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Structure and Stagecraft in Plautus' "Miles Gloriosus"

Author(s): Lisa Maurice

Source: Mnemosyne, Fourth Series, Vol. 60, Fasc. 3 (2007), pp. 407-426
Published by: BRILL
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A Journal
BRILL 60 (2007) 407-426

Structure and Stagecraft in

Plautus' Miles Gloriosas

Lisa Maurice
Bar Ilan University, Department Ramat Gan 52900, Israel
of Classics,


Over recent years it has been that Plautus often uses

recognised metatheatricality
to underscore the artificialityof his plays, and theMiles Gloriosus has been high

lighted as a particularlymetatheatrical play.Metatheatricality is strengthenedby

the structureof the play,which consists of two balanced symmetricaltricks.Both
tricksare built of parallel balancing scenes that centre around, and highlight, act
ing and roleplay.This structuredeepens the impact of themetatheatrical elements
the a awareness of the of
running throughout play, inducing greater artificiality
the events acted out on the as each trick stresses the idea of role
being stage,
and drama as a central theme.

By emphasising the nature of roleplay, the structureof the

Miles highlights the
power of drama. The audience observe the of Sceledrus, and witness
duping Pyr
gopolynices' posturing and the illusionwhich he believes to be truth,but fools
one. are then able to contrast this with Palaestrio's ability, which does
They acting
convince his intended audience. TheMiles Gloriosus underscores the paradoxical
nature of drama,which convinces despite being based on nothingmore than illu
sion; the thus demonstrates that herein lies the power of true drama.

Plautus, metatheatricality, stagecraft, structure, Miles Gloriosus

1. Metatheatricality

There has been a growing trend over the last twenty years to focus on the
as well as on the text itself, and a recogni
performance of ancient drama
tion that the text is but one part of the dramatic production. Along with

? Koninklijke BrillNV, Leiden, 2007 DOI: 10.1163/156852507X215445

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408 L.Maurice /Mnemosyne
60 (2007) 407-426

this emphasis on performance a deeper understanding has developed of

the effect that staging and live performance had upon audience perception,
and a realisation that the textmust be understood within such a context.
One element of this context is that the playwright could and did on occa
sion draw attention to the unreal nature of his creation, whereby the play,
which purports to be a representation of truth, is shown to be an artificial

entity, through the deliberate shattering of the illusion of reality. Such an

an on
approach to drama is characterised by emphasis metatheatricality.
What is generally meant by metatheatricality is a conscious underscor
as a as
ing of the play play, whereby drama makes reference to itself drama.
In this approach, the audience is encouraged to view the play on two levels,
both as a pretence of reality and also as an unreal piece of dramatic fiction.
This approach has recently come under attack by Thomas Rosenmeyer,
who objects mostly to the use of the term 'metatheatre', but does not deny
the elements noted by scholars who have favoured the metatheatrical

approach.1} These elements include:

an awareness on the part of characters that are on a as
they stage, they

self-consciously draw attention to their status as actors playing parts;

- a
tendency to improvise, thus usurping the role of the playwright;
usage of the play-within-the-play, as these characters consciously
take on further roles as part of the dramatic action.

Whether we
call these aspects metatheatre' or simply 'theatre' is almost
irrelevant, for if the elements are present, it seems reasonable to speculate
upon the dramatic effects they are likely to have produced, in the context
of a play performed upon a stage rather than a text read in classrooms.
In particular, this approach has been a focus of studies of Roman com

edy, as several scholars have stressed Plautus' metatheatrical style.2) The

Miles Gloriosus has recently been highlighted as a particularly metatheatri

!) 2002.
2) Foremost in this area has been Slater Beacham continued to a
(1985). (1991) develop
based the self-consciousness of Roman drama, while
performance approach, emphasising
(1974, 183-96) stresses the of Plautus' audience. See also Barchiesi
Wright sophistication
1970; Muecke 1986 and Frangoulides 1997.

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L.Maurice IMnemosyne60 (2007) 407-426 409

cal play.3) In this paper I wish to take this claim further and demonstrate
how the structureof the play emphasises acting as an important theme. Some

parallel elements of theMiles have already been highlighted (Saylor 1977),

but the full structure of the play has not yet been analysed indetail. A detailed
examination of the structure reveals a clear and balanced symmetry, built
around twomovements, the firstofwhich centres around a demonstration
of acting ability, and the second around a lesson in effective acting.

2. The Structure of theMiles

A long history of discussion exists about the supposed poor construction

and lack of unity of theMiles, whereby the play is regarded as the result of
contamination two unconnected tricks.4) More recent scholar

ship has highlighted commonality between the two halves and has sug
gested that there is certain amount of unity in the plot.5) In particular,
Charles Saylor has rightly outlined the parallel structure of the two tricks,
as a
considering the play "single artistic composition", and has stressed the
many similarities between the two tricks thatmake up theMiles. This par
allelism may be taken further,however, to reveal two parallel structures
that both are internally symmetrical and also balance each other within the
as a whole, framed
play by the first and last scenes of the play. This struc
ture is depicted in Fig. 1.

