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HROTSVITHAS IMITATION OF TERENCE: A MATTER OF TRANSLATION

Magan Mateer

Plures inveniuntur catholici, cuius nos penitus expurgare nequimus facti, qui pro
cultioris facundia sermonis gentilium vanitatem librorum utilitati praeferunt sacrarum
scripturarum. Sunt etiam alii, sacris inhaerentes paginis, qui licet alia gentilium
spernant, Terentii tamen fingamenta frequentius lectitant et, dum dulcedine sermonis
delectantur, nefandarum notitia rerum maculantur. Unde ego, Clamor Validus
Gandeshemensis, non recusavi illum imitari dictando, dum alii colunt legendo, quo
eodem dictationis genere, quo turpia lasciviarum incesta feminarum recitabantur
laudabilis sacrarum castimonia virginum iuxta mei facultatem ingenioli celebraretur.

Hrotsvitha, a canoness of Gandersheim Abby in Germany, wrote this as part of the preface to her
six plays found in the Munich Codex by Conrad Celtis in 1501. In this preface she refers to
Terence, a pagan playwright from ancient Rome, and her debt to him, while at the same
acknowledging the wickedness found in such pagan writings. This introduction has proven very
problematic to many scholars throughout the past century who have sought to discover the extent
of the significance of the influence that Terence had on her work. Two camps have been
established, one arguing for and one against Hrotsvithas sincerity toward this indebtedness. 1
The leading proponent for the indebtedness has been Katharina Wilson. In her 1988 book,
Hrotsvitha of Gandersheim: The Ethics of Authorial Stance, she argues for the similarities
between the two writers. The other side of the argument seems to be led by Peter Dronke, whose
discussion of Hrotsvitha in his 1984 book, Women Writers of the Middle Ages, disparages
Hrotsvithas sincerity not only about her relationship with Terence but about her motivations in
writing the six plays throughout the preface. Though both sides have compelling arguments, I
have found Katharina Wilsons to be more so. Yet I take this stance not so much on the
comparative relationships between the works of the two playwrights but on the approach to the
translation of the preface from Latin to English which has been a point of departure for the two
sides. I argue that Dronke has mistranslated certain key phrases in the preface that has led him to
his conclusions. Before discussing this, an understanding of the two points of view is important.

Wilson vs Dronke:
In her book, Hrotsvitha of Gandersheim: The Ethics of Authorial Stance, Wilson analizes many
aspects of Hrotvisthas writing style. In her discussion concerning the preface, she believes that
Hrotvitha is very sincere in her sentiments and truly looked to Terence for inspiration. Wilson
focuses on the phrases eius, quem proponebam imitari, and non recusavi illum imitari dictando,
and dictando mente tractave et stili officio designavi to support her stance.

1 For more on these writings see Cornelia Coulters The Terentian Comedies of a Tenth-Century Nun The
Classical Journal 24 (1929): 515529; David Dales Roswitha, Nun and Dramatist American Catholic Quarterly
Review: 442457; Arthur Roberts Did Hrotsvitha Imitate Terence? Modern Language Notes 16.8 Dec. 1901:
239241; Kenneth de Lucas Hrotsvithas Imitation of Terence Classical Folia 28 (1974): 89102; Katharina
Wilsons Hrotsvit of Gandersheim: the Ethics of Authorial Stance. New York: E.J. Brill, 1988; and Daniel
Frankforters Hroswitha of Gandersheim and the Destiny of Women The Historian. 41.2 Feb. 1979: 295314.
Mateer, Hrotsvithas Imitation of Terence: A Matter of Translation, p. 2

Imitari, quite common in Hrotsvits texts usually refers to emulation of desired behaviour,
presented by the examples of the virtuous. Here, however, imitation or emulation explicitly
refers to genre and form (dictando and stilo officio), not to subject matter. . . .In this she aims at a
sort of reversed mimesis, the appropriation of the form so that she may reconstitute the subject
matter and invert the effect; the reproducing of the form so that the ideals it will contain may be
imitated. . . .Her purpose in imitating Terence is quite different from her didactic aim of
providing models for imitation for her Christian readers. (15)
Katharina clearly believes that Hrotsvitha modeled her plays, if not in subject, in form
after Terence. Dronke states:

Hrotsvitha claimed she had gone to Terence for style and form, changing the content
completely. And yet it is not hard to see that this is disingenuous. Her stylistic debt to
Terence is not in fact large. She copies a number of Terentian mannerisms and phrases . .
. .She likewise imitates certain techniques: the use of rapid exchanges and repartee, or the
device of bringing on characters in the first scene of a play to provide needed background
information. Yet Hrotsvitha does not imitate Terence metrically, and her diction owes
more to Vergil and Prudentius than to him. Where her debt to Terence is far-reaching is
not in style but in subject matter. (72)

