Bryn Mawr Classical Review

Bryn Mawr Classical Review 2003.12.14

Cesare Questa, Renato Raffaelli, Due Seminari Plautini: La tradizione del testo; i modelli. Ludus Philologiae 11.   Urbino:  QuattroVenti, 2002.  Pp. 282; pls. 19.  ISBN 88-392-0624-8.  EUR 27.00.  

Contributors: Cesare Questa, "Tituli e notae personarum della Casina nel codice J e negli altri Palatini"; Alba Tontini, "La tradizione manoscritta umanistica di Plauto"; Renato Raffaelli, "Un prologo medievale di Terenzio"; Eric W. Handley, "Theme and Variations"; Dario del Corno, "Raccontare il 'fuoriscena'"; Roberto M. Danese, "Modelli letterari e modelli culturali del teatro plautino"; Gianni Guastella, "I monologhi di ingresso dei parassiti"; Renato Oniga, "I modelli dell'Anfitrione di Plauto"; Maurizio Bettini, "I Witz di Gelasimus"; John Barsby, "Terence and his Greek Models"

Reviewed by Michael Fontaine, Amherst College (
Word count: 2066 words

The group of Plautine scholars at the University of Urbino is conducting a unique experiment. In conjunction with their new edition of Plautus, the Editio Plautina Sarsinatis,1 and the annual conference in Sarsina (the Lectura Plautina Sarsinas), they have assumed the task of training the next generation of Plautine scholars personally by setting up a seminar called the "Giornate Plautine," which meets biennially in Urbino and lasts a week. Here, advanced scholars make extended presentations on the principal issues of Plautine scholarship to an audience of about 100 younger scholars, graduate-, and advanced students. The university and a variety of civic organizations (notably the Rotary Club) underwrite the costs of travel, board, and lodging in university halls for about thirty of these attendees. Three such Giornate Plautine conferences have been held so far, in 1998, 2000, and 2002. I myself was fortunate enough to attend last year's meeting, the topic of which was "Plautus in the Ancient Scholars and Grammarians."

The present volume offers some of the lectures from the first two meetings of the Giornate Plautine. In 1998 the theme was "The tradition of the text of Plautus," and in 2000, "Plautus and the models." In his preface (p. 8), Questa explains that, unlike the papers of the Lecturae Plautinae Sarsinates, the essays from the Giornate Plautine were not intended for publication per se; as they were meant to be principally didactic, novelty or originality was never the intent. "Nevertheless, already at the end of the seminar in 1998, we realized that it would have been a shame to let a week of such intense and rich work simply disappear without a trace,"2 and so the editors asked the authors to provide texts that resembled the original lectures as closely as possible. Because the request for publication was made several years after the original presentation, there is some unevenness: three of the essays here are from the first workshop, seven from the second.

Overall this is a very good book and a welcome contribution to Plautine studies. Graduate students and classicists less familiar with Plautus will find a great deal here to help familiarize themselves with the changing trends of scholarship in a field which in the last decade has tended to polarize and produce some odd results (more on that below). Moreover, despite the title of the book, two of the essays (those of Raffaelli and Barsby) deal exclusively with Terence. Both are good, and Terentian scholars ought not overlook them. C. Questa's essay opens the book with a complex discussion of the scene headings in the Casina, providing useful illustrations of corruptions that have affected the text and names of characters. The most substantial changes, which are reflected in his new edition of the Casina, are that 1.) the most ancient spelling of the baliff's name is Olimpio, not Olympio, and 2.) the senex now incorrectly known as Lysidamus was originally anonymous. Appendix I provides a list of all the scene headings for the play found in MSS A, B, V, E, and J. In a second appendix Q. discusses editorial interference in the prologue of the Captivi by the redactor of the Gallica recensio.

A. Tontini provides an authoritative, learned, and thorough account of the Italian humanists' knowledge of Plautus (when only 8 of the 20 plays in the Palatine tradition were commonly known) and reviews in detail a great number of minor manuscripts, remarking both on their contents and their provenance at certain points in time. It might have been helpful, however, had T. explained more clearly how this affects our understanding of the actual text, since none of these manuscripts is very early, and alternate readings contained therein are merely humanist conjectures (as T. notes). T. corrects a historical mistake by showing that the act divisions in our printed editions, which are usually attributed to the edition of Pius (1500), were already acknowledged in some manuscripts of the 1400s, and so the intrusion of act divisions can be retrodated by about a century. But the act divisions do not go back to the earliest manuscripts, and certainly not to Plautus himself, so the gain seems small.