Frangoulidis 1994 and 1996; Moore 1998, 72-7. See also Williams 1993, n. 6.
4) See Leo
1912, 175-85 for the earliest statement of this view. Jachman (1931, 163) accepts
this premise. Similarly, Fraenkel (1960, 245-9) states that theMiles is the only Plautine play
that shows definite evidence that Plautus combined two Greek to make one
plays comedy.
Williams (1958) believes that theMiles was based on only one Greek original, but that
Plautus consistently altered this original by inserting sections in the text that gives free
rein to his own creative comic spirit. More recently, Lef?vre (1984) has argued that
the play is based on one Greek original that Plautus has reshaped into a double comedy,
with the inclusion of the twin sister motif that he also uses in the and the
5) Duckworth to the earlier
(1935) objected interpretations of contaminatio, and to Jach
man's views in particular, suggesting that the play presents a unity. Hammond, Mack &
Moskalew (1970, 25-6) note the of Palaestrio and the theme of self
correctly figure
deception unifying factors. Forehand (1973) highlights the imagery that unites the vari
ous elements of the a unified
plot. Leach (1980) considers that Plautus constructed play by
Greek and Roman elements in order to social themes.
blending highlight particular

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O I <3 s fe on

a lover
Pyrgopolynices' Periplectomenus
by (1394-437)
phidippa Philocomasium
vs. Pyrgopolynices


a (874-946)


vs. +

vs. +(354-410)

and (1-78)

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L.Maurice Mnemosyne
I 60 (2007) 407-426 411

3. The Overall Framework: The Rise and Fall of Pyrgopolynices

From this analysis, it can be seen that the first and last scenes of the play
in his success and defeat respectively, and form a
depict Pyrgopolynices
framework for the play as a whole. Two separate tricks take place between
these two scenes, the first against the soldier's slave, Sceledrus, and the
second against the soldier himself. After the initial introduction to Pyrgo

ploynices in the first scene, he disappears for the entirety of the first trick,
which is independent of the second in terms of the action. The first trick,
however, parallels the second by stressing the ideas of roleplaying and act
on the
ing and the illusions created thereby. This emphasis illusory power
of drama highlights the character of Pyrgopolynices, whose whole life is an
illusion. This becomes clear in the last scene, which mirrors the first. In the
first scene, Pyrgopolynices depicts himself as the ultimate lover and a
magnificent soldier; in the last he is beaten by bunch of cooks and slaves
and threatened with castration.6) Thus, the gradual shattering of the illu
sion under which Pyrgopolynices lives is depicted through the symmetry
of the play, and emphasised through the continual stress on acting.7)

4. Internal Structure of the Two Tricks

Symmetry is also found internally in each of the two tricks,which parallel

each other. The first trick is enacted in four central scenes, all of which
feature Sceledrus, and in the central two of which Philocomasium and
Palaestrio also appear. The firstof the four scenes follows immediately after
Palaestrio s theatrical demonstration, and features Palaestrio and Sceledrus;
the last of the four, immediately before Periplectomenus' roleplaying show

piece, features Periplectomenus and Sceledrus. Thus there is a progression

from slave versus slave tomaster versus slave.8) This pattern is repeated in
the second trick,which begins with Palaestrio versus Pyrgopolynices and

7)Moore in theMiles
(1982) has successfully shown how the music highlights the unusual
character of Periplectomenus and emphasises the contrast between the opening crisis and
final resolution, backing up this structure. As he stresses, the music also works to frame

sections, namely the Sceledrus plot, the deceptions of Milphidippa, Acroteleutium, and
Philocomasium respectively and the defeat of Pyrgopolynices.
8) See n. 5, who demonstrates these patterns clearly.
Saylor 1977,

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412 L.Maurice ?Mnemosyne
60 (2007) 407-426

ends with Pleusicles versus the soldier, once again showing a progression
from slave versus master to master versus master.

The apex of both tricks are sections featuring acting. In the firsthalf, the
audience actually witness a performance, as Philocomasium tricks Scele
drus into believing that she has an identical twin sister. The pivotal scene
of the second trick, that featuring Palaestrio's centrepiece of acting instruc
tion and direction, goes back one stage to that of rehearsal,
enabling the
audience towitness the preparatory stages that lead to performances such
as the one one
they viewed in the first half, and the theywill view in the
rest of the structure of the tricks in
play. The general, and the centralised
position of these scenes in particular, interplaywith thewealth ofmetathe
atrical elements that fill the comedy to underscore the importance of act

ing within the context of this comedy. Let us now turn to a detailed
analysis of the pairs of parallel scenes that comprise the two tricks.