When discussing any aspect of her writing, scholars usually make some remark that takes a
position in regards to this debate. As a means of establishing this positioning, the writer will
typically either quote Wilson or Dronke. This can be seen most recently in Stephen Wailes
article in 2001, Beyond Virginity: Flesh and Spirit in the Plays of Hrotsvit of Gandersheim,
where he references Dronkes sentiments as a means of locating his argument for Hrotsvithas
interconnecting theme of virginity throughout her works.
Dronke takes an extreme position, commenting on Hrotsvits astonishing tactics in her
Preface to the plays, where she says little of what she really means and means almost nothing of
what she says. He particularly rejects her statements about sexuality and Terence as a moral
danger and the behavior of her heroines as uplifting example none of what Hrotsvitha claims,
ostensibly solemnly, as the opening of this Preface can conceivably be literally true.(3)
Even though Wilson seems to argue convincingly against Dronke, what about Dronkes
arguments still compel scholars to support him?
In support of Dronkes stance, Carol Newlands, in her 1986 article Hrotsvithas Debt to
Terence, has argued against any real level of significance stating that her [Hrotsvithas]
assertion is disingenuous as Peter Dronke has recently pointed out. Terence was a popular
stylistic model in medieval schools, but Hrotswitha has few linguistic borrowings from him; the
predominant language of her plays is ecclesiastical rather than classical (307). Newlands
assertion is based on linguistic parameters as a means of determining influence ignoring any
other similarities between the works. Why does she focus solely on linguistic borrowings as the
only measure for using another writer as a stylistic model? What does Hrotsvitha say in her
preface that could have led Newlands to this determination? Are there other considerations that
would support the contention that Hrotsvitha used Terence as a stylistic model? Her article is
further troubling in that she supports her arguments by pointing out the various differences
between the two writers. Could these very differences actually constitute a form of imitation
warranting Hrotsvithas need to express her indebtedness to Terence? In this paper I will argue
that the problem with considered Hrotsvithas indebtedness as being disingenuous based solely

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on linguistic comparisons is located in a false premise due to an error in translation that may lie
in Dronkes work concerning style and form. After reconsidering the original Latin, I will
follow my translation discussion with evidence that supports the belief that Hrotsvitha did indeed
use Terence as a model in terms of style and form Further, to limit a comparative analysis
based solely on similarities between the two playwrights negates the significance of those
elements that are in direct contrast as demonstrated in Newlands article. Hrotsvitha not only
used Terence as the author whom I have taken as my model (a claim she makes later in her
preface), but to create a canon of work that might be a substitute to the corrupted wickedness of
Terences and other pagan writers. Ironically, Newlands inadvertently supports this contention as
she attempts to use the differences to support her own argument against any real influence. To
this end, I will continue my discussion with an examination of the character Thais as a primary
element taken directly from Terence that Hrotsvitha uses in contrast for her own agenda. Thus,
Hrotsvithas indebtedness is two-fold: she borrows elements of style and form from Terence in
constructing her plays, and uses other elements as a basis for creating a contrast.

Translation 2 :
Translating works from one language to another is a very tricky business. The translators job is
more than just replacing a word or phrase with another. He or she must also understand the
thoughts, ideas, and feelings that those words represent, finding corresponding words in the new
language that expresses those same thoughts, ideas, and feelings. In a sense, the translator must
identity the intent of the author, something most literary critics are loath to do. This is not easy
even in the best of circumstances. The difficulty arises when there are a varieties or differing
meanings for words as they reflect the context. I believe that this is the main reason for the
disparaging arguments toward Hrotsvithas sincerity in her indebtedness.
Newlands basis for her argument is that if Hrotsvitha was imitating Terence in terms of
style and form, why are there so few linguistic borrowings? As she states, she is quoting
Dronkes opinion who, the year prior to her own article, wrote:

Hrotsvitha claimed she had gone to Terence for style and form, changing the content
completely. And yet it is not hard to see that this is disingenuous. Her stylistic debt to
Terence is not in fact large. She copies a number of Terentian mannerisms and phrases
She likewise imitates certain techniques: the use of rapid exchanges and repartee, or the
device of bringing on characters in the first scene of a play to provide needed background
information. Yet Hrotsvitha does not imitate Terence metrically, and her diction owes
more to Vergil and Prudentius than to him. Where her debt to Terence is far-reaching is
not in style but in subject matter. (72)

Both of these writers focus their criticism on the lack of parallels found between the two ancient
playwrights in terms of linguistic similarities, especially through the fact that Hrotsvitha is
writing in ecclesiastical Latin and Terence in classical Latin. Kenneth de Luca, in his 1974
article, Hrotsvits Imitation of Terence, argues that linguistic comparisons go beyond word or
metrical choices.

