BMCR 2007.09.47

Terentius Poeta. Zetemata Monographien zur klassischen Altertumswissenschaft 127

, , , , Terentius poeta. Zetemata, Heft 127. Munich: Beck, 2007. xii, 235 pages : illustrations ; 24 cm.. ISBN 9783406559488 €56.50 (pb).

Many have complained about Terence’s plays, claiming that they are as boring as possible and not that well made, especially compared to Plautus’ . Nevertheless, he is one of the most important models for the development of comedy in Europe, as we can see with Molière in France. That is why, considering his importance, the editors of this book decided to organize a one day conference in Berlin1 and then to publish the proceedings. It embraces all the aspects of research on Terentius: first the manuscripts (4 papers), then metrics (3 papers), then style (3 contributions) and finally composition (4 papers). This stimulating book will be useful to all scholars interested in Terence and also to students at masters’ and doctoral level. Benjamin Victor (“New Manuscript Sources of the Terence Text”, pp. 1-14), in charge of preparing a new French edition of Terence’s plays for the Bude collection, presents his work and underlines the value of taking into account some later Italian manuscripts since they offer many good readings close to the oldest text and different from the tradition based mainly on German manuscripts. Those Italian sources have commonly been despised because they were much more recent than the others, but V. gives somes interesting exemples of what he calls “the new truth”, which should have some serious consequences on the study of metrics in Terence. The last part of his paper is devoted to the following question: how can one explain such similarities between recent sources and the oldest ones? He presents a stemma on p. 9.

Robert Maltby (“Donat über die Stegreifelemente in Terenz’ Phormio”, pp. 15-28) shows how precious Donatus’ commentaries on the Phormio are, because of his knowledge and use of Greek models, of former Roman commentaries, but also because of his stylistic explanations of the language of each character. The demonstration is convincing and reinforced by the presentation of some extracts at the end of his paper.

Claudia Villa (“Commenti medioevali alle commedie di Terenzio”, pp. 29-35) writes on the tradition of commentaries in the medieval times between the 11th and the 15th centuries: the oldest manuscript already presents some grammatical comments, which allows us to think that there was a tradition of glosses at that time. But she focuses on the two first commentaries, i.e. the Bruns and the Monacense. The presentation has a clear chronological order: the 12th century offers some valuable commentaries especially in Italy, while the 13th offers a fascinating exemple of scholarly transmission with Giacomino da Mantova, Pietro da Moglio and Collucio Salviati. Still, the 14th century was the best time for Terence’s work, with many new lives of the poet. This is a very pleasant paper about intellectual life in the Middle Ages through the example of commentaries on Terence, showing how the tradition even as old as Donatus’work was conserved and transmitted with added material.

Rainer Jacoby (“Das Commentum Brunsianum”, p. 37-49) presents us first with the history of this text — with comment on Riou’s work and mistakes— and then with its content. He considers the sources of the Brunsianum, its use of the Grammatici Latini and of previous commentaries on Terence, especially Eugraphius. J. proposes a date (825) for this text, a place (France, perhaps Lothringen), and underlines the success of what was initially a schoolmaster’s commentary.

Marcus Deufert (“Terenz und die altlateinische Verskunst”, p. 51-71) focuses on Terence’s originality compared to his Roman and Greek metrical models: he first sums up the two characteristics of the old Roman metrical system (a verse corresponds to the sentence it includes, and the verse is strictly organized into cola), then underlines Terence’s evolution. The poet seems to imitate Menander rather than the Roman Naevius or Plautus at the beginning of his career, but he comes back to the Plautine model in his last comedies. D. shows this through a careful analysis of the use of the penthemimeres but most of all through a complete study of enjambements in the plays of Menander, Plautus and Terence.

Renato Raffaelli (“Die metrische Präsentation des Terenztexts in der Antike: der Codex Bembinus”, p. 73-91) shows us through the Codex Bembinus’ example how the change of status (Terence’s comedies are no longer performed, but read) brought a change in the presentation of the text. Pages 83-91 present some reproductions of the Bembinus.

Roman Müller (“Pura oratio und Puri sermonis amator”, p. 111-125) starts with Caesar’s famous sentence on Terence and seeks its meaning first by studying the prologue of the Heautontimoroumenos. He considers this is merely an allusion to Chremes’ part in the comedy. Then he refers to Varro and Cicero to find another definition: Terence was an adept of purus sermo because he did not use many hellenisms and avoided creating new words, while Plautus liked them.

