Tuesday, August 10, 2010


Version at BMCR home site
Renato Raffaelli, Alba Tontini (ed.), Lecturae Plautinae Sarsinares XII. Miles gloriosus: (Sarsina, 27 settembre 2008). Ludus philologiae. Urbino: Edizioni QuattroVenti, 2009. Pp. 160. ISBN 9788839208729. €20.00 (pb).
Reviewed by Christopher Bungard, Butler University

[Authors and titles can be found at the end of the review.]

With its twelfth volume, the Lecturae Plautinae Sarsinates, directed by R. Raffaelli and A. Tontino, have continued their substantial contribution to Plautine scholarship, focusing this volume on Plautus' Miles Gloriosus. For those interested in Vorbilder, Nachleben, and historical linguistics, the first four essays will be of interest. For those interested in interpretation of the play itself, the final three essays will be of interest, particularly the contributions of Stockert and Rafaelli.

Mastromarco traces the stock-type of the miles gloriosus through Attic New, Middle, and Old Comedy into Greek fragments predating Aristophanes and ultimately into Homer, particularly through the characters of Paris and Thersites. As is reasonable when dealing with a largely fragmentary body of evidence, Mastromarco concludes that it is not easy to create a precise picture of how the miles gloriosus came to take its ultimate form in Plautus. Though more interested in Pyrgopolynices' predecessors, Mastromarco's discussion is most interesting and useful for readers of Miles Gloriosus at those moments when he directly engages with how the predecessors might help us think about the character of Pyrgopolynices. Of particular interest is his discussion of Plautus' soldier as a Paris without moments of redemption that would support his boasting. Unlike Paris, Pyrgopolynices appears as a soldier who never performs the role of soldier, ending the play in fear of the threats of a slave-cook.

De Melo approaches the question of morphological variation in the fourth conjugation. He observes that both Plautus and Terence generally prefer the older forms, futures in -iam and imperfects in -ibam. Though the innovative -ibo failed to take hold in the third and fourth conjugation, both authors welcomed the innovation with scire (roughly 46% of -ibo futures in Plautus are instances of scire; the number is even higher in Terence, roughly 64%). Though the linguistic discussion is very convincing, de Melo does not fully address the question of how recognizing these variations might impact our reading of the play itself, leaving room for future scholarly inquiry. Readers are left to ponder the significance of scies in 520 and scibis in 1365.

Guastella contributes the lengthiest essay to the collection (57 pages), examining the relationship between the first English comedy, Udall's Ralph Roister Doister, and the comedies of Plautus and Terence. As Guastella makes explicit, the goal of this study is not to tease out Udallian originality from precise points of borrowing from Plautus and Terence. Instead, the goal is to examine how Udall brings together aspects of all the theatrical traditions available, both classical and contemporary, both continental and native English (p. 61). The picture that emerges is one of Udall grafting classical models onto contemporary theater while making significant shifts, such as the shift from a Plautine braggart who boasts alone at the beginning of the play to a Udallian braggart who does so in the middle of the play in the company of the woman he is trying to woo. Even though there seems to be a significant point of comparison between Udall and Plautus as innovators who bring together a classical tradition with local theatrical traditions, Guastella spends much of the essay discussing Udall's relationship with Terence. Similarly to his contribution to Lecturae Plautinae Sarsinates X: on Menaechmi, here again Guastella seems much more interested in the post-classical text than in a discussion of how the connection between texts should influence the way that we read either text.1

Torino examines the role of Latin comedy in the Jesuit theater of the 16th and 17th century. Though Jesuits preferred tragedies to comedies, especially ones with religious plots, the comedies of Plautus, and to a lesser extent Terence, held an important place in Jesuit education for their examples of sermo quotidiana. Torino examines the creative output of the Jesuit Martin du Cygne in order to demonstrate how Jesuits created new plays based on Plautus to train their students in spoken Latin. In particular, he focuses on du Cygne's Gemma in which we find a braggart soldier named Pyrgopolynices and a slave named Harpax. Du Cygne clearly cribs from the opening of Miles Gloriosus, replacing the infamous elephant with a cataphract and his camel. In this play, we also find a nod to Terence's Eunuchus when a Rhodian boy mocks the soldier at a banquet. In the parallel we can see how the Jesuit operation of censoring questionable material from the ancient works. Whereas Terence's Thraso is mocked for a scortum, du Cygne's soldier is mocked for a cicatricem aversam which calls into question the soldier's bravery. It becomes clear through Torino's discussion that Latin comedies held a clear place of distinction in Jesuit education because of their ability to offer instruction in a field that the great Augustan poets could not, sermo quotidiana.