5. Structure, Metatheatricality and Acting: The First Trick

5.1. The Delayed Prologue and theLurcio Scene (79-155/813-73)

It is generally accepted that scenes that do little to further the plot are often

dramatically self-conscious.9) TheMiles contains several such scenes, two of

which open and close the first trick involving Palaestrio's defeat of Scele
drus. The first of these is the plays delayed prologue, which begins with
Palaestrio speaking out of character, urging anyone who does not wish to
listen to get up and leave. Bearing inmind that this request comes some
eighty lines into the play, after the featuring Pyrgopolynices, who
may be to have captured the attention of the audience, it is
unlikely that it is to be taken seriously. Rather, the actor is self-consciously
to the as drama. He then moves on to outline the
drawing attention play
trick be played on Sceledrus, again emphasising a metatheatrical aware
ness of the audience as he

9) are the most are many other instances.

Prologues glaring example of this fact, but there
See e.g. Timothy Moore's comments on the Pseudolus (1998,-92-6).
10)The text are my own
throughout is the OCT ofW.M. Lindsay (1904). Translations
unless stated otherwise.

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L.Maurice Mnemosyne
I 60 (2007) 407-426 413

et mox ne erretis, haec duarum hodie vicem

et hinc et illincmulier feret imaginem,

atque eadem erit, verum alia esse adsimulabitur (150-2)

'And so that you won't be mistaken, this woman will take on the appearance

of two people in turn, in thishouse and in thatone, but bothwill be the same
she will to be another'
person, really be pretending

The scene that balances the prologue is themuch-debated scene with Lur
cio. This scene is generally regarded as an addition to theGreek original,n)
and is thought to stand out as a misplaced and unnecessary scene that
breaks up the action of the second trick that has just got underway. If the
structure of the play set out above is scene
accepted, however, the Lurcio
becomes not an isolated scene dangling in the second trick, but rather the
final scene of the first trick.According to this structure, the purpose of the
scene becomes clear.Where the
prologue had presented the audience with
the plan to defeat Sceledrus, the Lurcio scene demonstrates the success of
this plan.12) Palaestrio's intention had been tomake Sceledrus believe that
he had not seen what he had seen. As Leach points out, in this concluding
scene, Sceledrus does not even appear, having resorted to drink, presum

ably to drink ofFhis troubles (Leach 1980, 198-9). Even his cellarmans job
is under threat by the end (857-61). Yet it is not Sceledrus himself who
arrives on stage but Lurcio, Sceledrus' on
underling, and entering, Lurcio
announces that non operaest Sceledro (818), translated as
usually something
like 'Sceledrus isbusy. The word opera has a wide range ofmeanings, from
'service to need' to 'leisure', but as it is a word that can refer to the activity
and efforts of a slave, it is often used by crafty Plautine slaves to indicate
their plans and tricks.13)Thus, Lurcio is also perhaps informing Palaestrio,
and the audience, that Sceledrus has no such plan, and his defeat is plain.
At the end of the scene, he also addresses the audience directly,
the dramatic illusion as Palaestrio had done in the prologue:

n) See
e.g. Fraenkel 1960, 245-6; Williams 1958, 96-9. Leach (1980) believes that the
scene contributes to the the nature of
thematically play, highlighting repressive Pyrgopoly
nices' house and its character as a social unit, which is contrasted sharply with the house of

12) See scene in the first half of the
Saylor 1977, 2, who also places the Lurcio play, but does
expand upon this point.
13) See
e.g Epid. 653-4; As. 734 {mala opera)-, Cist. 777-8.

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414 L.Maurice ?Mnemosyne
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fugiam hercle aliquo atque hoc in diem extollammalum.

ne dixeritis,opsecro, huic, vostram fidem! (861-2)

TU flee somewhere and put off this evil to another day. Don't tell him, I
beseech you'/

5.2. Palaestrio andPeriplectomenus inPerformance (156-271/518-812)

scene is another pair

Immediately after the prologue and before the Lurcio
of scenes that balance each other, both of which contain sections that act
as showcases for theatrical
performances, demonstrating the acting ability
of Palaestrio in the first scene, and that of Periplectomenus in the second.
In both cases, this is highlighted self-consciously, and in each case the sec
ond figure acts as a foil for the first. In the earlier scene, it is Periplecto
menus who a
revels in Palaestrio's acting, in speech that describes his
actions, while in the second it is Palaestrio who glorifies in Periplecto
menus' skill. In the first scene, the main facts (that Philocomasium has
been spotted embracing Pleusicles, and that she should go back to the
soldier's house) are disposed of quickly, within sixteen lines (170-85). A
few lines later,however, the emphasis changes as Palaestrio and Periplecto
menus launch into a self-conscious demonstration of stagecraft, as the
slave mimes, and the old man comments on and interprets Palaestrio's
posture and actions:14)

... illuc sis vide, 200

ad modum adstitit, severo fronte curans

quern cogitans.
cor credo evocaturust
pectus digitis pul tat, foras;
ecce avortit: nixus laevo in femine habet laevam manum,

dextera rationem computat, feriens femur

dexterum. ita vehementer icit: agat aegre 205
quod suppetit.
laborat; crebro commut?t status,
concrepuit digitis:
eccere autem nutat: non (200-7)
capite placet quod repperit.

