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Encountering Plautus in the Renaissance: A HumanistDebate on Comedy*

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  20 November 2018

Richard F. Hardin*
University Of Kansas


Historians of comedy can profit from a study of the sixteenth-century debates regarding the merits of Plautus (ca. 254184 BCE), most of whose works were unknown before the late fifteenth century. Early performances and editions led to contemporary theories regarding laughter, language, and morality, often in the context of a comparison with the plays of Terence (d. 159 BCE), who was sometimes viewed as superior by upper-class audiences. From the conflicting opinions of Andrea Navagero and Francesco Florido, to the neoclassical strictures of Daniel Heinsius, this study pursues learned opinion on Plautus as he became a principal author in the European canon. Plautus’s variances from Aristotelian and Horatian precepts created a lively and lasting ferment in discussions of comedy.

Research Article
Copyright © 2007 Renaissance Society of America

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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.


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