huius comici laudibus obtractat, semper in ore habent, nec aliam cantilenam norunt, Varronis, Ciceronis et quorundam aliorum verbis respondere possem, vel potius horum testimonia illi cui aurem praebent obtrectationi opponere: ac veterum scriptorum aliis itidem scriptoribus diversa et modo non repugnantia iudicia proferre." For Cicero's praise of Plautus, see De Officiis 1.104.

(60) Estienne, 381-82: "'Euge pellipide Charine, me meo ludo iam beas.' Hic enim pro iam beas ex vet. Cod. reponitur lamberas, a viro undequaque doctissimo Adriano Turnebo: qui addit, Lamberare, autore Festo, esse scindere atque laniare: ut servus se suo ludo verberari dicat." In fact, lamberas is the word used in modern texts of Pseudolus, see volume 2 of Plautus (Pseudolus, 743).

(61) Van der Poel, 179, n. 4 (my translation), explores Plautus's significant influence on Lipsius's writing style, citing the following from Lipsius's Epistolicae Quaestiones 5.25 (1577): "For it has come to my attention that 'they say he sounds more like Plautus than Cicero.' If only they spoke truth, for I would like that. I do know that I am writing letters, not speeches ("lam enim is sermo aures meas tetigit. Et Plautum, inquiunt, potius sapit quam Ciceronem. Utinam vero dicerent! Nam hoc volui. Epistolas scio me sic scribere, non Orationes").

(62) Pareus, **4.

(63) Dousa's Plautus edition of 1589 was reprinted at Frankfurt the same year (1610) that Pareus's appeared. His Centuriatus, sive Plautinarum explanationum libri IV (Leiden, 1587) is his longest work of philology, and his letters quote Plautus more frequently than any other author: Heesakkers, 150. On Camerarius's Plautine prefaces, see Stark.

(64) Pareus, A1: "Tragicomoediam ... in qua personarum dignitas atque magnitudo Comoediae humilitati admistae sunt"; "Amphitruo Plauti & genera loquendi, & iocorum argutias habet, quae tenebras offundere lectoribus pussunt."

(65) Ibid., 197: "lepida illa fibula"; ibid., 531: "Pseudolus comoedia festivissima"; "Pseudoli argumentum est varium, & plane mirificum"; "Quam Pseudolo sua Plautus gavisus fuerit, nescio: hoc scio, nullam me ex Poetae illius Comoediis iampridem aeque lubentem pelligisse, neque animo unde defaecatione me discessisse existimem. ita ut mirandum non sit, eam Ciceroni tantopere complacitam. Est enim Comoedia illa (ut multa sane paucis eloquar) Ocellus Fabularum Plauti."

(66) Lipsius, 249: "Superest Horatii iudicium. Quod, obsecro, Horatii caussa, omitatur." Earlier he says, "Terence offends in nothing except that he does not offend" ("Terentius nihil peccat, nisi quod non peccat"): ibid., 248.

(67) Horace, 130 (Epistulae 2.1.58-59).

(68) Heinsius, 1971, 64, 68.

(69) Ibid., 87: "Non ego nunc mediocri incedo iratus iracundia, / sed eapse illa, qua obsidionem facere condidici oppidis" (The English translation is by Sellin and MacManmon). See Plautus 1:137 (Curculio, 533-34).

(70) For example, Plautus's use of boat, borrowed from the Greek verb boao, "cry": see Heinsius, 1971, 116.

(71) Heinsius, 1996, 82: "Praecipuum in comoedia & tragoedia, est dispositio."

(72) Ibid., 83: "quod est ultimum refugium Poetae, cum [Gr.] ten desin, hoc est, nodum, quem ligavit ipse, solvere potest, & rem parum provide tractavit."

(73) Ibid., 84, 85.

(74) Ibid., 84: "In Terentio, cui soli artem tribuit Horatius, nihil tale: omnia com judicio, omnia cum ratione, omnis circumspecte, omnia com cura."

(75) Ibid., 79: "Ac idcirco vocem corrumpit, plane ut faciem, qui movere risum cogitat." The context supports vocem here as "voice" rather than as "word." The frequent use of corrumpere ("corrupt," here translated as "distort") in the text reinforces the moral sense underlying Heinsius's theory of comedy. Thus, on the style and sentiments of Aristophanes' comedies, he says, "Laughter on its own makes them very defective" (ibid., 80: "Quos sponte risus causa effert corruptissimos").

(76) Ibid., 79: "Denique ut acetum, nisi vinum sit corruptum, ita quae sincera sunt & vera, risum excitare non possunt." Heinsius then quotes Quintilian 6.3.89, to the effect that witty expression depends on saying things "other than what is correct and true" (ibid.: "aliter quam est rectum verumque").

(77) Ibid.

(78) Ibid, 91: "ex malis multis malum quod minimumst, id minimest malum."

(79) Trissino, in Trattati, 2:59.

(80) Heinsius, 1996, 89: "Jam ut ad lepores, sales, gratias, & venustates veniamus; certum est, fere omnes eas tolli a ridiculo, quemadmodum ab excessu tolitur virtus."

(81) Heinsius, quoted in Meter, 111.

