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"Comedy Tonight!". The Roman World of Plautus Plautus: first writer of musical comedy “ A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum ” opened in 1962.

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Presentation on theme: ""Comedy Tonight!". The Roman World of Plautus Plautus: first writer of musical comedy “ A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum ” opened in 1962."— Presentation transcript:

1 "Comedy Tonight!"

2 The Roman World of Plautus

3 Plautus: first writer of musical comedy “ A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum ” opened in 1962 with Zero Mostel Many were surprised to learn it was a mixture of scenes from Plautine comedy Authors of musical were updating Plautus ’ techniques, just as he had done with his “ sources ” Plautus fountainhead of modern comedy

4 Life of Plautus Titus Maccius Plautus Born at Sarsina in Umbria, ca. 254 B.C. –Recently conquered area –Native speech probably Umbrian, NOT Latin! –Perhaps educated in Rome?

5 Life of Plautus cont ’ d Earned living in theatrical work – “ in the working of the scenes and sets. ” Invested his savings in an overseas trading venture, but lost everything. –Probably traveled himself on this venture. –Acquired knowledge of Greek language and culture?

6 Life of Plautus cont ’ d Arrived back in Rome broke. Went to work in a flour-mill. While working here, he composed his first three plays, produced after 215 B.C. Success allowed him to devote the rest of his life to dramatic composition. Roman Citizen?

7 Life of Plautus cont ’ d Over 130 plays were attributed to him, but Varro claims only 21 genuine: we now have 20 plus fragmentary play. Wildly popular in his day. Died in 184 B.C. –Epitaph: Postquam est mortem aptus Plautus, comoedia luget, scaena est deserta, dein risus, ludus, iocusque Et numeri innumeri simul omnes conlacrimarunt.

8 Roman World in 2nd Century

9 Second Century Rome New, extra-Italian provinces to administer and tax. –Proconsuls, propraetors, etc. –“ Tax-farming ” $$$ In West, Spain provided metals and manpower (slaves) $$$. In East, well-established and wealthy Hellenistic city-states and kingdoms brought increased contact with cultural achievements of Hellenism: philosophy, science, and literature, including dramatic comedy.

10 Roman Theaters Early wooden structures - temporary. Most often free- standing. Very elaborate scene buildings. Later, built of stone, sheathed with marble

11 Theater of Pompey first stone theatre in Rome, 55 B.C.

12 “ Theater District ” of Ancient Rome

13 Odeon of Herodes Atticus, Athens

14 Greek Influence in Plautus ’ Plays Greek “ New Comedy ” (Menander c. 342-293 B.C.) cf. “ Old Comedy ” –Purposefully non-political/escapist –Limited number of stock characters and plot-elements shuffled to produce new plays Characters: the old man (father, grumpy/randy/drunken), the young man (son, angry, amorous, spendthrift), the young lady (prostitute/long-lost noblewoman), the slave (wily, greedy, self-interested) Plot elements: love triangle, frustrated love, get the money, trick the father/uncle/authority figure, slave saves master, etc.

15 Plautus ’ use of Greek New Comedy Formerly thought that Plautus slavishly copied Greek plays. True that in some cases (e.g. The Rope, Casina, Mercator, etc.) we know his plays to have been based on Greek archetypes. But papyri suggest Plautus used considerable ingenuity to shape Greek plays for Roman audience.

16 Plautus and “ New Comedy, ” cont ’ d Fragment of Greek archetype for Bacchides shows that Plautus felt free to cut and/or meld scenes for his Roman purposes and setting. Added new (often rude) jokes, puns, often very specific to Roman culture, much physical comedy Role of stock character, “ The Parasite, ” is greatly expanded - fits Roman client system Character and Plot development less important than immediate comic effect.


18 Plautus and “ New Comedy, ” cont ’ d Much more use of “ metatheatrical ” elements - bringing in the crowd. Dramatic illusion not maintained –(before a long-winded speech) “ O.K., but hurry, the crowd ’ s getting thirsty…. ” In general, much more focus on clever verbal effects like alliteration, word-play, unexpected personifications, and riddling phraseology. –“ …twist the neck of wrongdoing… ”

19 Plautus ’ musical comedy Roman comedy composed in verse Plautus uses many different meters Songs may have made up as much as 40% of each play, some of dialogue also chanted or recited to flute Song and dance routines perhaps Italian influence

20 The “ Magic ” of Plautus Why was he so popular? Secret lies in the context of ancient drama, i.e. religious festival days - official holidays spent drinking, feasting, watching athletic contests, and drama. Holidays as “ inversion ” of the normal Roman world.

21 Roman Festivals and Comic Inversion Licentia and Libertas ruled on festival days, as opposed to the severitas and disciplina of daily routine. Likewise, comedy allows a temporary reversal of social norms: what is not done and said in real life is done and said on the comic stage. “ The joy of release (laughter) is in direct proportion to the severity of the restraint. ”


23 Plautus ’ Comic Inversion So, in Plautus ’ comedies, performed on festival days: –The action takes place in the Greek East (pergraecamini!) –Sons hate/trick/swindle their fathers and mothers –Young aristocrats care nothing for money, only love –Slaves have little real loyalty to or fear of masters, whom they often make ridiculous. –The gods are humanized and humans approach godhead –In sum, the characters are made to act as un-Roman as possible while making jokes that would only make sense in a Roman world. Finis

24 Mostellaria Date: ??? Model:??? Main Characters (note types) –Philolaches: love-smitten son of –Theopropides: foolish, grumpy old man –Tranio: wily slave –Callidamates: drunken friend of Philolaches

25 Plot Summary Grumio and Tranio, slaves of absent Theopropides, argue about Tranio ’ s corruption of Philolaches and the household. Philolaches enters and reveals that he has spent his father ’ s wealth buying the freedom of his sweetie. Philolaches goes to meet his love, and on the way home they meet the very drunk Callidamates with his girlfriend. They go to Phil ’ s place to party.

26 Plot Summary cont ’ d Tranio comes in and announces that dad has come back from out of town. Phil et al. freak out, but Tranio tells them to keep cool and shuts them inside Tranio meets Theopropides outside the house and tells him that it ’ s haunted. The old man is persuaded and departs.

27 Plot Summary cont ’ d Banker comes to collect $ Phil borrowed to buy his lover ’ s freedom. Dad comes back, having found out that the house is not haunted. He hears the banker, and asks why Phil owes money. Tranio lies and says that he has bought the neighbor ’ s (very nice) house. Tranio and Dad go see the “ new purchase. ”

28 Plot Summary cont ’ d Tranio smooth-talks his way inside the neighbor ’ s house with Dad, who is happy with his son ’ s “ investment. ” Theopropides sends Tranio to fetch Phil. Theopropides runs into a servant of Callidamates, who spills the beans. The old man confronts slaves and son, but forgives all.

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