143. Mostellaria (The Ghost) by Plautus (c.188 BC)

Plot:   Young Philolaches has been spending his absent father’s money on wine, women and song, abetted by the slave Tranio. On the return of the father Theopropides, Tranio sets out to hide the goings-on, firstly by suggesting that the house is haunted (to hide the current drinking party) and that they have bought the house next door (to wangle money out of Theopropides, to pay a moneylender). But Tranio is not as clever as he thinks ….

This was the last of the plays in Plautus’ The Rope and other plays, translated by E. F. Watling and published by Penguin (ISBN 0140441360)

My thoughts:  An extra complication allows the play to take another swerve before coming to a sudden and too-convenient ending. The frequent mention of crucifixion also leaves an uneasy echo to the antics of the slaves. 

Favourite lines/passages:

Another great insult :

Tranio : “Phew you stink – mud-begotten clod of goat and pig dung; you stink of dog and goat and garlic!”            page 27

….  and to balance, a compliment

Scapha : “What do you want with a mirror? You can show it more than it can show you.”   page 37

Diversions and digressions:

quinsy : an abcess on the tonsils   (Philolaches : “Oh, that I were a quinsy, to choke the life out of the poisonous old hag!”)

titivate : to make minor improvements to one’s appearance; to groom or spruce oneself up

Personal rating: 5/10

Also in that year:  Rome continues to flex her muscles as a world superpower; defeating Antiochus III again at Magnesia (190 BC), and forcing him to relinquish Asia Minor to Rhodes and Pergamum.

The read in between:  Mr. Mercedes, the first in a crime trilogy by Stephen King. An absorbing read (as he usually is) but very uncomfortable given the recent attacks in  London, Barcelona and most specifically Manchester, which are foreshadowed (without the religious or political motivations) in this book.

Next : Jumping twenty or so years to more Latin comedy with Terence and The Girl from Andros.

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