An Introduction to Plautus Through Scenes: Selected and Translated by Richard F. Hardin
Plautus, Titus Maccius
Hardin, Richard F.
Poetry in Translation
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This collection celebrates a comic artist who left twenty plays written during the decades on either side of 200 B.C. He spun his work from Greek comedies, “New Comedies” bearing his own unique stamp. In Rome the forerunners of such plays, existing a generation before Plautus, were called fabulae palliatae, comedies in which actors wore the Greek pallium or cloak. These first situation comedies, Greek then Roman, were called New Comedies, in contrast with the more loosely plotted Old Comedies, surviving in the plays of Aristophanes. The jokes, characters, and plots that Plautus and his successor Terence left have continued to influence comedy from the Renaissance even to the present. Shakespeare’s Comedy of Errors, Taming of the Shrew, Merry Wives of Windsor, and The Tempest are partly based on Menaechmi, Amphitruo, Mostellaria, Casina, and Rudens; Molière’s L’Avare (The Miser), on Aulularia; Gelbart and Sondheim’s A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, on Pseudolus, Miles Gloriosus, Casina, and Mostellaria; David Williamson’s Flatfoot (2004) on Miles Gloriosus; the Capitano in Commedia dell’Arte, Shakespeare’s Falstaff, and Jonson’s Bobadill all inherit traits of Plautus’s braggart soldiers.I have assembled this collection of scenes with several audiences in mind, besides, of course, readers who like to laugh. First, those (like me) also interested in the classical tradition, comedy above all, and its history. Then I hope to interest people who like doing comedy as well as reading it, feeling the threads tying ancient to modern comic plots and characters. Most or all of these scenes are suitable to use for audition or separate performance. Readers or actors may, I hope, go on to read or see or produce complete plays by Plautus. Which ones to choose? They could do worse than turn to the ones that led Shakespeare, Molière, and Sondheim to write their imitations.
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