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Crossing the Stages:
The Production, Performance and Reception of Ancient Theater


C.B. Davis
School of Drama
University of Washington

Terence Illustrated: From Manuscript to Hyper-Text

The Terence Illustrated project is a hyper-text document on the possible relationship between the medieval manuscript miniatures and the woodcuts in the 15th century Lyon Terence, the model on which subsequent Renaissance editions were based. However, a cursory look will provide the non-specialist with a great deal of general information pertaining to the subject including articles on the transmission of classical texts to the Renaissance, Terence's survival into the medieval period, medieval and Renaissance booth stages, conventions of Roman comedy, Pollux and the masks of the manuscript miniatures and many other "encyclopedic" entries. As the reader progresses deeper into the document it provides increasing access to detailed arguments and primary materials. One extremely useful feature is a hyper-textual model for the manuscript stemma. This allows the student unfamiliar with manuscript tradition a graphic and graduated entry into the details of the relationships between manuscripts, all the way to actual digitized examples from the manuscripts themselves.

Hyper-text is the ideal medium in which to compare texts with illustrations or illustrations with each other, and I have provided links which allow a wide variety of comparative options. There are direct links from the manuscript miniatures to an article comparing the rhetorical gestures described by Quintilian (Inst. Orat. 11) with the gestures in the Terence manuscript illustrations. The article on Quintilian is linked back to the illustrations of each gesture. Examples from the manuscript miniatures of character types, costumes and masks are linked to corresponding descriptions from the text of Pollux.

Similarly, the controversial "Theatrum" woodcut of the Lyons Terence is linked to an article on Renaissance interpretations of descriptions of Roman theatres in Vitruvius. Comparisons between the miniatures and the woodcuts are also available, demonstrating repeated scene break mistakes and semiotic conventions which would seem to directly link the traditional manuscript illustrations with those of the Lyon Terence. Also provided are comparisons between the stages in the Lyon Terence and illustrations of medieval and contemporary "booth" stages. These more detailed levels can be accessed quickly from the pages dealing with general information.

The Terence Illustrated project is still in development but the majority of the text and intertextual framework is there. In demonstrating this document I will use it not merely as a reference work but as a tool for developing exciting classroom debates through easy access to primary materials. One such activity would be to re-open the question of whether or not the miniatures reflect ancient staging practices by comparing the conventions represented there to what can be learned from a variety of instantly available ancient sources: Donatus, Pollux, Vitruvius and the plays themselves. This discussion could in turn stimulate topics for student papers and presentations, such as the reliablity of late evidence and the conventions of medieval narrative art.

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These pages were designed by John Porter.
Last Modified: Monday, 08-May-2006 16:10:34 CST
Please send queries and comments to john.porter@usask.ca.