'Just look at that, now, how he stands there, with frowning brow, considering
and cogitating.With his fingershe's knocking at the door of his breast; he's
to invite his to come out I imagine. There, he turns away.
going intelligence
He restshis lefthand on his leftthigh,and with the fingersof his rightdoes

14) stresses the theatrical

Frangoulidis (1994, 79) quality of this speech.

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L.Maurice Mnemosyne
I 60 (2007) 407-426 415

some calculating.Now he slaps his rightthigh!A rightlustyblow! He's having

a difficult time deciding what to do. Now he's snapped his fingers;what a
at that!He's shaking
struggle!He constantly changes his position. But look
his head; he doesn't like thatnotion.'15)

After one more line that reminds the audience of Palaestrio's status as a
servus callidus non expromet, bene coctum dabit,
{quidquid est, incoctum
'Whatever it is, he won't produce a potboiler, he'll provide a real scorcher'
(208), Periplectomenus continues with the famous lines that have occa
sioned such discussion among critics (209-12), plausibly considered to be
a reference to Naevius,16) but certainly containing a clear reference to a
next line:
poet.17) The metatheatricality isheightened by the eugel euscheme
hercle astitit et dulice et comoedice, 'Hooray! He stands there fittingly, by
a in a comedy' (213). Palaestrio, according to Periplectomenus,
god, like slave
at this point goes into a trance, prompting the old man towake him with
the first piece of extended military imagery in the play (219-30).18)
Palaestrio then lays out his plan at last, punctuated by admiring comments
from Periplectomenus that reinforce his status as a servus callidus: Euge

euge, lepide, laudo commentum tuom_ immo optume.... nimi doctum

dolum..., 'Hooray, hooray, delightful, I praise your scheme... Really won
derful ... Such a clever trick...' (241-8), and the scene ends with Palaestrio's
declaration of his intention to set his plan inmotion.
Several parallel elements may be seen in the corresponding scene at the
end of the trick, lines 596-812, which also features Periplectomenus and
Palaestrio, but with the addition of Pleusicles. The aim of the scene is
ostensibly to set out the second trick to be played Pyrgopolynices, yet,
like in the earlier scene, most of the scene is not devoted to this subject.19)

15) I use here the translation of G. Duckworth the quality of

(1942, 554-5), which captures

Periplectomenus' speech nicely.

Segal 1968, 125; Jocelyn1969, 35 and 1987, 17-20;Rochette 1998, 414-6.
17) See
Frangoulidis 1994, 72-86 for the metatheatrical implication of these lines.
18) Forehand
1973, 6-7.
19) Lines in this scene, the so-called aristeia of Periplectomenus, have been criti
cised as an irrelevant interpolation, and assumed to be a section from the
original Greek
was Plautus' model for theMiles, Leo 1912, 132-3;
play that reflecting Athenian values. See
Webster 1970, 179-80; Grimai 1968, 143-4. Williams (1993, 95) sees the aristeia as a bor

rowing that Plautus has inserted from another Greek play.

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416 L.Maurice ?Mnemosyne
60 (2007) 407-426

Whereas in the first case the plan was quickly disposed of within sixteen
lines, here the plot is delayed until the end of the scene and takes up only
a quarter of the entire scene. As before, most of the scene is devoted to a
demonstration of theatrical ability, but this time not by Palaestrio but by
as the slave becomes the that Peri
Periplectomenus, admiring audience
himself had been in the first scene.
as a senex a stock
Periplectomenus portrays himself explicitly lepidus,
character in Plautine comedy, and Palaestrio backs him up, addressing him
as: o man (649),20) and Pleusicles
lepidum semisenem, charming semi-old
repeats this description ten lines later.21)This stress on the word lepidus
on a theatrical role, that of the
emphasizes that Periplectomenus is taking
lepidus. The theatricality of this role is highlighted by Periplecto
menus' next speech (661-8), inwhich he portrays himself as an actor able
to take on characters atwhim: a fierce advocate or a a
gentle one, congenial
dinner a a caterer, even a ballet dancer. He then
companion, parasite, goes
on to demonstrate this talent, as he takes role after stereotypical role for
almost one hundred lines, portraying himself first as a carefree bachelor
(672-81), then as a henpecked husband (685-700), a Roman patron (705
15), a devoted father (718-22), zpius host (736-9), a sternmaster (745-9)
and a wise philosopher (751-62).22)
lack of comprehension of the nature of acting
In this scene, Pleusicles'
shows up the knowledge of the other two characters. In the second half of
the scene, where the focus shiftsback to the plot of the play and the second
trick to be perpetrated against the soldier is outlined, Palaestrio, having
shown off his star actor, now takes on the role of director-playwright. He
describes the plan that he has devised and the actors he will need to per
form the trick, sends Periplectomenus offwith his orders (765-804), and

