Monday, March 10, 2014

Musings on 'Alcumena in the "Amphitruo" of Plautus: A Pregnant Lady Joke' by Jane Phillips

             In her article, "Alcumena in the "Amphitruo" of Plautus: A Pregnant Lady Joke" Phillips seems to disagree with her scholastic predecessors.  Many scholars have noted that Alcumena is one of the most virtuous female characters in Roman comedy. She behaves as the ideal wife in every way and her prose is more often littered with forgiveness and praise for her husband than indignation he deserves. Many have praised Plautus for his clearly positive (from the Roman standpoint) perspective on women in this play. However, Phillips made the claim that a lot of the humor surrounding Alcumena relies on the visual of an extremely pregnant woman. Phillips believes that Plautus knew that the image of a ridiculously pregnant Alcumena would contrast with her noble speech to humorous results. Also, Philips notes that some of Alcumena's lines in latin are double entendres with sexual references. These references combined with her ludicrous appearance would certainly have served Plautus's comedic motives.
          I found this article very interesting and it definitely affected how I see Alcumena within the bigger scope of the play. It definitely reminded me of the humor to be found in costuming- I will make sure I look very pregnant. But it also reaffirmed to me that Alcumena is a "straightman" in this comedy. In order for her to contribute to the comedy of this play, she must be entirely invested in her problems, which are of a rather serious nature. I think that Alcumena's character should be a contrast to some of the more "hammy" characters in this play like Sosia. Also, I think by conveying a strong sense of indignation and conviction, it will redeem some of the immorality present in this play.

1 comment:

  1. I think you are right to see her as a straightman in this play, especially our version. The idea of her as a comic caricature makes a lot of sense for her monologue on virtus, but is not easily sustainable over the course of the play.