Stockert attempts to explain the riddle of exactly what is meant when Periplectomenus raises the question lautam vis an quae nondum sit lauta at Mil. 787. Should we understand lauta as an adjective ('elegant') or should we understand it as a perfect participle ('washed')? Stockert rejects a purely adjectival meaning. At the same time, lauta does not likely refer to virgin/non-virgin status through the ritual baths of women following birth or exclusion from public baths, as suggested by Hammond et al., Lorenz, or Ernout.2 Drawing on Varro's suggestion that freshly sheared wool was called sucida and that this wool could then be cleansed and dyed easily, Stockert concludes that we are dealing with a puzzle-joke in Periplectomenus' question. At first, the audience is encouraged to think adjectivally ('an elegant lady'), but then the audience is forced to rethink ('an unwashed one'). Palaestrio's request for 'a juicy one' (consucidam) situates us in the obscene realm of a prostitute still eager for sexual encounters. Though Stockert does not say so, this reading also fits well with Palaestrio's interest in a co-conspirator who can be disguised in whatever way, like unprocessed wool, in order to fool Pyrgopolynices.

González-Vásquez briefly addresses the confusion introduced by Lurcio between sorbere and stertere. Lurcio's use of sorbere, as González-Vásquez interprets, suggests an interrupted snoring, rather than continual guttural snoring. There is a brief nod to the appropriateness of sorbere for the comic business of Sceledrus' drinking which dominates and provides the humor of the scene. To emphasize the significance of sorbere as a precise form of snoring overlooks the very real possibility that Lurcio has slipped in his language, much as Artotrogus does in the opening scene when he mistakenly refers to the elephant's brachium instead of its femur. Consequently, González-Vásquez downplays the comic potential of Lurcio, understating his ability in speaking cleverly. In response to Palaestrio's question whether Sceledrus has poured out wine, Lurcio responds that he had not seen Sceledrus do so -"This is how it was: he was ordering me; after that, I was pouring." (vv.848-849). There can be no doubt that the scene assures the audience that it will no longer see Sceledrus, as González-Vásquez notes, but the discussion found in this essay fails to acknowledge the potential of Lurcio as a comic slave, even if only a fleeting one.

The issue of contaminatio is always a tricky one, given the state of Plautine sources, and Raffaelli does well to raise questions for those who see the Sceledrus episode as a moment of contaminatio, while at the same time acknowledging that his discussion cannot definitively settle the question. In particular, Raffaelli examines possible connections between Plautus, an Arabic tale from 1001 Nights, and Euripides' Helen. In the Arabic tale, as in the Miles Gloriosus, we have a secret passageway which enables the lovers' meetings, a character (in this case the cuckolded husband) who believes in the existence of two identical women, and the faithful slave who helps the beloved. Raffaelli acknowledges that we cannot make a sure connection between this tale and Plautus without finding a source that would be available to the author of the Arabic tale and Plautus or Plautus' own source, the author of Alazon. A more secure connection can be made with Euripides, given his general influence on New Comedy and structural similarities between his Helen and Plautus' Miles Gloriosus. Though Helen lacks the underground passage, Raffaelli suggests that we should think of the encounter with Theonoe as a moment of impasse. Like Sceledrus, Theonoe is in a position to betray the lovers to the man who keeps the beloved captive, but in both plays, the potential blocking figure is ultimately convinced to keep quiet, enabling the escape of the lovers. Through the Arabic tale and Helen, Raffaelli is able to raise clearly the possibility that the Sceledrus episode may fit into the overall plot in an organic way, which should urge readers of Plautus to think about how the two main deceptions of the play work together.

Readers looking for sustained discussions of Miles Gloriosus will likely have mixed reactions to this volume as a whole. While there are certainly interesting contributions which deserve more scholarly reflection, there are substantial portions of this volume in which Plautus seems to fade out of the picture, often giving way to lengthy discussions of Terence. At the same time for those primarily interested in Plautus' Miles Gloriosus, the contributions of de Melo, Stockert, and Raffaelli, in particular, provide stimulating discussions on Latin linguistics, Plautus' own use of language, and the ever thorny issue of contaminatio.

Table of Contents:

7-10: C. Questa and R. Raffaelli, "Presentazione"
11-13: R. Raffaelli, "A proposito del Miles Gloriosus"
17-40: G. Mastromarco, "La maschera del miles gloriosus: dai Greci a Plauto"
41-52: W. de Melo, "Scies (Mil. 520) e scibis (Mil. 1365): variazioni accidentali?"
53-109: G. Guastella, "Pirgopolinice, Trasone, Ralph Roister Doister: evoluzioni di un paradigm classic"
111-121: A. Torino, "Pirgopolinice nella Compagnia"
125-130: W. Stockert, "Lautam vis an quae non dum sit lauta? (Mil. 787)"
131-134: C. González-Vásquez, "Quom stertas, quasi sorbeas: Plautus, Mil. 818-823"
135-156: R. Rafaelli, "Un racconto arabo, l'Elena di Euripide e la struttura del Miles di Plauto"
159-160: R. Raffaelli, "A proposito del Mercator"


1.   Similarly, Franko (BMCR 2008.01.27) criticizes Guastella for providing an essay that is longer than it need be.
2.   T. Macci Plauti Miles gloriosus, Edited with an Introduction and Notes by Hammond, Mack, and Moskalew, Cambridge, Mass. 1997; Ausgewählte Komödien des T. Maccius Plautus, erklärt von Lorenz, 3. Bändchen: Miles gloriosus, Berlin 1869; Plaute, IV (Menaechmi-Mercator-Miles gloriosus), Texte établi et traduit par Ernout, Paris 1990.

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