20) at his first entrance, he refers

Indeed, when Palaestrio first introduces Periplectomenus
to him as a senex
specifically lepidus (155).
quidem illuc aetatis qui sit non invenies alterum
res nee
lepidiorem ad omnis qui amicus amico sitmagis (659-60)
'You won't find another man of that age more delightful in every way, nor another who
ismore of a friend to a friend'
22) That these are all dramatic parts, rather than serious statements of attitude, is perhaps
underscored by Periplectomenus' lastwords on the subject, as he declares: hau centensumam
a hundredth part
partem dixi atque, otium rei si sit,possum expromere, Tve scarcely told you
of what I could display, if there was time for this' (763-4), for one of the of the
word pars is a theatrical role or character.

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L.Maurice /Mnemosyne
60 (2007) 407-426 417

even some to Pleusicles, to refer to

gives acting instruction reminding him
Dicea rather than Philocomasium.23) Thus, the self-conscious nature of the
at the forefront of the audience's mind.
performance is kept

5.3. The Play inAction: TheDeception ofSceledrus (272-595)

In the central four scenes of the first trick, the audience is treated to a dis
as Palaestrio, Philocomasium and
play of acting ability Periplectomenus all
put on a show for Sceledrus, convincing him that the girl he has seen kiss
ing young man, is really Philocomasium's twin sister. Throughout these
scenes the artificiality of the pretence is stressed
again and again. Thus,
there are constant stage directions,24) as Palaestrio warns Philocomasium to
follow his instructions (354-7) and Periplectomenus gives her orders:

heus, Philocomasium, cito

transcurre curriculo ad nos, ita

exierit Sceledrus a nobis, cito
post, quando
transcurrito ad vos rursum curriculo domum (522-5)

run across at full to our house, you have

'Hey, Philocomasium, quickly, speed,
to! Then, when Sceledrus comes out of our house, run across at
again quickly
full speed to your house'

Similarly, characters comment on what is happening in asides to the audi

ence.2^ Palaestrio declares in glee, meus illic homo est, deturbabo iam ego
ilium depugnaculis, 'Thatman ismine, now Iwill drive him from his strong
holds' (334), comments on Philocomasium's performance {ut utrubique

23) Those who favour the theory of contaminatio have seized upon by these lines with
since they appear immediately after the outline of the
delight, plan involving the fake 'wife',
inwhich the twin sister, Dicea, does not appear at all (see e.g. Jachmann 1931,
165; Fraenkel 1960, 245). As Duckworth has pointed out, however, Palaestrio's words here
can be an instruction to Pleusicles he appears in the role of the ship captain later
that when
on, he must be careful to use the same name for the imaginary twin sister that had been
used earlier; Palaestrio even refers to these instructions later on in the play, when he gives
Pleusicles further orders (1175) (see Duckworth
1935, 231-2). This argument is even more
occur the scenes
convincing when it is noted that both sets of instructions during
and Palaestrio's role as a director are central themes.
24) See also Moore
1998, 74.
25) See Slater
1985, 158-60 on the metatheatrical effect of asides.

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418 L.Maurice /
Mnemosyne60 (2007) 407-426

orationem docte divisit suam, ut sublinitur os custodi cauto, conservo meo,

'how skilfully she changed her speech for each part, how the cautious

guard, my fellow slave, is being bamboozled' (466-7)), and later remarks:

numquam edepol hominem quemquam ludificariermagis facete vidi etmagi'
miris modis, 'By Pollux, I have never seen any man fooled more easily and
in such wonderful ways' (538-9). Similarly Periplectomenus expresses con
cern as towhether she will carry the ne
plan off {nuncpol ego metuo quid
case she makes a mess of it' (526)) and com
infuscaverit, 'now I fear in
ments on Sceledrus' stupidity and the success of their trick (586-95).
These asides are in contrast to frequent comments by Sceledrus himself.
Whereas the other characters' words are addressed to the audience, and
reveal conscious knowledge ofwhat ishappening, Sceledrus' are addressed
to himself and demonstrate his
ignorance of the situation. After his first
encounter with Palaestrio in this section, he explains his dilemma and


quid ego nunc faciam? custodem me illimiles addidit: 305

nunc si indicium facio, interii; <interii> si taceo tarnen,
si hoc fuerit. aut audacius?
palam quid peius muliere
dum ego in tegulis sum, illaec sum ex hospitio edit foras;
facinus fecit audax. hocine si miles sciat,
credo hercle has sustollat aedis totas atque hunc in crucem. 310
hercle est, mussitabo quam inteream male;
quidquid potius
non sese venditat tutarier (305-12)
ego possum quae ipsa

