Scholarly Article Critique of “Encountering Plautus in the Renaissance: A humanist debate on comedy.”


In the articleEncountering Plautus in the Renaissance: a humanist debate on comedy”, the author looks at the different types of theatrical skills that have been used in the past. The author examines the poetic tools of Plautus who is remembered for bringing out the best in the field of comedy (Hardin 1). He compares and contrasts Plautus’ productions with other playwrights such as Shakespeare, Cicero, Heinsius and Terence. However, most of the author’s attention was centered on Plautus and Terence. The author tries to give reasons why Plautus comedies and his skills as a playwright stand out more than Terence work (Hardin 1). He tries to seek answers as to why Plautus work remains popular years after they were written. The question on why Plautus was successful as a playwright is significant because Plautus serves as an example in the film and theatre industry. While answering the question, the author brings out a variety of skills used by Plautus and Terence. Similarly, the author also focuses on the attributes that made other playwrights like Terence fail while Plautus accomplished his objectives and excelled. Plautus work will help other playwrights to develop and improve their comic skills. His expression of comedy makes him a role model. His work was widely read by people from different backgrounds (Brockett 104). Plautus is branded as the people’s preference because of his profound ways with comic art.


The author examines the manuscripts that were written by Plautus and the plays that he recorded. Furthermore, the writer presents the arguments and views of critics in those days and the testimonies of the audience and witnesses. Some of those people include Marvin Herrick, Wolfgang Riehle, Aristotle and Robortotello. To answer his question, the author analyses the comedian language, the plots and the laughter generated by the plays (Hardin 1). He examines the features of Plautus against Terence. He demonstrates how scholars criticized and wrongly judged Plautus but later celebrated him. From the start, the author described Terence success. Terence was the standard measure of comedy. His name was frequently mentioned in classical comedy while Plats hardly received any attention. Terence had impeccable grammar and his Latin was excellent. His work was read in classrooms and other institutions (Hardin 1). On the other hand, Plautus had difficulties with his sentence structure and vocabulary. He used vernacular in some of his manuscripts. The author presents a backdrop where Terence had an upper hand in comical art from the beginning. His work was loved and appreciated by the audience. The author further draws a picture of a time when both Terence and Plautus had support from the audience. After this period, the story changed. Plautus improved in his skills as a playwright. The audience began to pick things found in his play that Terence lacked. One would find more laughter in a Plautus’ stage.

The author finds a correlation between Plautus’ work and the Aristotelian theory. This differs with Terence’s work, which was similar to Donatus’ (Hardin 1). This difference illustrates how both playwrights had varied ideas about the intention of comedy. Terence had a somber temperament in his writing while Plautus was harsh and crude. Most institutions of learning had to expurgate Plautus work because of his insensitivity. However, the author points out that during that period, most of the people had appalling language. The other attributes that made Terence better were his organization and precision. While Plautus was disorganized and disarrayed, Terence was efficient and the progression of his plots was clear-cut. It was hard to find anything that was amiss. Plautus lacked disciple and his plots failed to offer a direction. To make it worse, Plautus plots desecrated the principles of modesty (Osnes & Gill 234). It is hilarious to apprehend that though Terence had better qualities as a playwright, most people still preferred the style portrayed by Plautus. The audience and critics praised his Latin language as they found it amusing. The words used by Plautus were bursting with funny stories or jokes. In this article, the author tries to expound on the fact that Terence had the useful skills but he moderated the effects of his plays as he tried to be elegant (Hardin 1). Plautus on the other hand was imperfect in all his ways, but he trusted himself to deliver good plays. In the end, the plays written by Plautus were more fruitful because there was so much to learn from the crude playwright (Gassner & Quinn, 630). By considering all these qualities, the writer provides a good case for the disorganized playwright who left a mark in comic art.


            In my opinion, the author successfully answered the question why Plautus appealed to the audience even though Terence had better skills. In his introduction, the author shows how Terence plays were superior (Hardin 1). He then gives a progression on how the opinion of the audience and the scholars changed. Compared to Terence, Plautus achieved more success while on stage (Farrell 65). The author addressed the question by looking at the style of both playwrights and the change of heart of most critics (Hardin 1). The author answered the question very well. He described the views and observations of comic dramatists and compares different playwrights. The author is informative as it addresses the objective of comedy. Furthermore, it illustrates how the Plautus’ script managed to achieve the objective (Farrell 45). From my perspective, the evidence used by the author was sufficient as it made a strong case for Plautus. For that reason, another type of proof would not be as constructive and convincing as the evidence used by the author.

Works Cited

Brockett, Oscar and Franklin Hildy. History of the Theatre. Boston, MA: Allyn and Bacon, 2008. Print.

Farrell, Joseph. A history of Italian theater. Cambridge, MA: Cambridge university press, 2006. Print

Gassner, John and Edward Quinn. The Reader’s Encyclopedia of World Drama. Mineola, N.Y: Dover Publications, 2002. Print.

Hardin, Richard. Encountering Plautus in the Renaissance: a humanist debate on comedy. 22 September 2007. Web. 31 January 2011.

Osnes, Beth and Sam Gill. Acting: An Encyclopedia. Santa Barbara, CA: ABC-CLIO publishers, 2001. Print.

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