Skip to Main Content
Have library access? Log in through your library
Rome and the Mysterious Orient

Rome and the Mysterious Orient: Three Plays by Plautus

Translated with Introductions and Notes by Amy Richlin
Copyright Date: 2005
Edition: 1
Pages: 302
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    Rome and the Mysterious Orient
    Book Description:

    Still funny after two thousand years, the Roman playwright Plautus wrote around 200 B.C.E., a period when Rome was fighting neighbors on all fronts, including North Africa and the Near East. These three plays-originally written for a wartime audience of refugees, POWs, soldiers and veterans, exiles, immigrants, people newly enslaved in the wars, and citizens-tap into the mix of fear, loathing, and curiosity with which cultures, particularly Western and Eastern cultures, often view each other, always a productive source of comedy. These current, accessible, and accurate translations have replaced terms meaningful only to their original audience, such as references to Roman gods, with a hilarious, inspired sampling of American popular culture-from songs to movie stars to slang. Matching the original Latin line for line, this volume captures the full exuberance of Plautus's street language, bursting with puns, learned allusions, ethnic slurs, dirty jokes, and profanities, as it brings three rarely translated works-Weevil (Curculio), Iran Man (Persa),andTowelheads (Poenulus)-to a wide contemporary audience. Richlin's erudite introduction sets these plays within the context of the long history of East-West conflict and illuminates the role played by comedy and performance in imperialism and colonialism. She has also provided detailed and wide-ranging contextual introductions to the individual plays, as well as extensive notes, which, together with these superb and provocative translations, will bring Plautus alive for a new generation of readers and actors.

    eISBN: 978-0-520-93822-9
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

Export Selected Citations Export to NoodleTools Export to RefWorks Export to EasyBib Export a RIS file (For EndNote, ProCite, Reference Manager, Zotero, Mendeley...) Export a Text file (For BibTex)
  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
    (pp. ix-x)
    (pp. xi-xiv)
    (pp. 1-54)

    A few years ago, I began to feel an increasing need for materials I could use in teaching about Roman attitudes toward the people they conquered, especially in Africa and the Near East. Since my undergraduate days I’ve been interested in Roman humor and invective, Roman xenophobia and ethnic stereotyping, and I wanted to teach about Roman attitudes that arguably amount to a kind of racism and are certainly connected with imperialism, and how those attitudes are expressed in comedy and pop culture. HenceRome and the Mysterious Orient.The title takes its form from comedy (“Jeeves and the Impending...

    (pp. 55-108)

    Of the three plays in this volume,Weevil (Curculio)has least to do with the Orient. True, the title character is in Caria during act 1, and returns in act 2 with a story of what happened to him there; later on, he makes up more elaborate stories to serve the needs of his plot. As in many other Plautus plays, Out There is the crucial source of money, food, and slaves—this shows up even in the name of the pimp, “the Cappadocian.” What makesWeevilstand out amongst the plays is its juxtaposition of “here” and “there” and...

    (pp. 109-182)

    Iran Man(in Latin, Persa) is noted as the only extant play by Plautus in which the central character is a slave and accomplishes on his own behalf what the “clever slave” usually accomplishes on behalf of his young master. The characters in this play are all either slaves (Bowman, Einstein, Georgia Moon, Toyboy, Brain Muffin) or lowlifes (Dorkalot the pimp; Fat Jack the freeloader and his hapless daughter Cherry—a rare case of aparasituswith family).

    Western literature is full of parallels for this kind of setting; stories about poor people evidently have wide appeal, and comic stories...

    (pp. 183-272)

    Poenulusposes important problems for making Plautus funny in English, problems that have a lot to teach about what this play originally meant and can still mean.

    The problems start with the title;Poenulusmeans “The Little Punic Guy.” Based on an unscientific survey I took while working on this project, nobody now finds this title funny, and most people had no idea what “Punic” meant. But originally it was a funny title—funny in the wayTowelheadsis funny (or not). When the play was produced, the Romans were in the midst of the Punic Wars, a series of...

    (pp. 273-282)
  10. INDEX
    (pp. 283-288)