'Nowwhat shall I do? The soldierhas appointed me her guard.Now ifI reveal
it, I'm dead; if I keep silent, I'm dead anyway, if it comes to light.
What is
worse or more than a woman? While I was on the roof, she took
herselfoutside fromher house: By Pollux itwas a daring crime that she did.
If the soldier findsout about this, I thinkhe'll destroy thewhole household
here, and me. whatever I'll
by Hercules, crucify By Hercules, happens, keep
rather than die badly. I can't a woman who's herself!'
quiet guard selling

At the end of the scene, he has a similar speech that shows his bewilder
ment (345-53), and again at the very end of the trick he reveals his confu
sion, totallymisreading Periplectomenus' behaviour, as he believes that the
old man and Palaestrio have tricked him, but is completely mistaken about
the nature of that trick:

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I 60 (2007) 407-426 419

Dedit hie mihi verba, quam b?nigne gratiam

fecit ne iratus esset! scio quam rem
ut, miles a foro adveniat domum,
quom extemplo
domi una hic et Palaestrio
me habent venalem: sensi et iam dudum scio. (576-80)

'He's trickedme. How kindly he pretends thatnot to be angry. I know what

he is as soon as the soldier comes home from the forum, I'll be under
house arrest. This man and Palaestrio have me up for sale, I it and
now I know it.'

The word venalem in this speech picks up theword vendidat in his earlier
words, indicating that nothing has changed; Sceledrus continues to see the
world as he always has, and has not changed his beliefs. Rather his suspi
cions are now confirmed, as he states plainly (580). Yes ironically, although
he is correct to be suspicious, his reading of the situation is completely

wrong, for the actors in the play, Philocomasium, Palaestrio and Periplec
tomenus, have convinced him that he had not seen what he had believed
that he saw.26)The power of illusion, in the form of words and acting, is

stronger than the power of sight upon which Sceledrus depends.

6. Structure, Metatheatricality and Acting: The Second Trick

6.1. Pyrgopolynices'Delusion a Lover (874-946/1377-93)


Although the foundation and explanation of the second trick is found

towards the end of the Sceledrus trick, its implementation actually begins
at line 874, and centres around a
Pyrgopolynices' delusion that he is highly
desirable paramour. It is this fault that is constantly stressed, and which
makes the entire trick possible, and it is in the correction of this fault that
the final resolution comes.
The trick opens with a scene featuring Periplectomenus, Acroteleutium,

Milphidippa and Palaestrio, as they outline the plan. Acting and pretence
are stressed as the heart of the trick, as Palaestrio orders: huius uxorem volo

26) The theme of sight is a central one in the play. See, in the first trick, 147-9; 187-8;
with Saylor
289-93; 336; 341; 345; 368-9; 376-7; 405; 518; 544; 556-7; 564, together
1977, 6.

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420 L.Maurice Mnemosyne
I 60 (2007) 407-426

want you
<ted> adsimulare... quasi militi animum adieceris simulare, T
to pretend to be thisman swife... and to act as ifyou love the soldier'
(908-9). That this pretence is in contrast to the true state of affairs is
asAcroteleutium states her true opinion of the soldiers nature:
populi odium quidni noverim, magnidicum, cincinnatum, moechum unguen
tatum, cHow could I not know that public enemy, the big-mouth, coifFured,
scented sex-fiend?' (923-4). The success of the deception is demonstrated
in the short parallel balancing scene with the slave boy, as he tells the
soldier: intro te ut eas obsecrat, te volt, te
quaerit, teque exspectans expetit,
wants you, she's
amantifer opem, 'She begs that you go inside, she desiring
you, she's for you. Bring hope to someone who's in love'
dying waiting
(1385-7). That he is also acting is clear, however, as, like Acroteleutium
earlier, he follows this up with the true state of affairs: eum oderunt qua viri
qua mulleres, 'They hate him, both themen and thewomen' (1392).

6.2. The Dismissal ofPhilocomasium (947-90/1284-377)

The next pair of scenes stress the theme of drama more directly. In the first,
there is a move from planning the trick to its implementation as the first

stage of the plot is enacted. Palaestrio persuades Pyrgopolynices that there

is a neighbour who is desperately in lovewith him, prompting the soldier's
desire to rid himself of Philocomasium, and advancing the plot along con

siderably. Not only do the audience witness deception and roleplaying in

action, but there are also nuances and double entendres that remind them
that this isnot reality but drama, as Palaestrio also urges Pyrgopolynices to
send Philocomasium away together with ornamenta (981), a word that
means not 'trinkets', but in a dramatic context costume'.27)
In the parallel scene to this,we witness Philocomasium's actual depar
ture.Once stress is upon costume, for,
again the echoing the earlier scene,
to out
Pyrgopolynices orders Palaestrio bring aurum, ornamenta, vestem,

pretiosa omnia, gold, trinkets, clothing, all the precious things' (1302).
Additionally, Pleusicles enters dressed, to his chagrin, as a sea captain and
stresses that it is only for love that he is appearing ornatu, 'in costume'

(1286). then consciously takes on the role he is supposed to be


playing: oratio alio mihi demutandast mea, 'Now Imust change my manner
of speech' (1291).

