Last Updated on May 6, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 757
The Pot of Gold is an example of Plautus’s dramaturgy at its best. The plot has two strands of action: Euclio’s frantic attempts to keep his pot of gold safe from thieves and Phaedria’s offers of marriage on the very day she gives birth to Lyconides’ illegitimate baby. The two lines of action are skillfully interwoven, the dramatic pace is swift and purposeful, and each scene arises from the last with no digressions. This farce also exhibits Plautus’s verbal exuberance—his punning, his comic alliteration, his idiomatic language, his metrical variety, and his keen sense of timing—to good effect. Few playwrights of that era knew how to handle a joke with such deftness. Merely reading Plautus’s plays—especially in translation—can be tiresome, however. It is necessary to visualize the action taking place on a stage to get some idea of Plautus’s ability.
Plautine drama was quite similar to nineteenth and twentieth century musical comedy in that it used song and dance as part of the action, it was best presented by actors with considerable theatrical experience, and the plays were based on adapted works. Plautus borrowed heavily from the Greek writers of the New Comedy, and it is often conjectured that The Pot of Gold was taken from a play by Menander, although it is impossible to determine which one. The miser has been a stock figure of farce almost from the genre’s inception.
The text of The Pot of Gold is no longer complete, as the conclusion is missing. On the basis of the two “Arguments” summarizing the plot—verses that preface the play, added by later Roman editors—the ending can, however, be reconstructed.
The main interest of this play lies in the character of Euclio. Three generations of poverty, hard toil, and thrift have had their effects on his personality. Euclio is so miserly that the neighbor’s servants make jokes about his stinginess, and when he uncovers a pot of gold in his house, his only thought is to keep it from being stolen. The gold acts as a curse for him. It makes him suspicious of every kind word, every good deed, and every person entering or leaving his house. He even suspects that the cooks are using a rooster to locate his gold. He acts like a madman in his apprehension, distractedly dashing in and out of his home. The gold is a burden that cuts him off from everyone. He does not realize that his daughter is pregnant, learning of the pregnancy only after she has given birth. Such a person invites the very thing that he or she fears.
Ironically, in trying to find the safest hiding place of all, Euclio unwittingly gives himself away and the gold is stolen—an event that only increases his frenzy. In the best scene in the play, when Lyconides tries to tell him that he drunkenly made love to Phaedria, Euclio is so...
(The entire section contains 757 words.)
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