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Plautus The Theologian

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Chapter Summary

Analytic criticism approached the texts of Plautus as a cloudy, cracked window to be looked through in the quest for the purer, clearer, finer Greek plays that lay behind his Latin surface. Plautus is a wide-ranging but not particularly selective sampling of the religious language circulating in republican Rome. It may be the accident of survival that there is just one play with a mythological plot, portraying the gods in action on the comic stage. Even passing references to myth's portraits of the gods show that the comic playwright was fully alive to the foibles of the traditional gods as well as their powers. Within Plautus's comic universe, they are consistently associated with the drive toward personal satisfaction and the fulfillment of romantic desires. These scripts do not merely preserve the locutions of archaic Roman oral religious culture. They show us Plautus the Theologian reshaping Roman conceptions of the divine.

Keywords: divine power; gods; Jupiter; Plautus's theology; Roman religion



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