3 Plays by Plautus

3 Plays by Plautus

3 Plays by Plautus

3 Plays by Plautus

Synopsis

Roche's translations of Amphitryon, Miles Gloriosus, and The Prisoners clearly illustrate how Plautus' writing has withstood the test of time. Includes an analysis of Plautus' approach to comedy and background on the social and political customs of his times.

Excerpt

Plautus and Us

JUST AS WE need to be told in a way that grips us that man is but a contingent creature subject to sudden disrupting forces, whom it behooves to be modest in his own conceits, we need to be reminded also that this life is neither the time nor place for complete success, that struggle and near-ineptitude are the norm, and perfection only the ideal. The tragedies of Aeschylus, Sophocles and Euripides supremely convince us of the first—in a form that reduces us to tears. The perennially human comedies of Plautus accomplish the second: by holding up a mirror to our foibles and making us laugh at them.

Left to ourselves we are altogether too solemn, even about the seriousness of our plight. Yet the same material that is the breeding ground for sorrows is, on the obverse, a tissue of incongruities and a treasury of human relationships, almost all of which are funny. It is not so much that our failures are absurd, as that our almost militant expectation of perfection in everything is idiotic.

Laughter is the unfailing salve, the right antidote to false proportions. Laughter is our sense of the imperfect: our tolerance of the truth. If ever a truism was self-evident it is that laughter keeps us sane. Yes, laughter shakes up the liver, increases the circulation, releases the glands, punctures pomposity and reduces self-inflation to a heap. At its deepest level it implies a patience with—almost a welcome of—partial success instead of triumph. It implies a metaphysics of enlightened pessimism which is both liberating and consoling because it balances our expectations of the possible with our acceptance of the real.

The genius of Plautus was that he seized those stock human situations which have been a joke since the time of Adam, developed them from the Greek New Comedy, and used them for a tolerant view of man: a view scaled down to the littlest man among us. His characters may only be a distraught father . . .

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