Monday, December 12, 2011

2011.12.32

Wolfgang de Melo (trans.), Plautus. Casina; The Casket Comedy; Curculio; Epidicus; The Two Menaechmuses. Loeb classical library, 61. Cambridge, MA; London: Harvard University Press, 2011. Pp. 562. ISBN 9780674996786. $24.00.

Reviewed by Peter Kruschwitz, University of Reading (p.kruschwitz@reading.ac.uk)

Version at BMCR home site

In BMCR 2011.04.53, I discussed the first volume of a new Loeb edition of Plautus, undertaken by Wolfgang de Melo. Only months later, the second volume is in hand. This volume comprises the same plays as did Paul Nixon's second volume in the same series: this is an edition and translation of Plautus' Casina, Cistellaria, Curculio, Epidicus, and Menaechmi. Nixon's edition comprised some 490 pages, de Melo's—again— is slightly longer than that.

The increase in pages is due to introductory chapters to each play, provided in the same manner as in the first volume. These chapters, somewhat modestly labelled 'introductory notes', contain short plot summaries, discuss matters of text attributions, of Plautine originality, of quintessential dramaturgy, and they all end with a useful, albeit short, bibliography.

As in the case of the first volume, one may have certain quibbles over the quality of these bibliographies. As regards the Casina, to name but one example, there is only one bibliographical item younger than ten years in de Melo's bibliography (as opposed to some thirty or so that crop up when searching the term 'Casina' on the L'Annee Philologique database. It is not necessary to repeat the same criticism here at great length that I made in the review of the first volume. However, these bibliographies would have been rather more useful if they were up to date, and overall it may be fair to say again that it is largely the literary nature of Plautus' plays, their structure and design, that should have received more attention.

As far as the Latin texts and translations are concerned, I can merely repeat what I said on occasion of the first volume: the constitution of the Latin text deserves praise, and the translations are a substantial improvement in comparison to the predecessor (if slightly less literary in tone). To give but one example of de Melo's fine sense of humour in his translation (and how this compares against Nixon's version), one may look at how each chooses to render an element of verbal humour in Plautus' Curculio. Here, in Plaut. Curc. 414-416, the slave Lyco greets Curculio, who claims his name is Summanus (a double entendre, as Summanus is the name of a deity as well as a noun meaning roughly something like 'trickler'):

LYCO. Summane, salue. qui Summanu's? fac sciam.
CVR. quia uestimenta [mea], ubi obdormui ebrius,
summano, ob eam rem me omnes Summanum uocant.

Nixon's translates this not particularly subtle etymological pun Summanus ~ summano as follows:

Lyco (mockingly) Greetings, Summanus! Why that name? Inform me.
Curc. Well, when I have gone to bed drunk, accidents occur to my clothes; so they call me Summanus

De Melo's translation in turn reads thus:

LYCO. Hello Summanus. How come you're Summanus? Let me know.
CUR. Because whenever I'm drunk, I sure act like some anus. For that reason all men call me Summanus.

Examples for such successful solutions could easily be multiplied, but this one may suffice for the purposes of this review.

I wish to repeat my criticism that, from a typographical perspective, breaking the text down into paragraphs would have enhanced the readability of the text quite significantly. At the same time I also wish to repeat my praise that one must be grateful to de Melo for his rich annotations wherever an immediate understanding of the text otherwise would have been hindered by an obscurity of Plautus' diction.

In short, despite some minor criticisms, the second volume of the new Plautus in the Loeb series vigorously reinforces the overall very positive impression that the first volume had raised. One must congratulate de Melo for his achievement, and it is to be hoped that this editorial project will be completed shortly.

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