In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Plautus’s Casina

  • Introduction
  • Editions and Commentaries
  • Translations
  • General Treatments
  • Discussions of Individual Passages
  • Reception

Classics Plautus’s Casina
by
Peter Barrios-Lech
  • LAST MODIFIED: 26 October 2023
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780195389661-0402

Introduction

Casina, Plautus’s last and perhaps most innovative play, arouses, only to subvert, audience expectations. The prologue leads the spectators to believe that the plot will end with the recognition and marriage typical of New Comedy. Instead, it ends with a farcical transvestite wedding, and humiliation of the representative of patriarchal order, the “old man stock-type,” or senex. The audience initially sees in the female lead, Cleostrata, an antagonistic “bossy pants” wife (uxor dotata), contrasted to her neighbor, an obedient “good-wife” type. But both women end up playing the role of tricky slaves (callidi serui), and, together with a female and male slave, conspire to deceive and humiliate the old man (senex). This conspiracy is strikingly reminiscent of the diverse set of people—slaves, free, and women—who had gathered to worship Bacchus, whose cult was suppressed in 186 BCE. The comedy thus reflects contemporary concerns and addresses male anxieties: the threat of uprisings among the oppressed, and the increasing independence of women in their marriages. The plot runs as follows. Both Senex (“Lysidamus” in some editions) and his son lust for Casina, a foundling raised by Cleostrata, Senex’s wife. To secure Casina for himself without his wife knowing, Senex chooses his enslaved foreman, Olympio, to marry the girl, on the understanding that, Olympio, once wed, will hand Casina to his owner. Cleostrata, though, is aware of her husband’s plans. To wrest Casina from him, she aims to give Casina to the enslaved armor bearer Chalinus. Senex tries to persuade Chalinus to relinquish Casina to his proxy, Olympio, while Cleostrata attemps to prevail upon the enslaved foreman (uilicus) to give the girl up. Neither owner convinces, so both Lysidamus and Cleostrata agree to draw lots to decide who marries the girl. Olympio wins. Cleostrata duly prepares for the marriage. In the meantime, the arms bearer, Chalinus, overhears Senex and Olympio plotting the tryst, which will take place at the neighbor’s house. Cleostrata, informed of these plans, now sets out to frustrate them. In three tricks of increasing complexity, she and her now-ally, Myrrhina, keep Senex and Olympio away from Casina, frustrating the old man’s opportunity for a night of carousing and forced sex with Casina. The final trick is a sham marriage featuring the cross-dressing Chalinus playing the role of Casina. Duped into believing Chalinus is Casina, Olympio and Senex try to rape “her,” but each man is roughed up by the ‘bride’. The men burst out of the trysting place humiliated, as Myrrhina and Cleostrata watch. Cleostrata permits Senex to regain his status as paterfamilias. The epilogue announces that Senex’ son will marry Casina, discovered to be the daughter of the next-door neighbors.

Editions and Commentaries

For the standard Latin editions of Plautus’s comedies, see the Oxford Bibliographies in Classics article “Plautus.” Questa 1995 is an edition of all the play’s cantica (songs set in a variety of meters), with metrical analysis and scansion. Questa 2001 and de Melo 2011 (cited under Translations) are the best Latin texts of the play, with de Melo 2011, the most accessible. MacCary and Willcock 1976 is the standard commentary in English; Chiarini 1992 is a useful Italian commentary helpfully placed at the foot of the page, with a facing-page translation; Paratore 1959 contains a still valuable introduction; Scàndola 1988 and Ernout 1943 are good prose translations in Italian and French respectively, with the former prefaced by a general introduction on Plautine comedy and an essay on the play by Cesare Questa, later reprinted in Sei Letture: see General Treatments.

  • Chiarini, G. 1992. Tito Maccio Plauto: Casina. Rome: Carocci.

    The text is substantially that of Ernout, prefaced with an introduction; it contains helpful notes on the Latin at the foot of the page, and facing page translation in lively Italian prose.

  • Ernout, A. 1943. Plaute, Tome II: Bacchides, Captivi, Casina. Paris: Les Belles Lettres.

    Text with detailed apparatus criticus, accompanied by accurate translation in French prose with explanatory notes.

  • MacCary, W. T., and M. M. Willcock. 1976. Plautus: Casina. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge Univ. Press.

    The English commentary with a conservative edition (i.e., less inclined to print any emendations in the main text, instead preserving whenever possible the readings of the manuscripts), with judiciously pruned apparatus criticus.

  • Paratore, E., ed. 1959. Plauto: Casina. Florence: Sansoni.

    Text with detailed apparatus criticus and an engaging translation in Italian prose. The introduction is still valuable for its thorough analysis of the relation of the Casina to its now-lost Greek source-play.

  • Questa, C. 1995. Titi Macci Plauti Cantica. Urbino, Italy: QuattroVenti.

    Edition with extensive apparatus criticus of the cantica (songs set in a variety of meters), with scansion presented on the facing page.

  • Questa, C. 2001. Titus Maccius Plautus: Casina. Urbino, Italy: QuattroVenti.

    Edition that uses the principles of the Urbino editions; it takes into account manuscripts not previously used to edit the text; the extensive apparatus criticus is the most accurate representative of the history of the text’s transmission.

  • Scàndola, M. trans. 1988. Tito Maccio Plauto: Casina. Milan: Biblioteca Universale Rizzoli.

    Introductory material on Roman comedy, Plautus, and an essay on the Casina by renowned Plautus scholar Cesare Questa. The text is that of Ernout; the translation is an accurate Italian prose rendition.

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