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Alfonso Sastre's Los Dioses y los Cuernos (1995) as a rewriting of Plautus' Amphitruo

Rodrigo Goncalves

This presentation intends to analyze Alfonso Sastre's Los dioses y los cuernos ("The gods and the cuckolds") as a special reception of Plautus' Amphitruo, focusing on his use of metatheater, anachronisms, literary allusions (many of them to the Latin text itself), comic and literary stage directions and modern elements of performance as a way of recreating Plautine metatheater in a postmodern context.

Scholarship on this play is minimal. Romano (1998) claims that Sastre's play is one of the first rewritings of Plautus to go back to the metatheater of the Roman palliata through the extensive use of non-realist devices. Diez (2010) compares Plautus and Sastre regarding infidelity, the role of women (Juno turns the tables on Jupiter in a very innovative way at the end of the play) and some technical devices, such as the rupture of dramatic illusion, but her analysis goes no further. Bertini (2010) has produced one of the few books about Amphitruo and the theme of doubling which deals with modern plays, and his analysis of Sastre's play puts it in the context of the recent rewritings of the 20th and 21st centuries.

The main point to be developed is that, differently from other more recent rewritings of Plautus' play, such as Norberto Ávila's Uma noite sobre a cama ("A cloud over the bed"), first staged in 1991, Antonio Abelaira's 1980s made-for-TV  Anfitrião, outra vez ("Amphitryon, again") and even Guilherme Figueiredo's Um deus dormiu lá em casa ("A god slept here"), first staged in 1949 (although Gonçalves 2012 defends it as a very important twist in the myth's lineage), Sastre's play actually achieves a high degree of general metatheatrical effect via not only the usual breaks in dramatic illusion, anachronisms, literary allusions (the main points in Romano's argument), but the Spanish playwright actually transcends the limits of realist classical theater by producing a marked return to ancient metatheater in a coherent reception of the Plautine metatheatrical framework. His clever use of  lector et auctor in fabula (e.g. Mercurio complains to the author about a very severe anachronism, and the author himself answers in the play with a ""don't worry", cf. Sastre, 1995:33, among other examples I intend to analyze), his constant references to the very performance that is being staged (in the famous first dialogue of Sosia-Mercurio, the slave speaks Latin, and the god reminds him that the play they are in is actually a translation, cf. Sastre, 1995:62), and even his literary and comic stage directions (longer passages will be presented) blur the lines of modern dramatic conventions, creating a postmodern equivalent reception of Plautine metatheater. The argument is that a performance-translation-rewriting of this kind is one of the first to be able to reinstate the contradiction of a play which is and is not a translation and is and is not an original at the same time, such as is the case in Plautus (which, for instance, frequently mentions his model as the play is being staged, but with a new, Latin name (cf. e.g. Pl. Asin. 10-13: "huic nomen graece Onagost fabulae; / Demophilus scripsit, Maccus vortit barbare; / Asinariam volt esse, si per vos licet"). Sastre, like Plautus, creates anew what is being retold, making a kind of hybrid theater which is radically new and old at the same time. A thorough analysis of this kind of rewriting via new models of performance can shed new light on the old texts, allowing for a more diverse and meaningful study and teaching of the ancient texts, and all the more so when one considers the lack of modern rewritings of ancient Roman Comedy which actually manage to achieve so sophisticated a level of metatheater, one of the fundamental touchstones of the Roman palliata, which Sastre achieves through a kind of palimpsestic collapse of different traditions, hypotexts and devices.

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Comedy and Comic Receptions

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