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CLASSICAL DISQUISITIONS

AND CURIOSITIES.

COMPARATIVE ESTIMATE OF TERENCE

AND PLAUTUS.

Ambigitur quoties, uter utro sit prior; aufert
Pacuvius docti famam senis, Accius alti :
Dicitur Afranî toga convenisse Menandro;
Plautus ad exemplar Siculi properare Epicharmi ;
Vincere Cæcilius gravitate, Terentius arte.

HORATII Epist. i. lib. 2.

The commentators are so much at variance respecting Horace's real drift in his critical epistles, whether he gives certain characters as his own or as the popular opinion, that we can scarcely avail ourselves of his decisions, but as we find them confirmed by other and tantamount authorities. Among the principal of these is Varro, who thus sums up the leading characteristics of Cæcilius and Terence: “ In argumentis Cæcilius poscit palmam;

B

in ethesin Terentius.” Horace's gravitas, therefore, as illustrated by this passage, may be applied to the affecting cast of Cæcilius's general style: and that application is confirmed by another observation of the same author : “ Pathe Trabea, Attilius, et Cæcilius facile moverunt." Horace's ars, also, to reconcile it in a similar point of view with Varro's criticism, may be understood to represent, though by too vague a term, that delineation of manners which is the obvious meaning of Varro's expression, ethesin. But the probability is, that it rather applies to the discovery of the double plot, or combination of two stories into one, which the Latin poets invented to satisfy the craving appetite of their audience, too little refined to relish the Greek simplicity and unity. The degree of perfection to which Terence carried this contrivance, and the many occasions on which Plautus contented himself with the single plot of the old comedy, form a strong point of contrast between these two dramatists: and the verb properare, in the line devoted to Plautus, shows that such contrast was here intended in reference to the management of their plots; because though ars might refer to the manners, properare could not; and this verb must not be understood merely, as by some critics, to express the closeness with which he imitated, or followed up Epicharmus without losing sight of him; an apparent attempt to put more into the verb than it has room to contain ; but the careless rapidity and inartificial winding up of his plots, in which he did not feel it necessary to be more exact than his model. And this explanation, which places arte in substantial, though not in grammatical, antithesis with properare, as well as with gravitate,

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