2 I have attached a copy of the Latin version of the preface as an appendix to this paper with the corresponding
phrases discusses highlighted.

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Mateer, Hrotsvithas Imitation of Terence: A Matter of Translation, p. 4

A more challenging way of imitating is in the larger structural patterns of language, and
here Hrotsvit shows evidence of having learned a Terentian lesson or two. . . This type of
structural imitation extends also, and more significantly to the technique of dialogue-
building. (96)

He further disagrees with Dronke about content stating:

Hrotsvit took the bulk, if not all, of her story ideas from the Acta Sanctorum, and not
from Terence. While this cannot be denied, it is equally true to presume that it was
Terence who helped her realize the dramatic potential of this material. (101)

Yet, he agrees with Dronkes reference to rapid dialogue:

There is further structural device, also a favorite of Terence, which appears in Hrotsvit
the skillful use of rabid dialogue, not just as filler, but to build a scene and create
momentum. Such passages abound in Terences plays. (98)

Thus we have Dronke and Newlands arguing against linguistic similarities but for similarities in
subject matter, de Luca arguing the opposite, and the two sides agreeing on the rapid use of
dialogue. With this in mind, de Luca may in fact be more accurate in his consideration of the
linguistic similarities than Dronke and Newlands as I will demonstrate in this paper. I believe the
point of contention occurs in the translation of the original Latin.
In 1921, Christopher St. Johns translated Hrotsvithas plays into English for Edith Terry
and her company. Since then, most scholars reference her translation when writing about
Hrotsvitha. Dronke does not credit anyone for the translation he uses so it can be assumed that he
did it himself which were then used by Newlands. I assume that through his research of
Hrotsvitha and her work, he is familiar with St. Johns work. Dronke does not say which phrases
from the Latin he is using when referring to from and style but the most obvious ones are cultoris
facundia sermonis,, dulcedine sermonis, and quo eodem genere. 3 St. Johns translates these
phrases as by the polished elegance of the style, by the charm of the manner, and self-same
form of composition, respectively. It is the use of the word sermonis that is significant. This
word can be translated to mean talk, conversation, discussion or any manner of speaking, style,
expression , diction, language, and dialect. Yet, Dronke opts merely for style in terms of
linguistic considerations when translating the word thereby narrowing the fuller meaning that
Hrotsvitha may have intended by choosing to use this specific word in reference to her
relationship with Terences work. There are other words that she could have used such as lingua,
forma, or scribendi genus 4 to convey Dronkes meaning. Sermo, the nominative or subject form
of the word sermonis, is more indicative of what occurs holistically in dramatic writing
indicating a deliberate choice on Hrotsvithas part recognizing the various ways that she has used
Terence as a model for her plays. Further, even though St. Johns has translated the word simply
as style, Dronke has qualified the meaning of style in terms of meter and diction which
Newlands has further narrowed to language by disparaging the fact that Hrotsvithas writing is
ecclesiastical rather than classical. These two critics have not only diminished the significance of

3 All the Latin words and phrases come from Hrotsvithae Opera by H. Homeyer (Panderborn 1970).
4 Language, form, or kind of writing.

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the word sermo but they have also reduced the broad connotations that are implicit in the word
style.
The phrase quo eodem genere is also important when considering Hrotsvithas debt. That
St. Johns uses the word form to translate genere, may be misleading. Genere can also mean
fashion or mode. Thus, the phrase can also read by the same fashion or in the same
mode in referring to Terences works. Dronke may have followed St. Johns use of the word
form too literally thereby, again, narrowing the meaning such as he did with style. By using
the word fashion or mode, Hrotsvitha could be referring to dramatic structure, as well as use of
language, meter, or rhythms. St. Johns choice to translate the phrase as the self-same form of
composition makes sense if it is linked with a later phrase in the preface, eius, quem
proponebam imitari (the author whom I have taken as my model). Again, St. Johns has taken
some liberty in translation. The phrase literally translates as of him, whom I have proposed to
imitate, referring to Terence as stated earlier in the preface. Nowhere in the preface does
Hrotsvitha elaborate on the ways she has specifically imitated Terence. She merely
acknowledges his cultoris facundia sermonis, that there is a fascination for his dulcedine
sermonis, that she intends to write quo eodem genere, and that her work is inferior to that eius,
quem proponebam imitari.
There is one last point on understanding Hrotsvithas explanation of her dramatic
writings. Though she states that she intends imitari Terence, she qualifies this by stating that
there are differences between the works and that her goal is to glorify, within the limits of my
poor talent, the laudable chastity of Christian virgins in that self-same form of composition
which has been used to describe the shameless acts of licentious women. It can be concluded
from this phrase that she intends to use the dramatic form and substitute her content for that of
the classical. Therefore, not only is she using Terence as a model for the structure of her works
but as a point of reference by which to create works that contrast and supplant his.
To further support my contention, I will discuss the ways that Hrotsvitha does emulate
Terence in style and form when taken in a broader context than indicated by Dronke and
Newlands yet professed by de Luca.

