Other Literary Forms

0111205891-Terence.jpg Terence (Library of Congress) Published by Salem Press, Inc.

Terence is remembered only for his plays.


Latin literature took an important step in its development when Terence arrived on the scene. Although Plautus had done much to improve the Latin tongue and to refine the stage, he was hindered in his efforts by an audience lacking in culture. It was otherwise with Terence. In the interval that separated Plautus and Terence, a society of literary men had grown up at Rome, and their tastes were dominated by admiration of Greek literature and culture. It was in this circle that Terence moved and formed his literary aspirations and ideals. As a result, his main purpose differed from that of Plautus, who aimed at securing the applause of the people. Instead, Terence directed his efforts especially toward the attainment of elegance and correctness of expression and toward symmetry in the elaboration of his plots. Terence believed that the best way to obtain these results and the surest method for building up a national literature was a faithful reproduction of Greek works. Accordingly, he set himself the task of Hellenizing Roman comedy more completely, and by a close imitation of his Greek models, he succeeded in combining with the refined Latin of the cultivated class much of the flexibility, delicacy, and smoothness of the Attic idiom.


Further Reading:

Beare, W. The Roman Stage: A Short History of Latin Drama in the Time of the Republic. New York: Barnes & Noble, 1965. An authoritative study of the Roman stage, particularly useful regarding the stage practices, customs, and techniques of the time. Includes a detailed examination of the charge of contamination leveled against Terence. With extensive notes, bibliography, and appendices.

Copley, Frank O. The Comedies of Terence. Indianapolis: Bobbs-Merrill, 1967. Translations of each play with a useful introductory note on each drama. A fourteen-page essay surveys the problems encountered in attempting to reconstruct Terence’s life and in trying to analyze his art.

Duckworth, George E. The Nature of Roman Comedy: A Study in Popular Entertainment. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1994. A vital source on the ancient stage and its conventions as well as on the contributions of Terence. This work is a detailed study of themes, treatments, methods, and influences of Terence, including the critical problems in studying his texts and the biographical problems in studying his life. With an extensive index and bibliography.

Duckworth, George E., ed. The Complete Roman Drama. 2 vols. New York: Random House, 1942. This work includes Terence’s production notes,...

(The entire section is 567 words.)