Erich Segal Academia

Professor Erich Segal taught at Harvard, Yale, and Princeton and was a fellow at Wolfson College, Oxford – a classicist with an eye to the meaning and future of classics. His students at Yale felt, as the New York Times reported, that “Erich Segal does for Latin what Christ did for Lazarus.” His criticism and translations of Plautus have the same verve that he brought to his teaching, and this writer-poet’s translations are enormously playable and scrupulously accurate. His style is lively and enthusiastic and abounds in alliterations and grotesque puns, making them the most readable and actable versions available.


Classical Comedy Classical Comedy (Edited by Erich Segal – 2006) Penguin Classics
Birds/The Girl from Samos/The Brothers Menaechmus/The Eunuch

Erich Segal’s introduction provides a fascinating outline of the evolution of Classical comedy, illuminating the social and literary background to each author’s work. This edition includes individual prefaces to each comedy, a chronological table covering events in both Greek and the Roman republic, suggestions for further reading and explanatory notes.

‘I’ve wined, I’ve dined, I’ve concubined’

Greek Tragedy Oxford Readings in Menander, Plautus, and Terence (Edited by Erich Segal – 2001) Oxford University Press

This anthology documents the origins of modern comedy by examining the evolution of ‘New Comedy’, the Greek genre of which the works of Menander are the only surviving example.

The Death of Comedy The Death of Comedy  (2001) Harvard University Press

In a grand tour of comic theater over the centuries, Erich Segal traces the evolution of the classical form from its early origins in a misogynistic quip by the sixth-century B.C Susarion, through countless weddings and happy endings, to the exasperated monosyllables of Samuel Beckett.

‘…the writing fizzes, the translations are uniformly wonderful and the deep foundations of learning on which the whole project is built are discreetly cupboarded away in a hundred or so pages of endnotes. It is, in more than one sense, a personal history, the record of a lifelong project of investigation into how the popular can be serious, the classicist an entertainer – and in both cases and more importantly still, vice versa.’ Nick Lowe, TLS  TLS Review: Nick Lowe

‘The Death of Comedy … reflects Segal’s deep understanding of live comedy as well as his total immersion in the comic literature written in the languages that he knows well: Greek, Latin, French, and English. His work … is very personal and deeply felt exploration of the comic spirit across several millennia … This is no ordinary criticism of comic literature, although it is the work of a scholar who has taken the trouble to do his homework with the utmost scrupulousness … [but] the rewarding infusion of real showbiz into the analysis of texts that have been subjected to repeated desktop interpretations over the centuries.’ G.W.Bowersock, New Republic

‘Its sweep of knowledge, learning unostentatiously presented, and its atmosphere of unsentimental engagement make the Death of Comedy broad and enlightening. Eminently readable, with flashes of wit and spice, it is the work of a distinguished scholar and creative writer.’ Eric Handley

‘Erich Segal’s introduction to ancient comedy in this book will both interest and delight many readers.’ Hugh Lloyd-Jones

‘Erich Segal’s discussion of Shakespeare’s comic genius is richly informed by his deep knowledge of the classical comedy which influenced Shakespeare. Segal’s brio is all but Shakesperian in its laughing intensity.’ Harold Bloom

Fairy Tale Oxford Readings in Aristophanes (1996) Oxford University Press

This anthology is a ‘must’ for all serious students of Aristophanes. It includes in one volume sixteen of the most important contributions to the study of the only surviving author of Greek Attic comedy who has left us more than fragments.

Plautus Four Comedies Plautus: Four Comedies (1996) Oxford World’s Classics

The Braggart Soldier, The Brothers Menaechmus, The Haunted House and The Pot of Gold. Translated, with Introduction and Notes by Erich Segal.

‘These translations are unrivalled in English. The dialogue is brisk, puns and alliterative strings trip from [Segal’s] pen with an abandon that rivals the master himself, and the lyrics really ache to be sung. It is great theatre!’ Professor Walter Moskalew, Classics Dept, Ball State University

‘… Scrupulously accurate to the meaning and the spirit of the Latin, while, at the same time, dramatically effective as a medium for actors and audience.’ Dr. Richard C. Beacham, University of Warwick

Oliver's Story Caesar Augustus: Seven Aspects (Edited by Fergus Millar and Erich Segal – 1984) Clarendon Press

This book presents seven fresh and original views of Caesar Augustus by an international group of scholars. The papers collected here consider the image which he presented of himself, how historians and poets reacted to him, the nature of his rule, and the representation of the newly-established monarch among his subjects in the provinces.

