This invaluable book traces the influence of the Roman dramatist Plautus on the subsequent course of European culture and literature. Hardin (emer., Univ. of Kansas) shows how Plautus's comedies impacted the course of drama and that Latin in vulgaria was taught in grammar school for centuries, especially during the Renaissance. A widening reception of Plautus, spreading from quattrocento Italy northward, shows a growing appreciation for what laughter for the sake of laughter can achieve. Plautus's plays—the running theme of which is that everyman is a fool unaware—advanced respect for the value of comedy on the stage and in life. The five chapters situate the texts and staging of Plautus’s comedies in humanist culture. In particular, the last three chapters focus on the Roman comedian’s reception in England, showing that Shakespeare, Jonson, Middleton, and other English dramatists mined Plautus's work for plots, characters, and jokes. A conclusion identifies Jonson as a “consummate Plautine.” Included in Hardin’s study are many passages of his own translations of Renaissance works, a chronology of editions of Plautus during the Renaissance, and an ample bibliography. A brief index does not do justice to the richness of this book.
Summing Up: Recommended. Graduate students, researchers, faculty.