27) See also Moore

1998, 75-6.

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This scene, the final one inwhich Palaestrio appears, also shows him
a directorial role over the in the first scene he had
keeping play.Where
devised the plan for the soldier and explained to him how to implement it,
here he controls the pace of the action.When the plot threatens to unravel,
as Pleusicles fondles Philocomasium, ostensibly reviving her from the faint
into which she has fallen on seeing it is
supposedly Pyrgopolynices,
Palaestrio who covers up for him. He invents excuses (1330-4), warns the
lovers (1337) and expresses fear of discovery to Pleusicles (1348), while

continually drawing attention from them by acting out his mock grief at
master (1326-8, 1339-41,
being parted from his 1354-72). Palaestrio
remains the playwright and director of the play put on to deceive the sol
dier and entertain the audience, to the end.

6.3. Pyrgopolynices against Palaestrio and theWomen (991-1093/1216-83)

Dramatic self-awareness is even more obvious in the next of scenes,

those featuring the entrapment of Pyrgopolynices, by Palaestrio and the
two women. The first of the two scenes (991-1093) opens with
dippa explicitly referring to the trick she is about to undertake as a
iam est ante aedis circus ubi sunt ludifaciundi mihi, 'the circus, where my

plays must be performed, is already here before the house' (991), and
a piece of
explaining how shewill begin this play with acting: dissimulabo,
hos quasi non videam neque esse hic etiam dum sciam, 'I'll pretend that I
don't see them and that I don't yet know they're here' (992). She then

ostentatiously pretends to check that she is alone, and declares her mistress'
love for the soldier. After the two men approach, the scene is peppered
with dialogue between Palaestrio and Milphidippa that breaks the dra
matic illusion in the play they are putting on for Pyrgopolynices. Milphi

dippa asks for instruction (1020-30), and then urges Palaestrio to end the
scene before it kills her (1084-5). The two also compare notes on their

progress (1066-6a, 1073-4) and talk about Pyrgopolynices behind his back
(1044, 1045, 1078). These actions continually underscore the fact that
Palaestrio and Milphidippa acting, as they step in and out of their roles,
performing for their unconscious audience (Pyrgoploynices) and for the
conscious spectators watching the comedy.28) The irony is heightened by

28) Ibid.

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I 60 (2007) 407-426

own asides
Pyrgopolynices' throughout the scene, forwhereas the actors'
asides demonstrate their control of the situation, the soldier's comments
reveal that he is completely deceived.
This pattern is repeated in the parallel scene where Acroteleutium joins

Milphidippa and Palaestrio, and which opens with words reminiscent of

the earlier scene.Whereas Milphidippa had decided to pretend that she
had not seen the two men, she now tellsAcroteleutium: aspicito limis, ne
ille nos se sentiat videre, 'Look sideways, so that he won't realise thatwe see
him' (1217). As Milphidippa had done earlier,Acroteleutium takes on her

acting role consciously, using theword mala, often used of the servus calli
dus, and urging her maid: edepol nunc nos tempus est malas peiores fieri,
'wow! Now it is time for us wicked to become worse!' (1218), and
ne parce vocem, ut audiat, 'Don't spare
gives her instruction as she talks:
your voice, so he can hear' (1220). With the knowledge that the two
women are in on to a
acting firmly place, Acroteleutium goes give dazzling
performance, ostentatiously pretending exaggerated love, while Pyrgop
olynices drinks in everyword, providing a double show for the audience.

6.4. The Philocomasium Thread Continues (1094-136/1200-15)

Two more short scenes, inwhich the audience see the continuation of the
Philocomasium theme, provide the frame for the central, pivotal scene of
the trick. In the first of the scenes Palaestrio urges the soldier to talk to
Philocomasium himself and send her away with all the gifts he had given
her; in the second, we see the result of this conversation. Although the
audience do not see Philocomasium's acting at this point, theywill know,

coming as it does straight after the scene featuring Milphidippa, that it

follows much the same pattern as that already demonstrated by the slave
at the scene starring Acroteleutium,
girl. Similarly, beginning of the
audience expectation builds upon the successful methods employed by
Philocomasium in the previous scene and adds to the richness of the

impression.29) It is clear that Philocomasium has played her part magni

ficently, securing not only her own release, along with all her possessions,
but also that of Palaestrio.

29) also points out the structural and thematic parallels between
Frangoulidis (1998, 40-3)
the reactions of Acroteleutium on
and Philocomasium seeing the soldier.