Style and Form


Katharina Wilson elaborates on several ways that Hrotsvitha used Terence as a model. Her most
compelling evidence is her use of fourth century commentaries on Terence by grammarians
Evanthius and Donatus. These writers carefully broke down various elements in Terences
writings that can be seen reflected in Hrotsvithas.
Evanthius wrote De Fabula in the fourth century, a critique of theatre, which has not
survived. We know of this work through Donatus, who quotes from it extensively in his
Terentian Commentaries, also written in the fourth century. Donatus elaborated on Evanthiuss
commentaries concerning the form and style of Terences works. Here is a model for writing that
fits the style utilized by Hrotsvitha. Although there is no direct evidence that she had read these
two writers, it is conceivable that she would have had access to their writings in the library at
Gandersheim. The similarities are too close for coincidence.
Donatus divides Terences plays into the prologue, dramatis personae, and the tripartite
division of the protasis (exposition), epitasis (development), and catastrophe (resolution).
He goes on to describe seven elements that are prevalent in Terentian drama. These are: (1) an
ability to depict fictive characters realistically and with verisimilitude, (2) a control of emotions
in that they never soar to the heights of tragedy nor sink to vulgar mimesis, (3) an avoidance of
abstruseness, (4) a harmonious whole with a beginning, middle and end, (5) the maintaining of a

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distinction between four or more characters, (6) none of his characters addresses the audience
directly, (7) and the use of dual plots with one theme (Wilson, Ethics, 68). All of these
characteristics can be found in Hrotsvithas plays. (1) Her characters were realistic. They may
grow or change but always within the realm of real possibilities. (2) Her characters maintain
emotional temperance except when relating to God. This may be to create a contrast between
modesty and decorum, which she believed that one should maintain in earthly relationships, and
the ecstasy one experiences in the revelation of God. (3, 4 & 7) Avoidance of abstruseness refers
to focusing all the action of the play on the theme without irrelevant, tangential subplots. This
element coincides with the use of the dual plots; one theme creating a unified whole. Hrotsvitha
used the dual plot device, but controls both plots within a single theme almost as adroitly as
Terence (this was a signature device that he used very successfully in his plays). This is another
stylistic choice that goes against the Aristotelian advice of maintaining a single action in tragedy.
The two remaining elements are also in direct violation of ancient conventions but are prevalent
in Terence and Hrotsvitha. (5) Many scenes include more than four distinct characters on stage
which she manipulates well, maintaining clarity of action. (6) Since the time of Menander, the
chorus had been excluded from plays. It was through the chorus that most interactions between
the audience and the stage occurred. Though the fourth wall is considered by many as a modern
convention, it can be found in the works of Terence and Hrotsvitha whereby the actors totally
ignore the audience. Some scholars take exception to this, citing the use of asides or soliloquies
as a means of acknowledging the audience. However, in Hrotsvithas plays these devices are
only used to communicate with God, not the audience. Though the argument can be made that
prologues and epilogues enjoin the audience, in this case, they are supplementary to the action of
these plays.
In comparing Hrotsvithas plays with that of ancient sources, it becomes apparent that in
choosing a form to emulate, she focused primarily on one that best suited the stories she wanted
to tell. Wilson states:

Her conception of the dramatic genre, while quite different from that of both ancient and
Renaissance theorists, is analogous to late classical and early medieval writers. Hrotsvits
conformity to the general definitions of drama by late Roman and early medieval
theorists and grammarians is quite obvious. (Wilson, Ethics, 58)

