Saturday, September 10, 2011


Bénédicte Delignon, Sabine Luciani, Pascale Paré-Rey (ed.), Une journée à Cyrène: lecture du Rudens de Plaute. Cahiers du GITA, 18. Montpellier: Presses universitaires de la Méditerranée, 2011. Pp. 205. ISBN 9782842699185. €19.00.

Reviewed by John Henderson, King's College, Cambridge (

Version at BMCR home site

This mixed bag of papers from a 2010 talk-in between Grenoble and Lyon orbit around their éminence of choice, J. C. Dumont, assembling a group package designed to model project work on a selected text, or at any rate, on a Plautine play. The concentration of a scene-setting introduction plus nine papers meticulously organized three-by- three into sections on 'Composition and genre', 'Characters', and 'Themes and Interpretations', promises a focussed reading of Rud out to start off students into their Latin research assignment on the right foot, while scholarly insights light the way for encouragement and emulation. Thus metrics are conducted ab initio (Chapter 2); discussion of genre and register is couched as 'How to' instruction for a drama script project (Chapter 3); the Gripus piece blocks out line-by-line commentary format (Chapter 6). Sit down, sit down, sit down, you're rocking the boat? At the other extreme (voyage of discovery), Chapter 1 packs in a challenging revisionary appraisal of dramatic structure that deserves to be reckoned with; a provocative analytic tabulation of 'gestures' subtends Chapter 4 (pp. 104-107); the sensitive and stimulating finale emoting over and thinking through Rud's play with 'The Sea' comes as a dose of salts and fresh air. And Chapter 7 gets a special star for latching onto today's metatheatrical vogue (or vague) so as to loosen the soppy moralizing grip of most ropey scholarship on Rud, and pitch crew mates overboard, while parody reels in the play to dry laughs for Ludens. Avast me hearties, a regular keelhauling.

Avant-propos, pp. 11-19 (S. Luciani): resumés Rud and hauls the catch aboard, roping in the rhetorical 'explicatio rudentis' of Cic. De div. 1.127, the continuous chain of events, as iconic puncept for the laws reticulating plot causality; and in a tailpiece suggestion (from P. M. Martin) backing 'filin' over the traditional translation 'cordage' (p. 19). I think you'll find, however, that Rud invests in both netting for trawling and cabling for tugging, towing, and tying (up and down): Arcturus fishes among shoals of men; the storm lands villains and waifs alike, heirloom toys and pieces of eight; Gripus' painter affords tug-of-war over the trunkfish caught in his toils; Labrax is hauled off to court by a halter knotted round the neck (obtorto collo, 835, 868, cf. the neckname 'Trachalio' and the necktie Gripus would need to swing from, 1415).1 Tension and torsion play through the frigging in Plautus' rigging —'rudens' is a 'scream'—and through the tinkling of his tempestuous trinkets—'crepundia' do 'rattle'—both (rudo and crepo).

Chapter 1, pp. 23-40, 'La structure du Rudens' (B. Delignon): pilots past passé approaches to usher home a fivefold pattern of 'movements' swelling to break on the shoreline of justice (tabulation on pp.39-40). The exposition presents the key players in two modes, protatic and 'teichoscopic', programme then self-enactment. Arcs 1 and 5, the short ones, stage the discrepant spectacle of moral disorder (opened by the maid's song), and the rude recovery of (a certain) universal justice through happiness, marriage and liberation, when Gripus gets freedom not riches and Labrax gets crock of gold but not his goldmine gals (with the honest man's monologue for opener). The elaborated core brings on (arc 2: the angling chorus marking the outcome) the first punishment, the godsent storm, wash and spin for the rogues on command but wringing no change out of them, 'while they have more lines' (557-8) to shoot; wreaks the second punishment (arc 3: launched by the dream), manhandling the pimp, not by behind the scenes wire-pulling fiat (miracle), but by teamplay from the squad of good guys sweating to keep the waifs safe at (and for) the altar (on-stage action or shtick); and (arc 4: anchored by Gripus' jig and reel) brings recompense through recognition, as Daemones' godfearing honesty meshes with Fortune to realise the divine scheme of retribution and distribution. Delignon traces liens between scenography—gathering forces into the temple, congregating goodness into the hut—and dramatic registers—lining up tragic dollops from maid, priestess, chorus and comic festivity from laughing slave and audience, glee for the ecstastic goodies, and gloating for the baddies' welcome to Neptune's ball. In between, undulation courses through choppy mixed-register patches of silliness as decoy, humbleness as humility, theatre as common source of pearls and swine, to raise the rafters, lift the rooftiles, and open the house up for reincorporation, for integrity: wet welcome to the clap trap.