R. Raffaelli argues concisely and persuasively that the Terentian scene depicted in Vat. Lat. 3305, R. 8v (reproduced here in several plates) is a medieval interpretation of the prologue of the Andria, not, as D. H. Wright argued,3 a medieval dispute. R. demonstrates from the scholia Terentiana that the figure in the scene named Calliopius was in medieval times believed to have been a real person who had had the specific role of prologorum recitator. R. also shows that several details in the illustration such as the open book, the verb disputare, and the Romani are allusions to specific lines in the Andria prologue.

E. Handley's essay examines the role that the daily task of collecting drinking water played in Greek drama compared with its role in the Rudens. (It is hard not to express disappointment that H., who has done so much for the study of the Bacchides and Dis Exapaton, did not say more about either play here.) Drawing on Aeschylean satyr plays, Euripides' Hypsipyle and Electra, Menander's Leukadia and Dyskolos, H. illustrates that daily water collection evidently was very important in Greece. When turning to the Rudens, however, following some general remarks and speculations as to the background of the play, the essay concludes rather abruptly with a long translation of vv. 331-7 and 402-484. Some further analysis here as to what the comparison might tell us would have been nice. In two appendices H. then presents texts, translations, and bibliography for two papyri containing water gathering scenes from new comedy: POxy LIX 3966 (Menander's Karchedonios or Phasma (?)) and POxy LX 4024 (Menander's Leukadia).

Del Corno's essay deals with the narration of events that take place completely out of the view of the audience, whether offstage or behind the stage (as in a house, for example) (p. 124). He first reviews Menander's practice of reporting offstage action, which, he says, develops from the messenger's speech of tragedy. Plautus, on the other hand, condenses the narration proper, and amplifies every possible comic nucleus, at the expense of the details that the Attic writers had preferred (p. 126). C. then examines cases of offstage narration in the Casina and the Rudens. To some extent, this is comparing apples and oranges, since our only comparanda for Plautus here are Menander (who was exceptional) and tragedy; and I wonder whether it would have been helpful to examine Terence's approach to narrating offstage events to see whether we may infer anything from that. Nevertheless, although C.'s conclusion that Plautus was an innovator remains a hypothesis, it is a reasonable one.

The important principle quod vides perisse perditum ducas has been all too often neglected in Plautine scholarship, and the following two essays constitute an important and sobering check on those who continue to attempt elaborate and detailed reconstructions of the Greek originals. R. Danese, surveying recent critical approaches to Plautus, strikes a very reasonable tone by reminding us that, outside of the fragments of the Dis Exapaton, we do not possess even a single verse of a Greek original that we know for sure that Plautus used. A moderate, D. introduces and evaluates in turn the extreme positions espoused by O. Zwierlein (that "Plautus" was heavily and anonymously, but not irrecoverably, interpolated in antiquity) and by E. Lefèvre's Freiburg school (that Plautus minimally, if at all, made use of Greek models). He argues instead that it is more sensible to consider the play as a whole rather than to calculate the various percentages owed to Greek, Italian, and Plautine influences. D. discusses the well-known comic fragment preserved in P.Koeln 203 (adesp. 1147 K.-A.), which has been taken variously as Menander's Hydria, Dis Exapaton, or the model of the Curculio, concluding that the papyrus does not permit any of these identifications with certainty. D. then evaluates several recent approaches that attempt to identify a Greek "feel" to a passage (thereby postulating the existence of the Greek comedy from which Plautus presumably took a reference) and other readings that uncover extended literary metaphors hidden away in the texts.