Wilson refers specifically to the late Roman grammarians Donatus and Evanthius writing about
Terence.
Another way that Hrotsvitha imitated Terences form was in her use of comedy. Given
the tragic situations in her plays where people, especially the women, tend to die, it is difficult to
understand how her works could be considered comedies. When he discovered them in the
fifteenth century, Conrad Celtis called her plays comedies. Hrotsvitha never uses the term. She
refers to her works as dramatica vinctam serie. Conrad Celtis chose to refer to her works as
Terentian Comedies due to Hrotsvithas preface (Wilson, Ethics, 55). Yet the best argument
for categorizing her plays as comedies may lie in the same reasoning that Terences plays are
comedies. Again, an examination of Donatus clarifies this contradiction through their definition
of comedy. Donatus states: In tragedy, the kind of life is shown that is to be shunned; while in
comedy the kind is shown that is to be followed (Wilson, Ethics, 66) All Hrotsvithas
protagonists base their choices on values seen as blessed in the eyes of God. The conflicts arise
when these values are put to the test. Even though her characters may die, the final achievement

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of being received into Heaven was seen as the ultimate joy to be had by any human, one which
far out weighs any earthly joy. The relationships she portrays are not just between the
characters, but also with the individuals relationship with God. God, though never seen or heard,
in a sense becomes a character in these plays. These plays may ultimately be seen as comedies
because, in the end, the protagonist is sanctified in the eyes of God and a happy ending is
achieved. Wilson concurs stating:

The attempted imprisonment, defilement, or annihilation results in liberation, the


retention of the heroines virginity and transformation - the happy end of joyous
martyrdom. (Ethics, 61)

If we consider the definition of comedy by these fourth century critics (as opposed to earlier
classical critics, like Aristotle), labeling these plays as comedies makes sense. Hrotsvithas
protagonists exemplify how one should live, demonstrating actions to be followed by the
audience. These are not the raucous comedies of Plautus or Aristophanes but the positive
comedy of Terence. Sandro Sticca in his article, Sacred Drama and Comic Realism in the Plays
of Hrotswitha of Gandersheim, discusses this differing idea of comedy in relationship to sacred
drama:
From a historical viewpoint, her imitations of Terence and the insertion of comic scenes
in her religious plays amply demonstrate that Hrotswitha, an author of the tenth century,
was not only capable of correctly classifying Terencic dramas in the genus dramaticum
but possessed, moreover, the necessary mental capacities to engage herself in this literary
genre which will find its greatest illustration in the twelfth century in the comoedia
elegiaca and mimetic tradition. (138)

Finally, Hrotsvitha use of disguises was a popular dramatic device with Terence. In His
Eunuchus, Chaerea has fallen in love with Pamphilla but cannot marry her since she is a slave.
He disguises himself as a eunuch in order to gain entrance to Thais house, where Pamphilla is
living, and rapes her. She is now considered damaged goods even though it is found out that she
is actually a daughter of a Roman citizen and was enslaved unlawfully. Her redemption occurs
when Chaerea reveals that he committed the rape in disguise, and still wishes to marry her. In
Hrotsvithas Pafnutius, Mary is tricked twice through disguise: the first time by a man disguised
as a monk who rapes her, the second by her uncle disguised as a lover who redeems her. In this
case, one disguise led to her downfall and another provided her salvation. Through the
playwrights use of disguises, which created a false sense of security, the audience may feel a
greater empathy toward Pamphilla and Mary. Since both condemned virgins were innocent, their
salvation becomes more poignant as a righting of a terrible wrong.
Though Hrotsvithas plays have correlations in dramatic structure and devices with
Terences writings, (elements which I argue constitute an imitation of style and form), there is
one element that Hrotsvitha deliberately stole and transformed for her own use: the character
Thais.

Thais
A character named Thais appears in both Hrotsvithas plays, Abraham and Pafnutius. I n many
regards, she is the same person as depicted in Terences play, Eunichus, beyond the similarity in
the name. Newlands accounts for Hrotsvithas use of this character by referencing the Vitae
Patrum, a seventeenth century collection of the lives of the saints by Herbert Rosweyde. He was

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attempting a methodical hagiographic criticism by collecting and publishing all the hagiographic
texts he could find. Though the Vitae was compiled centuries after Hrotsvithas death, the stories
Rosweyde collected date back to the early years of the Christian era. One story in particular, Vita
Sanctae Thaisis, closely resembles Hrotsvithas Pafnutius. The earliest known record of the story
of Thais was found in a fifth century Greek text. It tells of the redemption of the courtesan Thais
by the monk Sarapion occurring a century earlier (Rosenthal 103). It is very probable that
Hrotsvitha was familiar with this story and many others about the lives of the saints from the first
millennium of the Christian era. Yet of all the stories that she had to choose from, there may
have been a specific reason to create a dramatic version of this particular saints life in Pafnutius.
Since one of Hrotsvithas goals in writing the plays was to supplant Terence, what better
way than through the appropriation of the character Thais. In the Pafnutius and the Vita, she is
the ideal bona meretrix seeking salvation. Hrotsvitha may have seen the similarities and chose
the Vita Sancta Thais to directly supplant the Eunuchus. Part of her decision may have been that
Thais was a name that her audience would have associated with courtesans. According to James
Curtis Austin, in The Significant Name in Terence, Thais was a common name for courtesans
dating back to Ancient Greece. It is derived from the Greek word for sight with a feminine
suffix. It became associated with courtesans when Menander created a character named Thais
who was the perfect embodiment of the hetaira-type (Austin 110). Terence would have been
familiar with this character type having adapted many of Menanders plays into his own,
including Menanders version of Eunuchus. In this play, though, the courtesans name was
Chrysis. Austin explained why Terence changed the name from Chrysis to Thais in his
adaptation of Menanders play:

Chrysis, for example, which is the name of the courtesan in Menanders Eunuchos, has
no special significance except in a general way, and in that is less suggestive than Thais,
and, besides, it is an equivocal name, that is, it does not indicate that the bearer is
necessarily a courtesan, whereas Thais stamps one indelibly as a perfect example of the
type. (110)

This indelible stamp may have still existed through the tenth century. If this was the case, since
Hrotsvitha had declared in her preface the she would not shirk from confronting the realities of
life through her dramas, she boldly calls her courtesan Thais, knowing the significance of a
character so named would not be lost on her audience. To further her message, Hrotsvitha alters
the fate of her character in relation to that of Terence. In Eunuchus, Thais would always be seen
as a courtesan, not deserving of any societal consideration regardless of her good deeds. How
society perceived her was based solely within a societal context. Her way toward salvation
depended on finding a kind patron to take care of her. Unfortunately, she was not successful.
Hrotsvitha expressed the Christian attitude in Pafnutius believing that even if society rejected
Thais, God would accept her. This firmly places Gods opinion over that of society. Pafnutius
convinced Thais to give up her sordid life and to seek forgiveness from God. She agreed to try,
and ultimately rose above her degradation. Both Thais characters sought a patron in order to
better their lives. Hrotsvitha points out the obvious advantages of having God as ones patron.
Though there are many similarities between the writings of these two playwrights, there
are also several examples of direct contrast. Sometimes the differences can be as telling as the
similarities when considering the level of influence one writer can have on another.

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Imitation
Henry Burgess believes that contrast was Hrotsvithas goal in imitating Terence.

A careful study and comparison of the plays of Terence and Hroswitha with regard to
plot, character development, incident, and dialogue reveal that the nun, in imitating
Terence, was actually more concerned with moral contrasts than with literary parallels.
She wished not to imitate in the modern sense of the word, but rather to produce religious
or moralistic forms of reading that would supplant the irreligious works of the Roman.
(25).

This form of imitation may be better addressed as influence. Hrotsvitha used the works of
Terence as a point of reference whereby to create these new moralistic works. Newlands makes a
point of discussing the differences between the works as a means of supporting her argument but
in fact is supporting Burgess approach to the writing thereby undermining her own belief that
the indebtedness is disingenuous.
In her preface, Hrotsvitha begins by discussing the dangers of reading pagan works yet
seems to understand the attraction. Her goal is to give readers a more edifying and moral choice
that may be equally attractive without risking being corrupted by the wickedness of the matter.
The correlation between Terences Eunuchus and her Pafnutius and Abraham support her intent
to create substitutions when she says:

Wherefore I, the strong voice of Gandersheim, have not hesitated to imitate in my


writings a poet whose works are so widely read, my object being to glorify, within the
limits of my poor talent, the laudable chastity of Christian virgins in that self-same form
of composition which has been used to describe the shameless acts of licentious women.
(St. Johns 1)

In her plays, Thais and Mary exemplify the virtues of the Christianity in direct contrast to the
licentious character of Thais that Terence portrays. Yet, in order to create this contrast she must
show the good with the bad. Therefore she includes some of the wickedness found in the pagan
writers, especially as exemplified in Terences plays, so that she may then clearly demonstrate
the virtues of her Christian teachings through her plays. She justifies her actions by stating:

It is that I have been compelled through the nature of this work to apply my mind and my
pen to depicting the dreadful frenzy of those possessed by unlawful love, and the
insidious sweetness of passion things which should not even be named among us. Yet if
from modesty I had refrained from treating these subjects I should not have been able to
attain my object to glorify the innocent of the best of my ability. For the more seductive
the blandishments of lovers the more wonderful the divine succour and the greater the
merit of those who resist, especially when it is fragile woman who is victorious and
strong man who is routed with confusion. (St. Johns 1)
She chose subjects that her audience would most likely be familiar with found in
Terence. With Thais, she has utilized a character who could be considered an extreme
example of insidiousness achieving the greatest sense of divine succour in the eyes of
God. Newlands states that Hrotsvitha emphasizes the heroic qualities of women beyond

9
Mateer, Hrotsvithas Imitation of Terence: A Matter of Translation, p. 10

that of her sources, both pagan and Christian, for her intention is to redeem the Terentian
young woman from her moral and social ambiguity (373).

