Biography of Tito Maccio Plauto (ca. 250-ca. 184 a.C.)

Latin playwright. Only known with some certainty its place of origin, the Umbrian city of Sarsina, where there was born around the year 250 b.c. Faced with a shortage of reliable data about his life, very early was a legend on his person, decorated with elements drawn from his own plays. Thus, tradition has it that Plautus, upon his arrival in Rome, was dedicated to the world of theatre as an actor, where he/she earned an immediate success and a considerable fortune. However, soon he/she was reduced to poverty by his bad luck in business, which led him to become a slave in a mill. Despite having to take turns at the wheel of the mill, Plautus wrote there the Saturio, Addictus comedies and another whose name is unknown to us, with which reached a new fame, who would pursue him until his death in the year 184 BC according to Cicero.

All these news, the most plausible is that linking Plautus since its inception with the world of the theater, something that even in the fictitious name of the author, by all accounts. The nomen Maccius ago necessarily thinking about the character of the atelana fable Maccus, which would come with the news transmitted by Aulo Gelio about activity of Plautus as an actor; on the other hand, the cognomen Plautus can mean either "animal or person of long ears", an adjective that generally applies to dogs, or "person with flat feet", which again we approaching the field of comedy and MIME, where the actors are also called planipedes ("with the barefoot or flat feet").

The comedies

Comedies more than 130 antiquity attributed to Plautus, the scholar romano of the century I framework Terentius Varro said twenty-one comedies as works of this author; Beside these, he/she proposed a set of other twenty works of authorship likely; However, the tradition has wanted that we have only reached the twenty-one first, calls Fabulae Varronianae; of these, the entitled Vidularia is almost lost and other (Cistellaria, Amphitruo, Aulularia, Bacchides) have significant gaps. Thus, preserved comedies of Plautus are: Amphitruo, Asinaria, Aulularia, Bacchides, Captivi, Casina, Cistellaria, Curculio, Epidicus, Menaechmi, Mercator, Miles Gloriosus, Mostellaria, Persian, Poenulus, Pseudolus, Rudens, Stichus, Trinummus, Truculentus and Vidularia.Las comedies of Plautus, as they were those of their Latin ancestors (Andronicus and Nevio), but the adaptation of different comedies Greek of the principal authors of the new comedy (Menander, Difilo and Philemon), by which all are inscribed in the genre of the fabulae palliatae; However only half of the plautinas comedies models are known with accuracy. Anyway, Plautus altered greatly with its adaptations the sense of that kind of comedy; Thus, to the importance that the Greek comedy gave to the plot (usually love affair), Plautus chose to exploit precisely some of the comic and grotesque aspects of these arguments. On the other hand, there are numerous alterations derived from the peculiar metric adaptation of Greek works, and in fact, in contrast to the spoken Greek comedy character, plautinas Fables have a high percentage of lirico-musicales parts (the cantica). Another procedure used by Plautus in adapting their models was that of contaminatio, which consisted in combining elements or scenes from two different comedies. The most common form of contaminatio was the incorporation in a comedy of a scene or reason which in principle were not in the original Greek, taken as a model. Plautus also acts with great freedom when it comes to insert in their comedies of Greek ambience purely Roman subjects. Thus, can talk a romanization of the Greek comedy: while the characters and actions are Greek, Plautus was able to insert numerous colorful notes of a purely Roman taste; Thus, the characters swear by the Roman gods, attending the Forum, seem to walk the own streets of Rome, or when they are in the army, speak legions. In this sense, some elements that seem to come from folk Theatre such as that acquired great importance in the plot of deception and the misunderstandings, taste for parody, the role of some grotesque characters (slave or parasite) or the role that is reserved for mimicry and gestures is guess in his dramatic pieces.

The structure of the works

In regards to the structure of the comedies, opposite what was happening in the new comedy, Plautus comedies have a continuous action and without acts (the divisions of plautinas comedies in acts are based on 16th century). In the prologue, presenting a wide variety, in the Greek new comedy Plautus also shows original; Thus, five of his plays have no prologue (Curculio, Epidicus, Mostellaria, Persian and Stichus); on the other hand, some of the prologues have lost their expository nature; Thus, this part acquires greater agility and serves to arouse the interest of the Viewer to overtake or hide some important issues from the plot, which stands out the surprise factor. In all cases, Plautus tries to bring the prologue to his public and, on many occasions, informs you it on the title and the author of the work that you will represent; also used it to talk to viewers, ask for silence or discuss with them some aspects of the current political and social without forgetting to introduce some other joke.Moreover, in the comedies of Plautus are saved the three rules of classical theater: unity of time, place and action. Only in the case of Amphitruo and Curculio, time unit is broken to start the action at night, and extended until the next morning. There is, however, important shortcomings structural, arising from the desire of Plautus to laugh your audience even at the expense of not respecting the plot; Therefore many repetitions occur and, occasionally, contradictions and oversights, which many critics interpreted as a result of the inability of Plautus to adapt their models. He/She is today thought, on the contrary, that the interest of Plautus was not so much being faithful to a complex plot, but as he/she has been said, do laugh as heterogeneous as the Roman audiences.

