Sunday, July 24, 2005


Plautus and Wodehouse

P.G. Wodehouse denied ever reading the Roman comic dramatist Plautus. In a letter he claimed, "For some reason Plautus or Terence never came my way." But people persist in finding parallels between the two. George E. Duckworth, The Nature of Roman Comedy (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1952), pp. 432-433, wrote:
In the case of Wodehouse, the resemblances to the plots and characters of Plautus are even more striking. The helpless young man (= adulescens), in love with a fair maiden, depends on the clever valet (= seruus) to extricate him from his difficulties, financial or otherwise, and enable him to wed his love. The hardhearted "bookie" is the modern counterpart of the periurissimus leno, and on occasion a military man is the jealous rival. The plots are stereotyped, the complications are farcical, and the ending is always happy. Even the long and laughable names, such as Augustus Fink-Nottle and Sir Masterman Petherick-Soames, recall Plautus' happy creations. McCracken says: "The finest name in all his works is . . . Stanley Featherstonehaugh Ukridge."
An adulescens is a young man, a seruus (or servus) is a slave, and a periurissimus leno is a lying pimp. McCracken is G. McCracken, "Wodehouse and Latin Comedy," Classical Journal 29 (1933-1934) 612-614, which I have not seen.

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