A farcical collection of Roman plays

The Pot of Gold and Other Plays - Plautus, E.F. Watling

Okay, I have made comments on all of the plays in this book, but I wanted to spend a little time looking at the collection as a whole. As I have said time and time again, the difficulty that I have with reading plays is that they are designed to be performed, so when I read them I don't get the same pace and tone as a good actor would produce, and the characters are little more than names on a piece of paper. Also, it is a real shame that these plays aren't really performed all that much (or at least where I come from) because despite the fact that they are two millennia old, I am sure they could still be incredibly funny.

The things that I have noticed in this collection is that despite them being written in Roman times, they are all set in the Greek part of the empire, and generally all involve Greeks. This is not surprising because at this time much of the Roman literature was still being produced by the Greeks, and it wasn't for another two hundred years that Roman literature began to take a life of its own. The Romans were basically farmers and warriors, so they never saw the need to produce literature. However, the Greeks were philosophers and artists, and considered that such pursuits were essential to a well rounded society.

The Greeks weren't necessarily the first artistic culture that the Roman's had conquered. The Etruscans, who lived in modern day Tuscany, were a very artistic culture, and once again they had also heavily influenced the Romans. However it wasn't until they had engulfed the Greek world that art and literature began to a more dominant role. It is around this time that we see the philosophies Epicurius and Zeno beginning to take hold in Rome, though many of the authors would still write in Greek (it wasn't until Aeneas and Ovid that literature was composed in Latin).

Another thing that stood out in this collection was slavery. Time and again Plautus seems to be writing against slavery and creating scenarios where slaves are being released. It almost seems that Plautus had a problem with slavery. However slavery to the Ancient Romans is sort of like coal and oil to us. Yes, granted, there are a lot of people that do not like coal and oil, but we simply cannot do away with it overnight because our modern lifestyle is dependant upon them. Such was the case with slavery – the Greek and Roman lifestyle were dependant upon slaves, and if you suddenly freed all of the slaves then the entire economy would collapse. However, that does not necessarily mean that Plautus was fighting a fools errand, in much the same what that opponents to coal and gas are fighting a fools battle today. What he was doing was using his skill as a playwright to attempt to sway people to change their opinions, and possibly look for a way of living without having to resort to enslaving their fellow humans.


Source: http://www.goodreads.com/review/show/1063028215