139. Trinummus (A Three Dollar Day) by Plautus (c.194 BC)

Plot:  While Charmides is away on business, his son Lesbonicus spends up big, and his father’s friend Callicles must hide the family fortune away to stop it disappearing too; and yet find a way to pay the daughter’s dowry.

My copy was part of The Rope and other plays, a Penguin Black Classic translated by E. F. Watling.

My thoughts:  Not so comic as the earlier plays, with quite a bit of moralising and not much else. A little disappointing after the fun with Aulularia. 

As mentioned in an earlier post, Plautus tended to quite openly purloin his plays from Greek authors, rewrite and rename them for his own audiences. Often the Prologue mentions the original author and title – this one was adapted from Philemon’s Thesaurus (Treasure). But Plautus’ choices of title for his versions are often based on a minor prop or aspect of the play ; the three dollar day in this instance refers to a payment for an impostor to pretend to be a messenger from Charmides to provide an excuse for Callicles to use the hidden treasure to provide a dowry for Lesbonicus’ sister.

Favourite lines/passages:   Upon his return, Charmides offers thanks to Neptune. The language is quite formal compared to his dialogue later, so I assume that is the translator’s way of demonstrating Charmides’ respect to the God.

Charmides : ” …… Treacherous they call thee? Nay, to me thou hast been loyal. But for thy saving hand, thy satellites the demons of the deep had torn in pieces, scattered asunder all that I possessed, and my poor self, athwart the dark grey waters …. What time, like yelping hounds, the whirling winds, … ay, like mad dogs, encompassing my ship, with rains and waves and angry hurricanes, were like to rend our sails, smash yards and tear down topmasts … had it not been for thee and thy propitious grace”                               page 200

Diversions and digressions:  I am working three jobs now : the supermarket, the bookshop and a new job delivering library books to the elderly in nursing homes, so my reading is a little fragmented which may have also contributed to a feeling that this play was a bit lacklustre.

I never realised that Thesaurus originally meant treasure. I like that quite a lot. Nice one, Roget!

Personal rating:  4/10

Next : Still more Plautus with Captivi (The Prisoners)



  1. I never realised that Thesaurus originally meant treasure. I like that quite a lot. Nice one, Roget!

    I have an old thesaurus from my grandparent’s library. I sometimes just take it down and flip pages. I have always loved it, thought it a treasure, even. Wow, I never knew how literal that was!


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