Hroswitha of Gandersheim Criticism - Essay

Cornelia C. Coulter (essay date 1929)

(Classical and Medieval Literature Criticism)

SOURCE: "The 'Terentian' Comedies of a Tenth-Century Nun," The Classical Journal, Vol. XXIV, No. 7, April, 1929, pp. 515-29.

[In the following essay, Coulter investigates the extent to which Hroswitha's dramas may be called "Terentian," concluding that "Hrotsvitha's independent contribution to mediaeval Latin literature is far more important than her connection with Terence."]

Modem discussions of mediaeval drama are very likely to include the name of Hrotsvitha and some mention of her debt to Roman comedy. Creizenach, in the early pages of his Geschichte des Neueren Dramas, takes up her plays with special interest because they are the one isolated example of...

(The entire section is 5736 words.)

Rosamond Gilder (essay date 1931)

(Classical and Medieval Literature Criticism)

SOURCE: "Hrotsvitha, a Tenth-Century Nun: The First Woman Playwright," in Enter the Actress: The First Women in the Theatre, Houghton Mifflin Company, 1931, pp. 18-45.

[In the following essay, Gilder summarizes Hroswitha's place in early medieval drama and evaluates her plays, noting particularly her masterful characterization in these works.]

Although the early Christian Church welcomed to its bosom certain repentant actresses, it was on the whole the mortal enemy of the theatre. The war between Church and stage has been long and bitter, particularly in the early days when the theatre represented the last entrenched camp of paganism, and as such was the subject of...

(The entire section is 9395 words.)

Rosemary Sprague (essay date 1955)

(Classical and Medieval Literature Criticism)

SOURCE: "Hroswitha—Tenth-Century Margaret Wester," The Theatre Annual, Vol. XIII, 1955, pp. 16-31.

[In the following essay, Sprague surveys Hroswitha's life and works, focusing on the author's development in her six dramas.]

From the far away past emerges a picture of a nun, with habit tucked up to her ankles and with manuscript in hand, striding up and down a great hall in a convent directing her sisters in a play she herself has written. This is Sister Hroswitha, the pride of the Benedictine Convent of Gandersheim, Saxony, who wrote, as far as can be ascertained, the very first plays in the Western world after the collapse of the Roman Empire. She is not the...

(The entire section is 5924 words.)

Sister Mary Marguerite Butler (essay date 1960)

(Classical and Medieval Literature Criticism)

SOURCE: "Hrotsvitha of Gandersheim," in Hrotsvitha: The Theatricality of Her Plays, Philosophical Library, 1960, pp. 62-84.

[In the following excerpt, Butler presents an overview of Hroswitha's life and early writings, then outlines the significant sources, style, influences, and intent of her dramatic works.]

The Woman and Nun

Most theatre historians admit that there is scant documentary evidence about Hrotsvitha's chronology and background. Three sources will be related here as representative of typical available data.

Magnin, relying on the Hildesheim Chronicles, Monumenta Germaniae Historica, and on the...

(The entire section is 9214 words.)

Anne Lyon Haight (essay date 1965)

(Classical and Medieval Literature Criticism)

SOURCE: "Hroswitha of Gandersheim: Her Life, Her Times, Her Works" in Hroswitha of Gandersheim: Her Life, Times, and Works, and Comprehensive Bibliography, The Hroswitha Club, 1965, pp. 3-34.

[In the following essay, Haight surveys the life an(d writings of Hroswitha, terming her "the most remarkable woman of her time."]

The most remarkable woman of her time was Hroswitha, the tenth-century canoness of the Benedictine monastery of Gandersheim, Saxony. She was the earliest poet known in Germany and the first dramatist after the fall of the ancient stage of classical times.

In 1494 Conrad Celtes, the Renaissance humanist and first poet laureate of...

(The entire section is 9314 words.)

Marianna da Vinci Nichols (essay date 1976)

(Classical and Medieval Literature Criticism)

SOURCE: "Callimachus, A Play by Hrotswitha," Allegorica, Vol. 1, No. 1, Spring, 1976, pp. 7-11.

[In the following introduction to her co-translation of Callimachus, Nichols explores the classical sources and romantic / Christian theme of the play.]

Hrotswitha was a canoness at the Abbey of Gandersheim in Saxony during the tenth century. She wrote two epics, a number of shorter works, and six plays modelled after Terence's to replace his for readers who were "fascinated by the charm of [his] manner [and] risked being corrupted by the wickedness of [his] matter," as she says in her Preface to the plays.

