Department of Classics
University of California
This paper argues that what Andronicus and his fellow playwrights created for the early ludi scaenici were production scripts that did not become formal books, with all the cultural implications that book-form implies, until the late second century, and that comedy's retrospective elevation to literary status has a bearing on our editing of its texts, on our reconstruction of Roman literary history, and on the relationship between the academic and the practical study of Roman drama.
Behind our modern editions of Plautus and Terence lie the production scripts of active repertory companies with every reason to multiply the number of plays, to conceal their origins, to alter them as needed, and to do so with or without the assistance of their nominal author. The re-emergence of such scripts as books, what later generations came to regard as 'literature', was due to the work of scholars like Aelius Stilo and therefore postdates their creation for the stage. The literary status of works we have learned to regard as early are the gift only of the late Republic.
A chronological approach to Roman literary history is thus deeply deceptive. The separation of texts from their creators also has consequences for students and practitioners of Roman theater: dramatic manuscripts represent a different relationship to their creators than what the manuscripts of, say, Vergil represent. The interpretation of Roman drama therefore demands an especially close partnership between those who know about texts and those who know about plays since our common goal is not simply the understanding of texts but of what, as a matter of actors, audiences, and occasions, those texts once represented.