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LATIN literature yields little more material in dramatic criticism and theory than Greek. There is but one complete treatise extant -- the Ars Poetica of Horace -- and that is far from satisfactory as a unified and clear statement of the aims or achievements of the Latin drama. From the beginnings of Latin literary criticism with Cicero, to the time of Horace, there is practically nothing relating to the subject. Cicero himself, in his Letters, Orations, and various treatises, evolves interesting ideas on the drama, but nowhere sums up any sort of complete theory of body of doctrine. If the works of Varro and Lucilius had been preserved, it is doubtful whether Horace would have occupied his present position of solitary grandeur and importance, but in the absence of anything but fragments from these authors and from the numerous other critics of his time and anterior to him, we must assign to him a place of the first magnitude. Mention ought perhaps be made of a few paragraphs on the rise of comedy in Livy's history, Ab urbe condita Libri (vii, ii, iv, and following), written about the time of Christ. Not until Quintilian is there anything approaching a systematic study of dramatists, while Quintilian himself--in the Institutiones Oratoriae, Books VI and X--adopts an historical rather than theoretical method, and passes brief judgments on Greek and Latin authors. The Noctes Atticae of Aulus Gellius is the last of the Latin writings with any pretension to originality concerned with our subject.

A careful study of Henry Nettleship's second series of Lectures and Essays -- chapter on Latin Criticism --, and of Saintsbury's History of Criticism -- first volume -- will enlighten the student as to the details of the subject, but he will find little other than fragments and titles of lost works if he goes to original sources.

This article was originally published in European Theories of the Drama. Barrett H. Clark. Cincinnati: Stewart & Kidd Company, 1918.


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