Studies in the Word-Play of Plautus: I. The Name-Play, II. The Use of Single Words in a Double Meaning
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Word-play has long been recognized as one of Plautus' principal methods for arousing laughter, and every commentator has been at more or less pains to point out the passages in which this device is used. Just how much effect word-plays have in making Plautus what he is cannot be ...determined until the subject of Plautine humor is given a thorough investigation, and the various methods for arousing laughter are carefully analyzed and compared. It requires, however, only a casual reading of our author to learn that here, as in the case of Shakespeare, we have to do with a writer who does not use word-plays occasionally, but constantly, and relies to a great extent on this form of the comic. A recent editor of the Mostellaria exaggerates but slightly when he says that Plautus is copious in quip and pun until quip and pun grow wearisome. It would seem well worth while, then, to collect the Plautine word-plays and put them together, so as to see at a glance just how and to what extent Plautus does employ them. A work of this kind must involve first of all the actual collecting of the word-plays and secondly a division or classification into their various kinds. Part of this work was undertaken by O. Raebel in his De Usu Adnominationis apud Romanorum Poetas Comicos . Raebel has collected and classified the word-plays in Plautus that may be called adnominationes or paronomasias, humorous as well as non-humorous. This is not the place to discuss the classification of the word-play in general. Raebel's classification, though it might be somewhat changed, is a good one for the adnominatio; but the best one so far proposed is that of Wurth in his Wortspiel bei Shakspere. What is important for the present purpose is the fact that Raebel has considered only the adnominationes in Plautus, with an incidental remark or two on other forms of word-play. An equally important division of the word-play, those plays in which only one word figures and in which there is no play of sound as there is in the adnominatio - perhaps an even more important class from the standpoint of humor - does not come within the scope of his investigation.The text of Goetz and Schoell has been followed in the quotations, since its closeness to the MSS. readings rendered it best for the purpose in hand. Occasionally another reading has been adopted, and such instances are always indicated.