‘All serious students of Augustus will benefit from these essays.’ The Classical Association of the Atlantic States

‘Sir Ronald Syme has been honoured by seven pieces of scholarship which individually and collectively represent the most important contributions to the study of Augustus for many years.’ Greece and Rome

‘A significant contribution to the image which Augustus wished to establish for himself, among his contemporaries and posterity.’ Latomus

‘A substantial contribution to an important subject …That elusive aristocrat who presided over the most critical period in the history of Rome … Far more than just a collection of honorific essays, it is a substantial contribution to an important subject.’ Times Literary Supplement

‘Fergus Millar and Erich Segal have succeeded in editing a collection of essays by distinguished scholars from several countries. All seven articles contain helpful endnotes and the work as a whole is a valuable contribution to scholarship on the Augustan Age.’ Classical Bulletin

Greek Tragedy Oxford Readings in Greek Tragedy (Edited by Erich Segal – 1983) Oxford University Press

Greek tragedy, the fountainhead of all western drama, is widely read by students in a variety of disciplines. Segal here presents twenty-nine of the finest modern essays on the plays of Aeschylus, Sophocles, and Euripides. All Greek has been translated, but the original footnotes have been retained. Contributors include Anne Burnett, E.R. Dodds, Bernard M.W. Knox, Hugh Lloyd-Jones, Karl Reinhardt, Jacqueline de Romilly, Bruno Snell, Jean-Pierre Vernant and Cedric Whitman.

‘This is a sensational collection for a course in translation … Quite frankly, my students love it, and it has definitely raised the tone of this course in translation. I will always use it.’ W. Jeffrey Tatum, Florida State University

‘A major anthology of useful information, incisive criticism skillfully framed.’ Albert Wachtel, Pitzer College

‘Both classicists and the Greekless have reason for gratitude … for this extremely useful collection….A brief review cannot hope to do justice to such riches.’ E.M. Jenkinson’A very useful collection.’ Greece and Rome

Plautus Three Comedies Plautus: Three Comedies (1968) Bantam

The Braggart Soldier, The Brothers Menaechmus and The Haunted House. Translated, with Introduction and Notes by Erich Segal.

‘Translations made with love, care and enthusiasm … readable and amusing.’ Richmond Lattimore

Euripides Euripides: A Collection of Critical Essays (Edited with an Introduction by Erich Segal – 1968) Prentice-Hall

Erich Segal maintains that Euripides was the boldest and most radical playwright of Ancient Greece, departing from the classic form of tragedy where good ultimately triumphs over evil.  The contributors to this volume agree that Euripides altered the course of tragic theatre, but disagree about the precise nature of his tragic view.  A star-studded cast of critics is represented in this book; and all of them see Euripides as an innovator whose works brought serious drama a great step forward, starting a new type of theatre which is still alive in the works of O’Neill, Lorca and Edward Albee.

Roman Laughter Roman Laughter: The Comedy of Plautus(1968) Harvard University Press

Roman Laughter is the first book in English on Plautus alone and the first study of the theatrical art of Rome’s most popular playwright. One of the central questions Erich Segal pursues is the reason for the unparalleled contemporary appeal of Plautus’ comedies. He argues that the essence of Plautus’ art lies in his farcical inversion of the values and decorum of everyday Roman society. “Laughter is an affirmation of shared values.”

‘A generation on, the influence of Roman Laughter is greater than ever; it remains the key work in English on its author. Segal redefined the critical agenda by showing that the comedies of Plautus – the earliest Latin literature to survive intact, and the purest surviving artefacts of Roman popular culture – were no mere brutish derivatives of elegant Greek bourgeois comedy, but muscular works of mass entertainment that unlaced the authoritarian obsessions of Roman society in the time of Hannibal.’

Roman Laughter: The Comedy of Plautus had revolutionized the study of ancient comedy by showing how the popular entertainment of ancient Rome might open windows into the Roman mind that the writings of the elite kept shuttered.’ Nick Lowe TLS    TLS Review: Nick Lowe