Slaves, Masters, and the Art of Authority in Plautine Comedy

Slaves, Masters, and the Art of Authority in Plautine Comedy

by Kathleen McCarthy
     
 

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ISBN-10: 0691117853

ISBN-13: 9780691117850

Pub. Date: 01/12/2004

Publisher: Princeton University Press

What pleasures did Plautus' heroic tricksters provide their original audience? How should we understand the compelling mix of rebellion and social conservatism that Plautus offers? Through a close reading of four plays representing the full range of his work (Menaechmi, Casina, Persa, and Captivi), Kathleen McCarthy develops an innovative model of Plautine

Overview

What pleasures did Plautus' heroic tricksters provide their original audience? How should we understand the compelling mix of rebellion and social conservatism that Plautus offers? Through a close reading of four plays representing the full range of his work (Menaechmi, Casina, Persa, and Captivi), Kathleen McCarthy develops an innovative model of Plautine comedy and its social effects. She concentrates on how the plays are shaped by the interaction of two comic modes: the socially conservative mode of naturalism and the potentially subversive mode of farce. It is precisely this balance of the naturalistic and the farcical that allows everyone in the audience—especially those well placed in the social hierarchy—to identify both with and against the rebel, to feel both the thrill of being a clever underdog and the complacency of being a securely ensconced authority figure.

Basing her interpretation on the workings of farce and naturalism in Plautine comedy, McCarthy finds a way to understand the plays' patchwork literary style as well as their protean social effects. Beyond this, she raises important questions about popular literature and performance not only on ancient Roman stages but in cultures far from Plautus' Rome. How and why do people identify with the fictional figures of social subordinates? How do stock characters, happy endings, and other conventions operate? How does comedy simultaneously upset and uphold social hierarchies? Scholars interested in Plautine theater will be rewarded by the detailed analyses of the plays, while those more broadly interested in social and cultural history will find much that is useful in McCarthy's new way of grasping the elusive ideological effects of comedy.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780691117850
Publisher:
Princeton University Press
Publication date:
01/12/2004
Edition description:
New Edition
Pages:
248
Product dimensions:
6.14(w) x 9.24(h) x 0.50(d)

Table of Contents

Preface ix
Abbreviations and Conventions xiii
CHAPTER I The Crowded House 3
Double Vision 7
Powerful Pleasures 17
The Art of Authority 29
CHAPTER II The Ties That Bind: Menaechmi 35
Rebellion Meets Reconciliation 40
The Cast of Characters 61
CHAPTER III Love's Labour's Lost: Casina 77
A Rake's (Lack of) Progress 84
Comic Husbands and Wives 115
CHAPTER IV A Kind of Wild Justice: Persa 122
The Three Faces of Toxilus 127
The Limits of Farce 158
CHAPTER V Truth Is the Best Disguise: Captivi 167
The Theater of Truth 180
In Dialogue with Farce 201
CONCLUSION The Slave's Image in the Master's Mind 211
Works Cited 215
Index of Plautine Passages 221
General Index 227

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