Andreas Bagordo (“Langversstil und Senarstil bei Terenz”, p. 127-142) chooses the exemple of the Eunuchus to reflect on Terence’style through the study of metrics. He shows that Terence does not use a special style for the prologue (though it often seems that he wrote them in a very rhetorical style).

Timothy J. Moore (“Terence as Musical Innovator”, p. 95-109) shows, through careful analyses of the metrics in the six comedies of Terence, how the poet was far more interested in music than has been said. There are two main changes compared to Plautus: first the choice of some types of metre, then the place of metrical changes in the play. While Plautus changed his rhythm according to the entrance or exit of a character, Terence prefered to underline a situation within the scene. Iambic and trochaic verses are used to distinguish the two male lovers within a scene (with a variation in the Adelphoe where the metrical opposition reflects the opposition between lovers and their opponents). The iambic septenarius is used for the fate of the uirgo, the anagnorisis and its consequence, i.e. the lovers’union.

Robert Maltby’s second paper (“The Distribution of Imagery by Plays and Characters in Terence”, p. 143-165) comes back to a subject already studied by E. Fantham2 to underline the evolution of Terence’s technique. If the two first plays ( Andria and Hecyra) don’t have much imagery and owe much to the Greek tradition, the Heautontimoroumenos brings a change — may be in reaction to the Hecyra‘s unsuccessful representations — and Terence begins to imitate Plautus. The Eunuchus is very close to the Plautine model, and so are the last two plays: Terence uses typical Roman imagery to bring some characters to light, whether Chaerea in the Eunuchus or Phormio or Demea.

Ortwin Knorr (“Metatheatrical Humor in Terence”, p. 167-174) deals with metatheatrical humor, something widely accepted for Plautus but not properly appreciated in Terentius’plays, according to the author. Metatheater is when the writer reminds his audience, through a remark or a trick, that it is all theater and illusion. K. choses three plays for examples, beginning with the Andria, which is Terentius’first work and is full of metatheatrical allusions: no one gives credit to the lovers’affirmations about Glycerium’s citizenship that sounds like. . . a piece of comedy. Then he shows in the Hecyra and the Eunuchus how Terentius renews old comic tricks like the servus currens by changing the situation (the young master runs on to the stage, not the slave) and thus reminds the audience of the comic illusion.This is a stimulating communication which invites us to a thorough study of the metatheatrical humor in Terentius’comedies.

Then Peter Brown (“Movements of Characters and Pace of Action in Terence’s Plays”, p. 175-188) shows us through some examples from the Eunuchus, the Phormio but mainly the Adelphoe how Terence creates liveliness with the entrances and exits of his characters. Thus he contributes to the rehabilitation of an author who has very often been said unable to understand stage business.

Eckard Lefèvre (“Die Inszenierung des Zweikampfs zwischen Simo und Davos in Terenz’ Andria”, p. 189-205) comments on the three first scenes of the Andria, opposing the senex and the astute slave. Then he compares it with similar duels in Menander’s Aspis and Samia to underline the originality of Roman comedies. He concludes with criticism of some scholars about the meaning of the opposition between Simo and Davos in the Andria.

Dwora Gilula’s contribution (“Stage Business and Narrative: Plot Construction in Terence”, p. 207-216) treats first the question of what was to be shown or not on the stage: crimes in the tragedy, sex in the comedies. She studies first indications of milder sexual activity with meretrices, then references to rapes, especially in the Eunuchus since this is the only play with a rape in the plot itself rather than in a time before the action starts. She concludes by explaining that Terence’s comedies are not love stories and the real heroes are the characters (slaves, fathers. . .) who help the lovers or try to set them apart. And so one should speak of intrigue comedies rather than of love stories with Terence. This conclusion sounds right, but maybe one should go one step further and consider that the real hero is the slave who leads the band.

In conclusion, this book gives us a better idea of Terence’stylistic evolution, whether in metrics or in the use of metaphors, thanks to careful analyses which announce some new studies on the poet to come. One must add that the presentation is perfect.3


1. See the announcement of the conference on the web with some abstracts and a general presentation of the authors.

2. See E. Fantham, Comparative Studies in Republican Latin Imagery, Toronto, 1972.

3. I have found one typo: p. 79, ‘Paralllelen’.