Even though she was a canoness, Hrotsvitha was not separated from the world. She was probably
from a wealthy aristocratic family with ties to the court. In addition to her family, she would
have had contact with the court through the Abbess Gerberg, a niece of Emperor Otto I.
Hrotsvithas reputation as a writer had been established previous to the writing of her plays when
Otto II commissioned her to write an epic eulogy to Otto I, a singular honor for a woman.
Gerberg recognized and nurtured Hrotsvithas talent for the glorification of God and wrote letters
commending her work (Cabillon 1). Since her readership went beyond the monastery walls, she
had a unique opportunity to encourage others to stop reading pagan writers by offering them a
more uplifting and moral entertainment. It may have been Terences popularity during her time
that encouraged her to create a substitute for his works. As Newlands ironically points out:

For those who love Terence, she tries to provide a spiritually instructive, Christian
alternative to his six plays: six plays of her own, whose action is conveyed entirely
through dialogue, using scenic alterations of time and place, yet whose themes celebrate
not disgraceful love affairs but the Christian virtue of chastity. (370)

Newlands seems to readily acknowledge the contrasting elements but fails to consider them as
significant in terms of having been inspired by Terence. On the other hand, Wilson elaborates on
this concept as presenting the inversion of the pagan poets themes:

for lascivious women engaged in illicit passion in Terences comedies, she says, she will
substitutes saintly and virginal women triumphing over the temptations of the flesh; for
corrupting pastimes she will substitutes useful Christian instruction. (Florilegium 115)

Wilson further argues that [Terence] offered a formal model that, gave her an opportunity to
present Christian heroines for the glory of God and the edification and salvation of his
creatures, (74). She calls this subversive mimesis, a form of substitution, whereby Hrotsvitha
replaces what she could have seen as the evil found in Terences works with the good of
Christian doctrine through the use of the same form of writing. For Hrotsvitha to be successful in
substituting her works for Terences, she would need to write plays that were similar but served
her Christian agenda. This she does directly through characterization and indirectly through form
as established in the critical writings on Terence by Donatus and Evanthius.
Conclusion:
Hrotsvitha seems to have had other models besides Terence. As a canoness she would
have had access to the extensive library purported to have existed at Gandersheim. I have already
discussed the influence of The Vitae and the works of Donatus and Evanthius. The work of
authors such as Vergil, Horace, Ovid, Bede, Prudentius, St. Augustine and many others can be
seen in her work (Wilson, Ethics, 152). Much has been made about the similarities between her
work and Terences but this should be tempered by the fact that in her preface she both praises
and condemns him. Therefor the complexity of Hrotsvithas indebtedness should not be written
off so lightly based on linguistic similarities. It includes not only that which is the same but
elements that are in contrast.

10
Mateer, Hrotsvithas Imitation of Terence: A Matter of Translation, p. 11

Hrotsvithae Opera: Praefatio

Plures inveniuntur catholici,


cuius nos penitus expurgare nequimus facti,
qui pro cultioris facundia sermonis gentilium vanitatem
librorum utilitati praeferunt sacrarum scripturarum.
Sunt etiam alii,

sacris inhaerentes paginis,


qui licet alia gentilium spernant,
Terentii tamem fingamenta frequentius lectitant, et,
dum dulcedine sermonis delectantur,
nefandarum notitia rerum maculantur.

Unde ego, Clamor Validus Gandershemensis,


non recusavi illum imitari dictando,
dum alii colunt legendo,
quo eodem dictationis genere,
quo turpia lasciviarum incesta feminarum recitabantur

Laudabilis sacrarum castimonia virginum


iuxta mei facultatem ingenioli celebraretur.
Hoc tamen facit non raro verecundari
gravique rubore perfundi, quod,
huiusmodi specie dictantionis cogente

detestabilem inlicite amantium dementiam


et male dulcia colloquia eorum,
quae nec nostro auditui permittuntur accommodari,
dictando mente tractave
et stili officio designavi.

