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3 - Pseudolus

Fake It Till You Make It

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  01 December 2022

Emilia A. Barbiero
Affiliation:
New York University
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Summary

Chapter 3 launches with Pseudolus’ opening scene which revolves around a letter. I explore Phoenicium’s epistle to discern how it determines Pseudolus’ comic course as well as audience expectations about what lies ahead, and consider what a letter composed by a meretrix reveals about literacy and the symbolism of writing on the Plautine stage. Next is the play’s protracted indeterminacy, which flies in the face of its textual exposition. Why is Pseudolus uncertain about how to proceed when he himself recites the letter that so clearly sets out the comic plot? The answer lies in this comedy’s claim to dramatic innovation. Pseudolus tells us that its epistolary interception is new to the comic stage, a nova res which inspires in the schemer a novum consilium that neither he nor we expect. But the play repeatedly undercuts its own novelty, a paradox reified in the element around which its innovation revolves – the stolen letter. I perform a close analysis of the false delivery scene in which this text is put into action, reading for its epistolarity but also laying bare the internal replication it effects and the resultant mise-en-abyme.

Type
Chapter
Information
Letters in Plautus
Writing Between the Lines
, pp. 86 - 126
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2022

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  • Pseudolus
  • Emilia A. Barbiero, New York University
  • Book: Letters in Plautus
  • Online publication: 01 December 2022
  • Chapter DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/9781009168502.004
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  • Pseudolus
  • Emilia A. Barbiero, New York University
  • Book: Letters in Plautus
  • Online publication: 01 December 2022
  • Chapter DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/9781009168502.004
Available formats
×

Save book to Google Drive

To save content items to your account, please confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your account. Find out more about saving content to Google Drive.

  • Pseudolus
  • Emilia A. Barbiero, New York University
  • Book: Letters in Plautus
  • Online publication: 01 December 2022
  • Chapter DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/9781009168502.004
Available formats
×