|Setting||a street in Athens, before the houses of Euclio and Megadorus, and the shrine of Fides|
Aulularia is a Latin play by the early Roman playwright Titus Maccius Plautus. The title literally means The Little Pot, but some translators provide The Pot of Gold, and the plot revolves around a literal pot of gold which the miserly protagonist, Euclio, guards zealously. The play's ending does not survive, though there are indications of how the plot is resolved in later summaries and a few fragments of dialogue.
One scholar, R. L. Hunter, writes of this play: "The Aulularia has always been one of the most popular and most studied of Pļautus' plays, both because of its intrinsic interest and quality and also because of its later influence in the European dramatic tradition."
Lar Familiaris, the household deity of Euclio, an old man with a marriageable daughter named Phaedria, begins the play with a prologue about how he allowed Euclio to discover a pot of gold buried in his house. Euclio is then shown almost maniacally guarding his gold from real and imagined threats. Unknown to Euclio, Phaedria is pregnant by a young man named Lyconides. Phaedria is never seen on stage, though at a key point in the play the audience hears her painful cries in labor.
Euclio is persuaded to marry his daughter to his rich neighbor, an elderly bachelor named Megadorus, who happens to be the uncle of Lyconides. This leads to much by-play involving preparations for the nuptials. Eventually Lyconides and his slave appear, and Lyconides confesses to Euclio his ravishing of Phaedria. Lyconides' slave manages to steal the now notorious pot of gold. Lyconides confronts his slave about the theft.
At this point the manuscript breaks off. From surviving summaries of the play, we know that Euclio eventually recovers his pot of gold and gives it to Lyconides and Phaedria, who marry in a happy ending. In the Penguin Classics edition of the play, translator E.F. Watling devised an ending as it might have been originally, based on the summaries and a few surviving scraps of dialogue. Other writers over the centuries have also written endings for the play, with somewhat varying results (one version was produced by Antonio Urceo in the late 15th century, another by Martinus Dorpius in the early 16th century).
The setting is a street scene. On the left and right are the houses of Megadorus and Euclio. Between them is a temple dedicated to Fides "Faith" or "Loyalty", with an altar in front of it.
Further information: Metres of Roman comedy
Plautus's plays are traditionally divided into five acts; these are referred to below for convenience, since many editions make use of them. However, it is not thought that they go back to Plautus's time, since no manuscript contains them before the 15th century. Also, the acts themselves do not always match the structure of the plays, which is more clearly shown by the variation in metres.
In Plautus's plays the usual pattern is to begin each section with iambic senarii (which were spoken without music), then a scene of music in various metres, and finally a scene in trochaic septenarii, which were apparently recited to the accompaniment of tibiae (a pair of reed pipes). Moore calls this the "ABC succession", where A = iambic senarii, B = other metres, C = trochaic septenarii. However, the ABC order is sometimes varied.
The scheme of the Aulularia is incomplete but the surviving part is as follows:
The second and fourth sections each have musical passages in two contrasting metres.
An unusual feature of the Aulularia is the 32 continuous lines of versus reiziani (415–446). In all the rest of Plautus's plays this metre is used in only 34 lines, mostly in single lines mixed with other metres. Moore, noting the somewhat jarring rhythm of the colon, or ending, of the line, writes: "The versus reizianus finds itself in some of Plautus' funniest scenes, as when Olympio discovers that his "bride" has a beard (Cas. 929)." Versus reiziani are also found, mixed with other metres ending in cola reiziana, in lines 153–160, where Eunomia is trying to convince her brother of the importance of getting married, while he resists her suggestions.
The structure of the play is as follows:
Megadorus's slave who organises the wedding preparations in the first half of the play is called Strobilus (lines 264, 334, 351, 354); except that at 363 the heading in the manuscripts says "FITODICVS". The editor Leo, assuming this meant "Pythodicus", changed the name "Strobilus" to "Pythodicus" in all the places mentioned. However, it is now thought that FITODICVS is a mere copyist's error for STROBILVS.
The slave of Lyconides who plays a large role in the second half of the play is also called Strobilus in the manuscripts, both in the headings and in lines 697 and 804. Scholars have long debated whether this is the same slave as the Strobilus who appears in the first half of the play.
Some, including T. B. L. Webster and Eduard Fraenkel, have argued that they are the same slave. According to this view, the unmarried Megadorus, his widowed sister Eunomia, and his nephew Lyconides, all live in the same house next door to Euclio, and Strobilus is therefore the slave of both Megadorus and Lyconides. One argument in favour of this view is line 727, where Lyconides describes Megadorus's house as "our house" (aedis nostras), implying that he too lives in the house next door to Euclio.
Others, however, including Wallace Lindsay and Walter de Melo, believe that the second slave is a different slave, whose name was corrupted in the manuscripts. Among arguments supporting this view are that (a) Euclio does not seem to recognise either Lyconides or the slave, which is unlikely if they live next door; (b) the slave who zealously carries out Megadorus's orders in the first half, seems to be in charge of the household, but the other seems to be a private servant of Lyconides; (c) the second slave applies to Lyconides for his freedom, without reference to the head of the family Megadorus; (d) in line 145 Eunomia tells her brother "I'm coming to advise you on this" (ted id monitum advento) and in line 175, when she takes her leave, he says "farewell" (vale) to her as if she lives in a different house; (e) the two slaves seem to be of different characters, the one responsible and placed in charge of the preparations, and the second rascally, deceitful, and interested in personal gain.
The figure of the miser has been a stock character of comedy for centuries. Plautus does not spare his protagonist's various embarrassments caused by the vice, but he is relatively gentle in his satire. Euclio is eventually shown as basically a good-hearted man who has been only temporarily affected by greed for gold.
The play also ridicules the ancient bachelor Megadorus for his dream of marrying the nubile and far younger Phaedria. The silly business of preparing for the marriage provides much opportunity for satire on the laughable lust of an old man for a young woman, in a clever parallel to Euclio's lust for his gold. Again, Megadorus is eventually shown as sensible and kind-hearted enough to abandon his foolish dream.
Plautus' frequent theme of clever servants outwitting their supposed superiors finds its place in this play too. Not only does Lyconides' slave manage to filch Euclio's beloved gold, but also Euclio's housemaid Staphyla is shown as intelligent and kind in her attitude toward the unfortunately pregnant Phaedria.
Another play, Querolus seu Aulularia, was at one time ascribed to Plautus but is now believed to be a late 4th-century Latin imitation. It provides a kind of sequel in which Euclio dies abroad and informs a parasite of the hiding place of his treasure, which the latter is to share with Euclio's son Querolus.
During the Renaissance there were a number of adaptations of the Aulularia. One of the earliest was Giovanni Battista Gelli's La Sporta (The Basket), which was published in Florence in 1543. A Croatian version by Marin Držić was titled Skup (The Miser, 1555) and set in Dubrovnik. In 1597 Ben Jonson adapted elements of the plot for his early comedy The Case is Altered. At about the same time it was also used by the Danish Hieronymus Justesen Ranch (1539–1607) as the basis for his play Karrig Nidding (The Stingy Miser).
The very successful Dutch play, Warenar, based on Aulularia, was written by Pieter Corneliszoon Hooft and Samuel Coster in 1617. In 1629, the German poet laureate Joannes Burmeister published a Neo-Latin adaptation, also called Aulularia, that reworked Plautus' comedy to a play featuring Achan and Rahab from the biblical Book of Joshua. Molière's French adaptation, L'Avare of 1668, was even more successful and thereafter served as the basis for dramatic imitations, rather than Plautus' work.