Last Updated on August 7, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 619
Now our loves, our tenderness, our intimacy, our mirth, our dalliance, our talking, our sweet kisses, the close embrace of us lovers equally fond, the soft, dear kisses impressed on our tender lips, the delicious pressing of the swelling bosom; of all these delights, I say, for me and for you as well, the severance, the destruction, and the downfall is at hand, unless there is some rescue for me in you or for you in me. I have taken care that you should know all these things that I have written; now shall I make trial how far you love me, and how far you pretend to do so.
Phoenicium writes this in a letter to Calidorus. Both Pseudolus and Calidorus call it a "wretched" letter, but in many ways it is a masterpiece of rhetoric. She uses imagery to tantalize the besotted Calidorus with a promise of "sweet kisses" and the "delicious pressing of the swelling bosom." She wants to raise Calidorus's desire and also to challenge Calidorus to a test: if he really loves her, he will save her from the grip of the evil Ballio.
You're going to have your girl free and in your arms today.
Pseudolus says this to Calidorus, who is upset because his beloved Phoenicium is about to be sold to Ballio. It is an audacious and highly self-confident statement for a slave to make, especially as Calidorus has no money to buy Phoenicium for himself and Ballio is a tough, crafty opponent. However, it typifies an important theme of the play: slaves or servants can be smarter than their masters. Pseudolus is the universal underdog trickster, used to surviving—and thriving—by his wits. He may be a slave, but in terms of who is as a person, he is the equal (or more) of his masters.
But just as the poet, when he has taken up his tablets, seeks what nowhere in the world exists, and still finds it, and makes that like truth which really is a fiction; now I'll become a poet; twenty minæ, which no-where in the world are now existing, still will I find.
Pseudolus shows his realization that he is up against it, having promised what he has no means to deliver. He likens himself to a poet, creating a new reality ("truth") out of what he can imagine. Critics have likened Pseudolus to Plautus, both witty masters of...
(The entire section contains 619 words.)
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- Critical Essays