The influence of Plautus’ work in Brazilian theater is illustrated in the subtitle of the comedy O Santo e a Porca (The Saint and the Sow), by which Ariano Suassuna (1927- ) presents his play as “a Northeastern imitation of Plautus”. Verbatim translations of certain scenes that exploit comic mistakes, as well as the use of “speaking names” (Guapiassu 1980; Boldrini 1985) are some of the dramatic techniques this Brazilian play has in common with its Plautine model, the Aulularia. Previous research has also emphasized the differences between the Roman original and its Brazilian reworking in terms of plot, such as the increasing prominence that female characters receive in the Brazilian play (Pociña López 1996).
However, Suassuna (who is also professor of Aesthetics at the University of Pernambuco; Suassuna 1975) imitates to a certain extent a pattern used by the Roman playwright to adapt his rewritings of Greek plays to a “barbarian” culture (e.g. uortit barbare, Trin. 19) (Moore 1998; Gonçalves 2009, Cardoso 2010, 2011). Plautus’ notorious employment of popular Italic oral traditions in his adaptations (Vogt-Spira 1998) results in a kind of hybridism, also found in Suassuna, who combines the Roman play (now in the role of the erudite text) with traditions of Northeastern popular art.
The goal of the paper is twofold. Firstly, it will demonstrate how The Saint and the Sow is supposed to “desacralize” Greek-Roman literature in terms of Brazilian popular culture and identity (Santos 2007). This approach is consonant with the principles of a successful cultural movement, the “Movimento Armorial”, founded by Suassuna (Santos 1999). Secondly, it will call attention to the meaning and function of such imitation (Cardoso 2009) investigating on it in the light of recent research on Roman literature and identity (e.g. Habinek 1998). Therefore the paper shall contribute to a much-needed reflection on the deeper aesthetic analogies between Suassuna’s and Plautus’s comedy.