(82) Rapin, 221-22. In many ways this comparison assimilates the whole sixteenth-century Terentian case against Plautus, as does, for example, Rapin's statement (ibid., 224) that Terence's plots "are more naturally unraveled than those of Plautus; as those of Plautus are more natural than those of Aristophanes."

(83) Echard, a3. Over a century later the class argument about Plautus still survived. See Schlegel's pronouncement, 190: "the bold, coarse style of Plautus, and his famous jests, betray his intercourse with the vulgar; in that of Terence we discern the traces of good society."

(84) Heinsius, 1996, 87-88: "Quare cum omnes qui imitantur poetae, instar pictorum, Aristotele teste, aut similes, aut pejores aut meliores quam sunt, exprimant; Plautus servos pejores, Terentius similes, numquam meliores; meretrices vero partim similes, partim meliores introducit. Similes, ut Thaidem; meliores, ut Bacchidem. Parasitos vero semper deteriores & voraciores Plautus, numquam meliores; ut & Dossenus, qui hos solos prope-modum curabat, in personis reliquis ekpipten. Phormio Terentianus plane est admirandus: & in suo genere Gnatho. Plautini quia risum quaerunt, veritatem & sermone & sententiis amittunt. Tres virtutes enim sermo postulat moratus, quem ethikon vocant. Aequitatem, Simplicitatem, & Veritatem. Quae to endiatheton, & quod unicuique est insitum, ob oculos ponit. Ridiculum vero violentum est. Quia corruptum est, ut supra dicebamus, & a corruptis causis movetur. Moratum quia simile est naturae, leniter delectat: cum imaginem vitae, aetatum singularum, ac nationum, cum stupore in scena videmus. Plane ut pictura quae a vero recedit, & cubitalem exprimit nasum, aut distortum os, risum mover: similis delectat."

(85) Weinberg, 1961, 1:599.

(86) Lewis and Short define moratus as "adapted to the manners or character of a person or to the subject." Compare Quintilian 2:85 (4.2.64): "in oratione morata" ("in characteristic speech"); Horace, 156 (Epistulae, 3.2.319): "recte morata fabula" ("in which the characters are accurately drawn"). In Robertello, 521, the phrase oratio morata is used. The editors of Heinsius, 1971, 95, n.1, cite Plutarch, "ethikoton lexeos eidos" in Moralia 79B.

(87) Heinsius, 1971, 86-94.

(88) Frye, 8, 18.

(89) Heinsius, 1996, 84; Castelvetro, 2:263.

(90) Heinsius, 1996, 78: "Omnia autem ex Horatii potius judicio, qui profecto ita Plautum amamus, ut e manibus raro deponendum putemus, dicentur, quam nostro."

(91) Ibid., 92: "Haec pro viro maximo Horatio sint dicta; non tamen contra Plautum. Quem amamus suscipimus, diligimus, etiam saepius ipso Terentio legimus."

(92) The deletion is noted in Heinsius, 1996, 92, n. 34. On Jonson, see Sellin, 149-53.

(93) Weinberg, 1961, 2:952.

(94) See Lebegue, 22, on the midcentury craze in France for Italian comedy to the neglect of tragedy.

(95) Weinberg, 1961, 2:808.

(96) On surprise and wonder in Renaissance comic theory, see Calder.

(97) The concept of "comic impartiality" originates with Delcourt, 1962 and 1964.

(98) Riehle, 16, who notes that young Luther, on entering the monastery, kept only two of his books, Virgil and Plautus.

(99) Sidney, 78.

(100) Dillon, 52, citing unnamed "numerous critics": she quotes from Lyly's Blackfriars prologue to Sappho and Phao.

(101) Meres, 2:317-18. This is immediately followed with the paraphrase of a passage from Quintilian (quoting Varro) often used by Plautines: "the Muses would speake with Plautus's tongue if they would speak Latin: so I say that the Muses would speak with Shakespeares fine filed phrase if they would speak English." They were also fond of quoting Caesar's barb from Suetonius's "Life of Terence," that Terence was "half-Menander" lacking in vis comica (comic power).

(102) Jonson, 644; and ibid: "In short, as Vinegar is not accounted good, untill the wine be corrupted: so jests that are true and naturall, seldom raise laughter, with the beast, the multitude." See also Heinsius, 1996, 79, quoted above in n. 72. Jonson initiates, but soon abandons, a Heinsius-like comparison of Plautus and Terence, on the grounds of Aristotle's supposed principle that "the moving of laughter is a fault in Comedie": see Jonson, 643. Sellin notes Heinsius's influence on Jonson at several points.

(103) Jonson, 641.

(104) Florido, 39: "Ad summam, ut cura Terentius aliquatenus praestet, in Plauto quidem plus est naturae."

(105) Thellung de Courtelary, 375-76: "un vision de l'homme plus ample et impartiale par rapport a Terence."

(106) Segal, 221. A scholar readily identified with Plautus criticism and translation, Segal is almost equally keen on Terence.

(107) Wright, 23.

(108) Williamson, 103.

(109) Parker, 608.
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Gerald Sandy, ed. The Classical Heritage in France.
Lyric Poetry, Etna.

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