141. Amphitryo by Plautus (c.192 BC)

Plot:  Jupiter has seduced Amphitryo’s wife Alcmena, by disguising himself as Amphitryo; the result of which will be the birth of Heracles. Mercury has assisted in the deception by posing as Sosia, their slave. When the real Amphitryo and Sosia return home from the war, Mercury must stall them, and convince them they are mad, and Jupiter must save Alcmena’s reputation.

As usual the Penguin Classic edition, The Rope and other plays, translated by E. F. Watling.

My thoughts: Firmly back in  comedy this time, particularly the scene where Mercury (disguised as Sosia) convinces Sosia that he is not himself.

Sosia : “Well, I don’t know …. Now I come to look at him, and look at myself – I mean I know what I look like, I’ve looked in a mirror before now – he is very like me. ……….. But I can’t understand it … I’m sure I’m the same man I always was. ………… So help me Gods, where did I lose myself?  Where was I translated?  Where did I shed my skin?  Have I gone and left myself at the harbour by mistake?  ……….. I’ll go back to the harbour and tell master all about it. But perhaps he won’t know me either. Well, by Jupiter, I hope he doesn’t! Then I’ll shave my head and stick a freeman’s cap on my noddle.”        pages 245-246

Unfortunately, the scene where Amphitryo confronts Jupiter has been lost, but the editor has again recreated the dialogue, and convincingly enough for my purposes.

Favourite lines/passages:    Mercury and Sosia bantering was a joy

Mercury : “I shall have to put that clever tongue of yours to bed.”

Sosia : “You can’t. She’s not allowed out with strange men.”                     page 241

Diversions and digressions:  Noddle??  Someone’s head, but also a fool.

Personal rating: 5/10

Also in that year:  Antiochus III the Great, king of Syria and self-styled “champion of the Greeks fighting against Roman oppression” tries to expand his Seleucid empire by invading Greece with a 10,000 man army, setting himself against the Romans, Achaeans and Macedonians.

Next : Plautus’ Pseudolus 


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