BMCR 2007.01.27

The Comedies of Terence. Introduced by Matthew Leigh

, The comedies of Terence. Exeter: University of Exeter Press, 2006. xxviii, 290 pages ; 23 cm. ISBN 0859897575 $25.00 (pb).

This well-printed translation of Terence’s extant comedies into rhyming heroic couplets is a tour de force of a sort and amusing in small doses, but the insistent artificiality of the rhymes and the monotonously undifferentiated metre make tedious reading beyond a couple of pages, and I cannot imagine a successful stage performance of more than a few scenes. The underlying assumption, that the quantitative iambic and trochaic media of Roman drama can be rendered into English iambic verse (let alone uniformly rhyming English verse like this) is basically false and misleading. There are next to no explanatory footnotes to the text, and the 26 page introduction by Matthew Leigh is a general introduction to Terence, Menander, Plautus and the post-antique reception of Terence without footnotes or any meaningful source-criticism. Leigh does not mention that Terence was, alongside Ennius and later Virgil, the bread and butter of elementary rhetorical teaching thoughout Roman antiquity. He is embarrassed by the rape-themes and doesn’t think Terence is funny anyway (in my opinion he certainly is both various and funny). Probus and Donatus are named on p. xxiii but without any clear indication of the sort of thing they were interested in discussing. At the end, there is a fond and informative obituary of Clayton (1913-1999) by a female relative now living in Switzerland.

In sum, this is a pious but not very useful memorial to an Exeter academic.