Chapter 2, pp. 42-62, 'Plaute, Rudens. Analyse métrique' (M. Griffe): does specimens of chat, recitative, and song (1330-1356; 1205-1226; 906-937b).

Chapter 3, pp. 63-87, 'Deux sujets de leçon et leur méthodologie: <[Comique et tragique dans le Rudens]> et <[Le Rudens de Plaute, une comédie?]>' (C. Filoche): fishes (in 'acts' 1-2) for tragic, comic, tragicomic traits, techniques, stereography; harpoons features of city-to-cove displacement and hooklines of hybridity: meretrices/virgines and adulescentes morphed into girls overboard and starveling fishermen, and the whole play Rudely braced between Arcturus-Sceparnio.

Chapter 4, pp. 91-107, 'Gestes codifiés et gestes caractérisants dans le Rudens' (I. David): picks out the maid embracing mistress à la Euripides and the pimp's nausea as one-off riffs against the sea of regularized behaviour from the company—from the regular cast.

Chapter 5, pp. 109-117, 'Labrax' (J. C. Dumont): lionizes Rud's sell-fish champion of perjury, sacrilege, temple- robbery, as plumbing new depths of buffeting by wind and cuff, and earning a surprise recall for a final 'act' of nicety politesse to retrieve the half-a-trunkful of doubloons while 'waiving' his hold on his hookers. Why (else) shall Plautus' very own 'Wolf-Fish' go to the ball? And finally (p. 117 on vv. 1427-33): edgy ?extra?-dramatic exit-line between actors, or is his invite to the party in recognition of his services to the comedy of romance, gods-peed catalyst of the fair play (of) Rud?

Chapter 6, pp. 119-135, 'Gripus ou la catastrophe. Commentaire des vers 907-937 du Rudens de Plaute' (C. Filoche): counter-heroizes Gripus's anapaestic Big Shot monody at, and as, Rud's metapoetically self-aware tipping point (907-937). Here the agelastic Good Slave turns coat, changes angle, turtle-turns from smallfry extra into basketcase Riddle: tugging on THE rope, trailing its cargo of trovia baited with treasure, he would capsize the Family Circle for his own freedom, and sink Le Happy Ending for one and (us) all; his lines instead rope him in to clinch a communitarian parable of unself-fishness. This is the closest (nowhere close enough) that the dedicated volume will come to winding in the elaborate calling of the trash from the cash: when the pramtoys are fished out one by one, and the pièce de résistance figures the lass as, precisely, sucula, 'windlass' (and 'sowlet/vagina/sacrificial suckling pig for Venus (and for our comely Comeday)', 1170-1171).2

Chapter 7, pp. 139-155, 'Les systèmes de causalité dans le Rudens de Plaute' (N. Boulic): dumps us back on terra firma. See, we keep on falling for Plautus' ploy and swallowing Arcturus' sinker, of dressing Rud up as if a case of moralizing-sentimentalizing Providential Theodicy; when really this is the stake in a jeu d'esprit of parodistic interplay between staple comic stereotypes. Here every sanctimonious invocation of religious, social, legal, codes of legitimacy is all at sea, metaliterarily double-coded and double-crossed by deflationary ascription to the bathetic rules of comic compositional, characterological, license (esp. pp. 151-5 on the script's peppering with telltale 'licet' formulae climaxing in the reductio pazzo at 1211-22). (Mock-)Resolution isn't 'sanctioned', it unravels de rigueur.

Chapter 8, pp. 157-168, 'Justice et droit dans le Rudens' (M. Ducos): tacks through Rud's toying with maritime law, with 'roping' a wrongdoer off to face the beak, and with stipulatio procedure in the showdown (esp. 938-1044).

Chapter 9, pp. 169-182, 'La mer dans le Rudens' (P. Paré-Rey): as omnipresent as it is unrepresentable, the sea separates father from daughter, pimp from kidnapped goldmine; between storm and calm, fortunes fluctuate, as shoreline wavers into ecphrastic virtual space. So the whole script is awash with metaphor, charged with the salt/wit of Neptune's romp (pp.176-7). So what they say is what you get: ita sum, ut videtis (3). But that's no reason to play blind, deaf, and down Rud's rope tricks (p.178)—as if the whole thing doesn't keep stringing us along, telling and showing us it's a scream.


1.   See the reviewer's (apparently trashicomic) Plautus Reader (Bolchazy-Carducci, 2009): pp. 101-14 on 938-1044, at pp.101-02. Showing you the ropes.
2.   Ibid. p.113. Explicating.

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