G. Guastella's essay concerning the entrance monologues of the Plautine parasites is excellent. Opening with a doxography of scholarly treatments of the monologues, G. exposes some weak presuppositions held by earlier scholars about Plautus' relations to his models. The extreme positions of Zwierlein and Lefèvre again come in for criticism. G. then presents the well-known fragments of parasite monologues from Greek comedy, the language of which seems to have inspired punning Plautine lines such as Capt. 69-70, iuventus nomen indidit Scorto mihi, eo quia invocatus soleo esse in convivio. G. makes the interesting observation (p. 180) that Plautus uses here practically the same wording as the Greek original but puts the lines in a different place: thus we can see that while Plautus' inspiration was Greek, he has Romanized the lines to such an extent that they constitute a complete rewriting of the model.4

Unfortunately situated after two essays arguing that the search for lost models is futile, R. Oniga's essay begins with a discussion of possible models of the Amphitruo. Candidates for authorship run the gamut from Euripides to Sicilian drama to no model at all, and quite a few comedians in between; O. tentatively suggests (p. 207) that Philemon's (lost) Nyx Makra may have been the original. He then turns to an analysis of the canticum in which the slave Sosia narrates the events of the Teloboian war (vv. 153-262), a song that has attracted a good deal of scholarly attention in the past.5 Oniga discusses the possible influence of the Greek messenger speeches of tragedy and the song's metrical structure, and concludes with an analysis of the canticum's epic language. This final portion grows a bit discursive in pointing out instances of alliteration and individual words that appear in Naevius, Ennius, and Virgil, but the discussion is sound and intelligent.

M. Bettini's essay is occasioned by a joke spoken by the parasite Gelasimus in Stich. 155-6: famem ego fuisse suspicor matrem mihi, nam postquam natus sum, satur numquam fui. This type of joke, or humor as "filiation," recurs in Plautus several times, as B. shows. He discusses the role that threpteria owed to one's parents played in Greece and Rome, both in real life (as far as we can judge) and in literature, making a number of interesting observations (and in an entertaining style). B. concludes with a theoretical discussion of jokes involving self-mockery of the kind practiced by court jesters or Plautine.

J. Barsby justifies the inclusion of his paper on Terence and his models with the claim that (p. 251) "[This paper's] relevance to a collection of essays on Plautus is that an examination of the practice of the later dramatist may shed light on the practice of the earlier." His paper is a useful collection of the parallel passages of Greek comedy and Terence's versions. These include the fragments of Greek comedy quoted by Donatus, other Greek authors, and two short passages preserved on papyrus. Greek and Latin are here set side by side with minimal comment; in cases in which the correspondence in language is slight, however, it might have been helpful to note why the Terentian couplet is thought to derive from the Greek one. B. also discusses Terence's relation to his models in regard to meter, the three-actor rule, prologues, and changes in endings. B. is judiciously conservative and avoids contentious statements, allowing the evidence instead to speak for itself. This makes the essay suitable reading for a seminar on Terence or Roman comedy.

On the whole, there is little to criticize and a great deal to praise here. Even where one may disagree, all of the papers are stimulating, intelligent, and well written. In particular, the essays by Danese and Guastella would make excellent reading in a graduate seminar on Plautus, or for any classicist wanting a critical overview of recent Plautine criticism. Barsby's essay on Terence can likewise serve as a platform for further inquiry. So many books today are written exclusively for an audience either of undergraduates or specialists; this book, intended for graduate students, specialists and nonspecialists, finds a happy mean. Let us hope that future meetings of the Giornate Plautine will result in further volumes.6


1.   Urbino, Edizioni QuattroVenti. The plays are individually edited and released: Casina (ed. C. Questa, 2001) is now available, and, according to an advertisement in the back of the present volume, the following plays will soon be available (none has yet appeared, as far as I know): Vidularia et deperditarum fabularum fragmenta (ed. S. Monda); Asinaria (ed. R. Danese); Curculio (ed. S. Lanciotti); Amphitruo (ed. C. Questa); Aulularia (edd. R. Raffaelli and F. Gori). Questa has also produced a fine edition of all the Plautine cantica (with metrical analyses on the facing page) in the same series (T. Macci Plauti cantica, edidit, apparatu metrico auxit Caesar Questa, Urbino, Edizioni QuattroVenti 1995).
2.   My translation.
3.   "The Forgotten Early Romanesque Illustrations of Terence in Vat. Lat. 3305" in Zeitschr. Fuer Kunstgesch., 1993.
4.   To the bibliography in n. 77 p. 189 add R. Maltby's "The Language of Plautus' Parasites," among the proceedings of the conference "Theatre: Ancient and Modern" (Open University of 1999), available online.
5.   See now too the discussion in D. Christenson's new edition of the Amphitruo (Cambridge 2000).
6.   A few corrigenda: p. 198 line 22: read Hubert for Herbert; p. 265 line 1 thus <have> evidence; p. 261 line 23 love <as> an; p. 275 n. 1: read tampered for tempered.

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