Callimachus is her most...

(The entire section is 1893 words.)

Karl A. Zaenker (essay date 1978)

(Classical and Medieval Literature Criticism)

SOURCE: "Homage to Roswitha," The Humanities Association Review, Vol. 29, No. 2, Spring, 1978, pp. 117-34.

[In the following essay, Zaenker traces the literary influence and reception of Hroswitha's dramas in the contemporary era.]

One could think of two immediate reasons why it appears timely to pay homage to Roswitha von Gandersheim, that mysterious Saxon poetess of the tenth century, and concern ourselves with her work and the impact it has had on European literature over the past centuries. On the one hand we could commemorate the 1000th anniversary of Roswitha's death which might well be any of these years. It is very convenient that the uncertain dates of her...

(The entire section is 7843 words.)

Dennis M. Kratz (essay date 1978)

(Classical and Medieval Literature Criticism)

SOURCE: "The Nun's Epic: Hroswitha on Christian Heroism" in Wege der Worte: Festschrift für Wolfgang Fleischhauer, edited by Donald C. Riechel, Böhlau Verlag, 1978, pp. 132-42.

[In the following essay, Kratz examines Hroswitha's Latin epic Gesta Ottonis, concluding that it is "among the most successful attempts in the history of Latin literature to adapt the epic genre for the expression of a Christian definition of heroic excellence."]

Best known for the comedies which she wrote in order to provide her Benedictine sisters a Christian alternative to the comedies of Terence, Hroswitha of Gandersheim stands as a unique figure in the history not only of Latin...

(The entire section is 4538 words.)

A. Daniel Frankforter (essay date 1979)

(Classical and Medieval Literature Criticism)

SOURCE: "Hroswitha of Gandersheim and the Destiny of Women," The Historian, Vol. XLI, No. 3, February, 1979, pp. 295-314.

[In the following essay, Frankforter studies Hroswitha's dramatic exploration of the sources and models of spiritual strength available to women in Medieval society.]

There is a substantial fund of medieval literature which is relevant to the study of the roles, models, and ideals which medieval European society endorsed for women. Most of it was written by men whose educations and vocations gave them a limited capacity for the appreciation of women,' and it suggests that the medieval world was often rather harsh in its criticism of females. The...

(The entire section is 10030 words.)

A. Daniel Frankforter (essay date 1979)

(Classical and Medieval Literature Criticism)

SOURCE: "Sexism and the Search for the Thematic Structure of the Plays of Hroswitha of Gandersheim," in International Journal of Women's Studies, Vol. 2, No. 3, May / June, 1979, pp. 221-32.

[In the following essay, Frankforter discusses Hroswitha's six plays, arguing that they should be viewed as works focusing on women as Christian heroes rather than as imperfectly realized dramas primarily about their male characters.]


The writing of history has long been an activity controlled by males. Most of the honored commentators who have shaped the western historical tradition have been extraordinary men who have concentrated their professional...

(The entire section is 6492 words.)

Peter Dronke (essay date 1984)

(Classical and Medieval Literature Criticism)

SOURCE: "Hrotsvitha" in Women Writers of the Middle Ages: A Critical Study of Texts from Perpetua († 203) to Marguerite Porete († 1310), Cambridge University Press, pp. 55-83.

[In the following essay, Dronke undertakes an overall evaluation of Hroswitha's writings, examining her life and relation to the court of Emperor Otto I; her literary intentions and possibly self-conscious pose as a humble and unassuming woman writer; the thematic structure of her collected writings; her artistic limitations; and her influence in the Middle Ages.]

Hrotsvitha wrote more prolifically than Dhuoda, and planned her major work on a larger scale. Like Dhuoda, she clung...

(The entire section is 16584 words.)

Peter R. Schroeder (essay date 1989)

(Classical and Medieval Literature Criticism)

SOURCE: "Hroswitha and the Feminization of Drama" in Women in Theatre, edited by James Redmond, Cambridge University Press, 1989, pp. 49-58.

[In the following essay, Schroeder observes proto-feminist themes in Hroswitha's plays, especially "the thematic pattern of feminine weakness overcoming masculine strength."]

Most non-specialists who think about Hroswitha at all tend to think of her largely as a freak of literary history, a kind of duck-billed platypus standing outside the normal flow of evolution—in this case, the evolution of Christian drama in the Middle Ages. Yet our perception of her as a sideshow exhibit—the tenth-century nun who wrote religious plays in...

(The entire section is 4341 words.)