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60 (2007) 407-426 423

6.5. Acting Instruction (1137-99)

It is in the central scene of the second trick that theatrical awareness is at

itsheight, as Palaestrio takes on the role of playwright-director, instructing
Acroteleutium, Milphidippa and Pleusicles as to how to act their parts.30)
In the first scene of the trick,where acting had been stressed, the actors of
the plot had described Palaestrio as the architectus of the trick (901-2, 915,
919); Milphidippa and Acroteleutium both now address him by the same
title.Although there is a connection here with the building imagery of the
mean a con
play,31) the word architectus is used elsewhere in Plautus to
triverof trickery,and it is in this sense that the term should be understood
here.32) Palaestrio is themaster playwright, who contrives the trick thatwill
defeat the villain of the piece, and is acknowledged as such. Despite his
own praise of Palaestrio remains in firm control of the plot,
reassurance and advice:

bono animo es; negotium omne iam succedit sub manus;

vos modo ut date adiutabilem (1143-4)
porro, occepistis, operam

'Cheer up; thewhole affair is falling into place now; you just continue as
you've begun, to lend a hand'

He makes reference once more to the aurum atque ornamenta, and

the inexperienced actor, Pleusicles, warning him against overconfidence,
and stressing that need for tricks (1150-4). At this point, Acroteleutium
turns to him,
explicitly asking for guidance, since this is themost danger
ous stage of the nunc quom maxume opust
deception. Pointing out that
dolis, 'now is the greatest need of trickery' (1153-4), he replies toAcrotel
eutium's request for direction: lepidusfacitis!, you've done
(1159), using theword lepis once again. Palaestrio then assumes another
role, that of an imperator giving orders to his troop of actors, and declaring
emphatically: militem lepide etfacete, laute ludificarier vol?, T want the
soldier to be fooled delightfully,wittily and elegantly' (1161-2). Again, the

30) For further see Slater 1985,

examples of this phenomenon, particularly 168-9, and
Moore 1998, 75-6, 98-9. See also Frangoulidis 1994, who covers Palaestrio's role in

31) See Forehand 10-1.
32) CiPoen. 1110.

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I 60 (2007) 407-426

word ludificarier signals both the trickery and its connection with acting,
within the context of this ludus ('play'). Acroteleutium goes over the plan,
and Palaestrio offersmore direction and advice (1166-73), coaching her in
her role and concluding by asking: satinpraeceptumst?, 'Enough direction?'
(1173). Turning to Pleusicles, his instructions concern the costume that he
is towear (1175-82), and the lines he is to use (1184-8). His final orders
to the man are: abi cito orna te... haec ut memineris, 'Go
young atque

quickly and get into costume... remember these things' (1195), and with
a final thewomen into scene closes.
chivvying place (1196-8), the
There is no doubt that the deceptionof Pyrgopolynices is based upon,
and succeeds because of, his own inability to appreciate the play put on by
Palaestrio. Like Sceledrus, the soldier does not ever grasp the reality of
what is happening. His understanding of the events at the end of the play
is that he has learnt a lesson about adultery (1435-7). Yet this ismissing the

point entirely.As Timothy Moore (1998, 77) states:

There is no lesson about as Acroteleutium and

adultery here, Periplectomenus'
was all part of the ruse. Because the of which he was a
marriage deception
victim has been so as a theatrical
emphatically portrayed performance, Pyr

gopolynices' conclusion is a misreading of the play he has witnessed. His

reveals that he is not a
moralizing epilogue only profoundly stupid person,
but also a failed

7. Conclusion

The Miles Gloriosus is composed of two tricks, the first played out against
Sceledrus and the second against his master Pyrgopolynices. Both tricks
are built of
parallel balancing scenes that centre around, and highlight,
and structure of each trick therefore
acting roleplaying. The deepens the
impact of themetatheatrical elements running throughout the play, induc
a awareness of the artificiality of the events on
ing greater being acted out
the stage, as each trick stresses the idea of role assumption and drama as a
central theme.

By emphasising the nature of roleplaying, the structure of theMiles

underscores the message of the play, which is very much concerned with
the nature of illusion and reality.As a result of the roleplaying of Philoco
masium, under the direction of Palaestrio, Sceledrus allows himself to be

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L.Maurice ?Mnemosyne
60 (2007) 407-426 425

convinced that he has not seen what he did indeed see, and is persuaded to
doubt the empirical evidence of his eyes. Pyrgopolynices himself lives in a
so in the context of a drama, which
fantasyworld of illusion; but he does
is to be an illusion. The audience observe the duping of Sceledrus, and wit
ness his master's
posturing and the illusion that he believes is truth, but
which fools no one. They are then able to contrast thiswith Palaestrio's

acting ability that does convince his intended audience. The Miles Glorio
sus underscores the
paradoxical nature of drama, which convinces despite
on more than illusion; the
being based nothing play thus demonstrates
that herein lies the power of true drama.

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