The characters

As for the characters, Plautus is not presented as a skilful painter of characters; Once again, leaves the fine psychological characterization of the characters in the new comedy and transforms them into fixed rates, in which has been exaggerated that in them there are grotesque and fantastic: thus, the parasite is Wolverine in excess, the extremely cunning slave and jester or extremely boastful soldier; It is precisely these secondary characters that, in many cases, carry the weight of the action, with its intrigues and deceptions they are capable of creating a theatre within theatre. For the rest of the characters, young (adulescens) is always a lover, concerned only by getting the young object of his desires, so it does not hesitate to put in the hands of a clever slave that help; the old (senex) is usually a father severe, irritable, and contrary to the claims of his son. Usually always ends teased or cheated. Another type of old is the "old green", in love with a young woman and that almost always ends up being white of the jokes and the laughter. Beside these two characters, the slave (servus) is the richest in records: skillful, intelligent, funny, talkative, metiroso, do not hesitate to help his young master at the time helping himself. This character is, in reality, the great discovery of Plautus, because it is the ideal medium for parody and the joke. Proof of its importance are the own titles of plautinas comedies, baptized on occasions with the names of these slaves: Pseudolus or Curculio. Alongside these main characters, others may appear as the parasite (very semenjante the slave), the doctor, the Cook (with a reputation for thief in Rome) or the banker.As for the female characters, they appear almost always relegated to a second term and work many times as a mere counterpoint to a male character or as a simple support of the love story, which was the center of the Greek comedy: the young woman (puella) daughter of a good family or parents unknown in the hands of a pimp appears in scene; much more interesting is the role of the courtesans, hungry for money and always willing to go with the mistress who offers more money are often the subject of caricature; next to this type of "Femme Fatale", there are also examples of kindly prostitutes, really in love of her lovers; nor the matron (uxor) comes out very well: Moody and angry, especially for a woman with good dowry, appears ready to impose its will on the of her husband, which when it leaves scalded all his haughtiness is reduced to a mere object of derision. Another type of woman harshly characterized by Plautus is old wood (anus), drunk and lover of money, whose plans to get rich just commonly wrong.

Language and style

To highlight the alternation between spoken and Sung parts of the comedies, they employed different meters; Thus, in plautinas comedies written in six parts alternate yambicos (meter used in the dialogues between characters which corresponds to the close to the conversation style), in more trocaicos and octonarios yambicos, (meters long, written for recitation and that they were accompanied by the flute) and the cantica, parts sung of the work, where a greater difficulty is given by the richness and variety of the employed meters (creticos(, baquiacos, etc.). Anyway, while the passages in six usually represent largely colloquial speech, should not be forgotten that we have a poetic record and that, therefore, even in these parts of the comedy Plautus is extremely careful with the language, which explains that even here, and usually at the end of the verse appear archaisms.Plautus uses all the stylistic found in other Latin literary works: bimembres and trimembres structures with perfectly symmetrical tail, assonances, anaphora, Alliterations, synonyms (congeries), archaisms, etymological figures build-up This must be added the enormous talent of Plautus for creation of metaphors and its broad domain of the military, loving, religious, and legal language used on many occasions for parody purposes. The comedies of Plautus become, as well, in a perfect blend between a latin literary and colloquial latin, whose presence is warned by the abundant use of colloquial interjections (curse and insult formulas as well com oaths are especially numerous), diminutives with a strong affective and expressive character, redundancies and repetitions and, within the syntax, by the frequent presence of the anacoluthon.On the other hand, Plautus uses on many occasions the popular language to enrich its verses; This lends many words from the semantic fields of the insult, taunt, love or trades. The presence of a large number of words of Greek origin must also explain it by the influence of this popular language of slaves and Freedmen, new resource to provoke laughter in the audience. Plautus appears, as well, as one of the greatest poets in Latin language and one of the most original dramatic authors, in so far as he/she knew how to integrate in its essence Greek fabulae many genuinely Roman elements. From it, the Roman comedy was going to Hellenize increasingly, prompting a greater distance with respect to its public.


Complete editions of the work plautina: B. Goetz-F. Schoell, Teubner, Leipzig, 1892-1904; F leo, Berlin, 1895-1906; W. M. Lindsay, Oxford, 1904-1905; A. Ernout, Budé, Paris, 1932-1940 (with French translation); M. Olivier, Bernat Metge, Barcelona, 1936-1960 (with translations in catalan).

Studios: W. G. Arnott, Menander, Plautus and Terence, Oxford, 1975; L Braun, Die Cantica des Plautus, Göttingen, 1970; G E. Duckworth, The nature of Roman Comedy, Princeton, 1952; E Fraenkel, Plautinisches im Plautus, Berlin, 1922; E Lefevre, ed., Das römischen Drama, Darmstadt, 1978; F read, Plautinische Forschungen, Berlin, 1912; E Paratore, history of the latino Theatre, Milan, 1957; B. Taladoire, Essai sur le comique de Plaute, Monaco, 1956.

Translations: J. B. Xuriguera, the weevil, the captives, host, the pot, the twins, military boastful, Barcelona: Iberia, 1955; V. Blanco García, host, the pot, the captives, Epidicus, three coins, the braggart soldier, Madrid: Aguilar, 1962; V. J. Herrero Llorente, the sale of asses, Madrid: Aguilar, 1966; E Sola Farrés, Aulularia, host, Rudens, Barcelona: Bruguera, 1968; A. García Calvo, Pseudolmedia or Trompicon, Madrid: Cuadernos para el diálogo, 1971; P. A. Martín Robles, comedies, Madrid: Hernando, 1931-1945, 5 vols.; B. García Hernández, host, the Bacchides and the Menaechmi, Madrid: Akal; J. R. Bravo, comedy, Madrid: Cátedra, 1989-1995 (2 vols.).

Teresa Jiménez-Calvente.