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21.5.Goncalves

Brazilian playwright Guilherme Figueiredo’s Um deus dormiu lá em casa (“A God Slept Here”), written in 1949, is one of the most peculiar translation-rewritings of Plautus’ Amphitruo, because of its special use of the myth of Jupiter’s visit to Alcmena: motivated by jealousy, Amphitryon returns sooner sooner than expected from the war against the Teleboans, together with the slave Sosia, both disguised as Jupiter and Mercury pretending to be disguised as Amphitryon and Sosia. The main theme of the play is Amphitryon’s impiety and his fear that Alcmena would be visited by another man that night, as foretold by a prophecy by Tiresias. He is suspicious of King Creon, here portrayed as having a keen eye for beautiful women. The self-fulfilling prophecy is the basis of a brilliant use of metatheater, since Amphitryon’s charade turns himself into the very cuckold he is trying to avoid being.

Thus, very important questions of translation and adaptation arise, such as: (i) the gods themselves are absent from the play: the tradition established by Plautus’ text depends heavily upon the metatheatrical problems raised by Mercury and Jupiter’s transformation into Sosia and Amphitryon’s doubles – no previous adaptation of Plautus has discarded the gods as characters, in a long line that includes Vital de Blois, Shakespeare, Molière, Camões, Dryden, Kleist and the two Giraudoux, for example. The metatheater is transferred to the self-awareness shown by the pair of deceivers when they discuss the best way of interpreting the gods interpreting themselves. Therefore, we have a double layer of metatheater;

(ii) the myth developed by Plautus into a peculiar comedy (considering the conventions of the New Comedy) is built by Figueiredo with a close relationship to the cycle of the House of Thebes, including Tiresias, Creon, and several references to Oedipus’ unfortunate family. Moreover, tragedy is present as a butt for parody in an interesting way, since the myths around the House of Thebes set the main background for the play, introducing the possibility of a cross-over of genres in a new way for the Amphitruo tradition, and finally, (iii) the absence of the gods has an important consequence for the myth of the birth of Hercules: in spite of the fact that every detail of the cycle of Thebes is mentioned, there can be no Hercules. As a consequence, the main theme of the play – jealousy – leads to a grim conclusion: Alcmena, herself a very different character from Plautus’ on account of her unchaste and vain nature, is accused of infidelity by the whole town, which leads to Amphitryon’s final public lie that the real Jupiter was in his house, to protect his honor for being absent from war because of jealousy.

Based on these three points, this paper aims at analyzing Figueiredo’s play in relation to the problems of adaptation, translation and rewriting discussed by Robinson (2003) and Lefevere (2007), as well as regarding the problems of the theory of literary genres as discussed by Bakhtin (1993), Conte (1994), Schaeffer (1989), among others. This paper is part of a wider project of studying translations as more powerful performative acts capable of establishing a literary tradition and new genres.

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