Suggest and discuss books to read (all languages welcome!)
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Post by sal_armele » July 7th, 2009, 4:46 pm

Plautus, Titus Maccius, 254 BC-184 BC

Plautus |ˈplôtəs|
Plautus, Titus Maccius ( c. 250–184 bc), Roman comic playwright. Fantasy and imagination are more important than realism in the development of his plots, and his stock characters are often larger than life.

(Sometime around 254 B.C., in the tiny mountain village of Sarsina high in the Apennines of Umbria, ancient Rome's best-known playwright was born--Titus Maccius Plautus. Born "Plautus" or "splay-foot", he apparently managed to escape his backwoods village at a young age--perhaps by joining one of the itinerant theatrical troupes which commonly traveled from village to village performing short boisterous farces.

We know, however, that at some point the young Plautus gave up his acting career to become a Roman soldier, and this is probably when he was exposed to the delights of the Greek stage, specifically Greek New Comedy and the plays of Menander. Sometime later, he tried his hand as a merchant, but rashly trusted his wares to the sea and at the age of 45, he found himself penniless and reduced to a wandering miller, trudging through the streets with a hand-mill, grinding corn for householders.

Meanwhile, translations of Greek New Comedy had come into vogue and Plautus--who remembered the comedies of Menander from his days as a soldier in Southern Italy--decided to try his hand at writing for the stage. His earliest plays, Addictus and Saturio, were written while he still made a living with his hand-mill. Soon, however, his comedies began to suit the public taste and Plautus was able to retire his hand-mill and devote himself to writing full-time.

Unlike many of his contemporaries, Plautus plays were no mere translation of Menander. He adapted the rough and tumble colloquy of the environments he knew best--the military camp and the marketplace--wild and boisterous like the Roman farces he may have performed in as a young man.

In those days, plays were never performed alone. They were presented at public celebrations and had to compete with chariot races, horse races, boxing matches, circuses, etc ... Since a close translation of a play by the refined Menander would hold little interest for a rowdy Roman crowd, Plautus quickly parted company with the Greek original. He generally took only the outline of the plot, the characters, and selected segments of dialogue--then stepped out on his own. His objective was to entertain. At all costs, he kept the pot of action boiling, the stream of gags and puns and cheap slapstick flowing. Anything to make the audience laugh and keep them from peeking in on the boxing match nextdoor! To this end, Plautus often included scenes in song and dance. Unfortunately, the musical accompaniments to his plays have now been lost.

In all, Plautus composed approximately 130 pieces--21 of which have survived to this day. He was eventually granted citizenship and given permission to assume three names like a true-born Roman. The name he chose for himself was Titus Maccius ("clown") Plautus.

He continued to some extent the social satire of Aristophanes. His Miles Gloriosus refers to the imprisonment of the poet Naevius for satirizing the aristocracy. His Cistellaria alludes to the conflict with Carthage. Epidicius and Aulularia refer to the repeal of the puritanic Oppian Laws. And Captivi and Bacchides mention the wars in Greece and Magnesia. For the most part, however, he preferred the style of the more recent Greek writers like Menander. Along with his younger Roman counterpart, Terence, Plautus kept Greek New Comedy alive for later generations of theatregoers.

Plautus' works have been adapted by many later playwrights. His Amphitryo was the basis for Giraudoux's Amphitryon 38. Menaechmi or The Menaechmus Twins inspired, among others, Shakespeare's The Comedy of Errors and Rodgers' and Hart's The Boys from Syracuse. The Pot of Gold became Moliere's The Miser. And Pseudolus, Casina and several other plays were combined in Stephen Sondheim's A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum.) – wikipedia


OK, I did not want to make another suggestion so soon after Abraham Merritt. But my love of the plays of Plautus cannot wait. This comic Roman writer and plagiarist is my favorite playwright. His treatment of Miles Gloriosus and Psuedolus is the most intriguing. The swaggering braggart and the conniving slave is entrancing. Of the dozen or so plays in his catalog I have seen none to surface. If you have the time and energy to manifest this giant of Roman play makers, please consider him as a worthy addiition to the LibriVox inventory.

Thank you

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Post by kmerline » July 8th, 2009, 12:17 pm

It's a great suggestion, the ancient comedies. We were discussing doing Aristophenes (sp?) a while ago.

Unfortunately I lack the patience to co-ordinate a drama. We really need another classics cum drama fan . . .

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Post by looperboy » August 6th, 2009, 1:46 pm

I have dreamt for a long time that audio versions of Plautus' plays would become available somewhere. There don't seem to be any existence. This would be a great place to put that right.


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Post by elsieselwyn » April 15th, 2019, 2:18 pm

This thread is quite old, but I thought I would revive it with some links to collections of Plautus's plays. I would love to voice some parts if anyone was interested in BC-ing any of Plautus's plays.

The Comedies of Plautus, literally translated into English by Henry Thomas Riley

Volume 1:
Volume 2:

Plautus, translated into English by Paul Nixon

Volume 1 seems to be missing. I could not find it on archive, hathitrust, or gutenberg.
Volume 2:
Volume 3:
Volume 4:
Volume 5:

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Post by mightyfelix » April 15th, 2019, 5:18 pm

Wow, this is quite an old thread. I'm surprised that it's never been picked up, but we still don't have any of this writer's work in the catalogue. I'll go make a note in the Drama forum, where all the people who are likely to be most interested tend to hang out. :wink:

EDIT: Oh, I see you already have posted over there! :9:

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