Sed si haic erubescendo neglegerem,


nec proposito satisfacerem
nec innocentium laudem adeo plene
iuxta meum posse exponerem, quia,
quanto blanditiae amentium ad illiciendum promptiores,

tanto et superni adiutoris gloria sublimior


et triumphantium victoria probatur gloriosior,
prasertim cum feminea fragilitas vinceret
et virilis robur confusioni subiaceret.
Non enim dubito, mihi ab aliquibus obici,

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Mateer, Hrotsvithas Imitation of Terence: A Matter of Translation, p. 12

quod huius vilitas dictationis multo inferior,


multo contractior penitusque dissimilis eius,
quem proponebam imitari, sit sententiis.
Concedo; ipsius tamen denuntio,
me in hoc iure reprehendi non posse,

quasi his vellem abusive assimiliari,


qui mei inertiam longe praecesserunt in scientia sublimiori
Nec enim tantae sum iactantiae,
ut vel extremis me praesumam conferre auctorum alumnis;
sed hoc solum nitor, ut, licet

nullatenus valeam apte,


supplici tamen mentis devotione acceptum
in datorem retorqueam ingenium.
Ideoque non sum adeo amatrix mei,
ut pro vitanda reprehensione Christi,

qui in sanctis operatur, virtutem,


quocumque ipse dabit posse, cessam praedicare.
Si enim alicui placet mea devotio, gaudebo;
si autem vel pro mei abiectione vel pro vitiosi
sermonis rusticate placet nulli

memet ipsam tamen iuvat, quod feci, quia


dum prorii vilitatem laboris,
in aliis meae inscientiae opusculis
heroico ligatam strophio,
in hoc dramatica vinctam serie colo,

perniciosas gentilium delicias abstindendo divito.

12
Mateer, Hrotsvithas Imitation of Terence: A Matter of Translation, p. 13

Hrotsvitha Bibliography:

Austin, James Curtis. The Significant Name in Terence. Diss. University of Illinois, 1921.
Burgess, Henry. Hrotswitha and Terence. Proceedings of the Pacific Northwest Conference on
Foreign Languages. 19 (1968): 2329.
Cabillon, Julio Gonzalez. Roswitha. Mon, 19 Aug 1996, accessed Sept. 2001.
<http//:forum.swarthmore.edu/epigone/math-history-list/shexvergrox.>
Case, Sue-Ellen. Re-Viewing Hrotsvit. Theatre Journal. 35 December 1983: 53342.
Coffman, George R. A New Approach to Medieval Latin Drama. Modern Philology. Feb.
1925: 239265 (partial).
Coulter, Cornelia. The Terentian Comedies of a Tenth-Century Nun. The Classical Journal.
24 (1929): 515529.
de Luca, Kenneth. Hrotsvithas Imitation of Terence. Classical Folia. 28 (1974): 89102.
Dronke, Peter. Women Writers of the Middle Ages: A Critical Study of Women from Perpetua to
Marguerite Porete. London: Cambridge Univ. Press, 1984.
Halsall, Paul. Medieval Sourcebook: The Plays of Roswitha, Translated by Christopher St. John.
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Hraszti, Zoltan. The Works of Hroswitha. More Books: The Bulletin of the Boston Public
Library. 3 March 1945: 87119.; 4 April 1945:139173.
Homeyer, H. Hrotsvithae Opera. Panderborn, 1970.
Kuehne, Oswald Robert. The Study of the Thais Legend. Thesis. University of Pennsylvania,
1922.
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239241.
Rosenthal, Constance. The Vitae Patrum in Old and Middle English Literature. Diss. University
of Pennsylvania, 1936.
Sticca, Sandro. Metamorphosis of Medieval into Modern. Translation Spectrum: Essays in
Theory and Practice. Ed. Marilyn Gaddis Rose. Albany: State University of New York
Press, 1981.
-----Sacred Drama and Comic Realism in the Plays of Hrotsvitha of Gandersheim. The Early
Middle Ages, Acta, vol. VI. 1979: 117143.
Wailes, Stephen. Beyond Virginity: Flesh and Spirit in the Plays of Hrotsvit of Gandersheim.
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Walsh, Gerald. The Loud Cry of Gandersheim. America. March 5, 1932: 531533.
Wilhelm, James and Lowry Nelson, eds.Hagiographer, Playwright, Epic Historian. The
Writings of Medieval Women. trans. Marcelle Thiebaux. New York: Garland, Pub., 1994:
171223.
Wilson, Katharina. Hrotsvitha of Gandersheim: The Ethics of Authorial Stance. New York: E. J.
Brill, 1988.
-----Hrotsvit of Gandersheim: A Florilegium of Her Works. Cambridge: D.S. Brewer, 1998.
Zeydel, Edward. Knowledge of Hrotsvithas Works Prior to 1500. Modern Language Notes.
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-----The Authenticity of Hrotsvithas Works. Modern Language Notes. 61.1 Jan. 1946: 5055.

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