Sunday, February 22, 2009


Ancient Parallels to Curly in The Three Stooges

Juvenal 5.170-173 (tr. Susanna Morton Braund):
The man who treats you like this has good taste. If there is nothing you can't put up with, then you deserve it all. Sooner or later, you'll be offering to have your head shaved and slapped, and you won't flinch from a harsh whipping. That's the kind of banquet you deserve, and that's the kind of friend.

ille sapit, qui te sic utitur. omnia ferre
si potes, et debes. pulsandum vertice raso
praebebis quandoque caput nec dura timebis
flagra pati, his epulis et tali dignus amico.
Gilbert Highet, Juvenal the Satirist (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1954; rpt. 1961), p. 263, n. 7:
Vertice raso in 5.171 is the mark of the stupidus in the mimes, the idiotic morio of private dinner parties (Pliny, Ep. 9.17; Lucian, Convivium 18; Tert. De Spectaculis 23); and pulsandum refers to the alapae of Juv. 8.192 and Mart. 2.72. A clown act called 'The Three Stooges', which used to appear in short film farces during the 1940's, had a perfect stupidus in it, a burly man with a head clipped or shaven smooth, who was always being slapped on it by his quicker and cleverer fellow stooges.
The burly, bald man was Curly Howard. Here are some parallels.

Lucian, The Banquet 18 (tr. Winthrop Dudley Sheldon):
He directed the jester to come in, and say or do something funny, that the guests might be put in still better humor. An ungainly-looking fellow entered, with his head shaven, except a few hairs sticking up straight upon the top, and danced, bending himself far over and twisting his body in every direction, in order that he might appear all the more droll.

ἐκέλευσε τὸν γελωτοποιὸν εἰσελθόντα εἰπεῖν τι ἢ πρᾶξαι γελοῖον, ὡς ἔτι μᾶλλον οἱ συμπόται διαχυθεῖεν. καὶ παρῆλθεν ἄμορφός τις ἐξυρημένος τὴν κεφαλήν, ὀλίγας ἐπὶ τῇ κορυφῇ τρίχας ὀρθὰς ἔχων· οὗτος ὠρχήσατό τε κατακλῶν ἑαυτὸν καὶ διαστρέφων, ὡς γελοιότερος φανείη.
John Chrysostom, On Repentance b 291 (Migne, Patrologia Graeca 59.760, tr. Costas Panayotakis):
Another mimic jester enters; he adopts obscene postures, he has rented himself for money to provoke laughter, he feels ashamed if he is not publicly beaten, he has made his cheeks ready in advance to receive the blows of the doors, he has shaved his hair with a razor, so that not even a single hair can intervene between him and the abuses against him.

Ἄλλος γελωτοποιὸς εἴσεισιν, εἰς αἰσχύνην ἑαυτοῦ διαπλάσασθαι μέλη, γέλωτι μισθώσας τὴν κεφαλὴν, αἰσχυνόμενος ἐὰν μὴ δημοσίᾳ ῥαπίζηται, καὶ τοῖς κτύποις τῶν πυλῶν προευτρεπίζων τὰς παρειὰς, καὶ ξυρῷ τὰς τρίχας περιαιρῶν, ἵνα μηδὲ θρὶξ μεσιτεύηται ταῖς ὕβρεσι.
Tertullian, De Spectaculis 23.3 (tr. S. Thelwall):
Will He be pleased with him who applies the razor to himself, and completely changes his features; who, with no respect for his face, is not content with making it as like as possible to Saturn and Isis and Bacchus, but gives it quietly over to contumelious blows, as if in mockery of our Lord?

placebit et ille, qui voltus suos novacula mutat, infidelis erga faciem suam, quam non contentus Saturno et Isidi et Libero proximam facere insuper contumeliis alaparum sic obicit, tamquam de praecepto domini ludat?
Arnobius 7.33.5 (tr. Hamilton Bryce and Hugh Campbell):
The gods, forsooth, delight in mimics; and that surpassing excellence which has not been comprehended by any human faculty, opens its ears most willingly to hear these plays, with most of which they know they are mixed up to be turned to derision; they are delighted, as it is, with the shaved heads of the fools, by the sound of slaps, and by the noise of applause, by shameful actions and words, by huge red fascina.

mimis nimirum dii gaudent, et illa vis praestans neque ullis hominum comprehensa naturis libentissime commodat audiendis his auris, quorum symplegmatibus plurimis intermixtos se esse derisionis in materiam norunt: delectantur, ut res est, stupidorum capitibus rasis, salapittarum sonitu atque plausu, factis et dictis turpibus, fascinorum ingentium rubore.

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