on May 8, 2000
Robert W. Corrigan has complied a wonderful balance of Greek and Roman comedies. The collection is ideal for anyone interested in an overview of classical comedy or wishing to explore the roots of modern comedy.
Aristophanes' "Lysistrata" and "The Birds," and Menander's "The Grouch" represent the Greek plays. "The Menaechmi" (sometimes called 'The Brother's Menaechmi') and "Mostellaria" (sometimes called 'The Haunted House' or 'The Ghost')" by Plautus and "The Self Tormentor" by Terence represent the Roman plays.
The plays themselves are a wonderful study of comedy from it's dramatic origins to the Roman's translations of Greek "New Comedy." Students of Shakespeare and renaissance drama will find this book especially useful as "The Menaechmi" is the source of Shakespeare's "Comedy of Errors" and plays like "The Grouch" and "The Self Tormentor" greatly influenced the French comic playwright, Jean-Baptiste Moliere.
The introductions scribed by Corrigan are outstanding. A master of ancient drama, he has a passion that creeps into all his essays. Unfortunately, the introductions by the translators sometimes fail to relate to the boarder subject of comedy and leave a little to be desired.
Regarding the translations themselves, four different authors have translated the six plays and some are better than others. Walter Kerr's translation of "The Birds" is the best of the collection. Palmer Bovie's translations of the three Roman plays are solid and reflect Plautus' word-play well (which also influenced Shakespeare).
My only criticism of the book is that some of the introductions are now dated by references to several Hollywood comedies and Broadway plays that might be obscure unless you have a background in these subjects. However, the book is for the plays themselves and the plays themselves are delightful. Overall, I recommend this collection as introduction to ancient comedy.