How does Ars Poetica/On the Art of Poetry by Horace contribute to our knowledge of the drama and dramatical conventions of his age?

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Horace’s Ars Poetica, composed around 15 B.C.E., guides potential poets in developing their art, and thereby reveals several conventions of favorable Roman poetry. It’s important to note that “poetry” here includes Roman drama.

First, he states that the aim of poetry should be to simultaneously delight and instruct its audience: “He who joins the instructive with the agreeable, carries off every vote, by delighting and at the same time admonishing the reader.” Here, Horace reveals that Roman poetry was valued by how well it merged aesthetic qualities with useful or practical insights. In Latin, these aims are dolce, or delight, and utile, or utility.

Next, Horace advises that poetry shouldn’t be protracted, but instead, concise. He reasons, “All superfluous instructions flow from the too full memory.” Whatever can’t be remembered isn’t useful; a poem or dramatic work should then be easy to recollect, and not be too excessive in length.

Finally, Horace insists that poetry should be harmonious, or possess a certain musical quality. At several points he instructs the reader in the use of stressed and unstressed syllables, and claims that one can always look to Homer for perfect examples of harmonious verse.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team

We’ll help your grades soar

Start your 48-hour free trial and unlock all the summaries, Q&A, and analyses you need to get better grades now.

  • 30,000+ book summaries
  • 20% study tools discount
  • Ad-free content
  • PDF downloads
  • 300,000+ answers
  • 5-star customer support
Start your 48-Hour Free Trial