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Mere leaves fall now…Plautus

“Mere leaves fall now, compared with what will be if we stay three days; then trees will fall on you.”

(MESSENIO, the servant of Menaechmus Sosicles)

…folia nunc cadunt/

praeut si triduom hoc hie erimus : tum arbores in te cadent.

Menaechmi  (II.iii, 375), Plautus

For some reason this line echoing up from the past strikes me with unremitting and quiet humor. If any of you have not read Plautus, or not read him since you were forced to, really an incomparable writer (and one doesn’t have to even enjoy the classics). The humor bubbles up with irresistible force.

Here, the messenger is forewarning one of two brothers, twins separated in childhood, that if he continues on talking to the Courtesan Erotium who mistakes him for his lost brother (and seems crazy or kniving for it), only disaster will follow. Something though about the delightful bewilderment of leaves falling that particularly marks Plautus’s comedies, followed then by the huge oaken thud, speaks to life. The image is very buggs bunny as my wife says.

Of note, one of the earliest literary invocations of an identity of indiscernibles, A = A, is found in the mouth of the same character later in the play,

But I never beheld one person more like another person. Neither water, believe me, is ever more like to water nor milk to milk, than he is to you, and you likewise to him

neque aqua aquae nec lacte est lactis, crede mi, usquam similius,quam hic tui est, tuque huius autem; (1090)

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2 responses to “Mere leaves fall now…Plautus

  1. Lucy Harvey May 4, 2009 at 5:12 am

    Thanks for this write up. now i am able to understand his writings in a different perspective. I love Plautus. i studied him way back in college.

  2. kvond May 4, 2009 at 11:30 am

    Lucy thanks for the kind words. He is really an amazing “presence” in the history of literary. When I began reading him I had extreme resistance, but he quite frankly startled me into enjoyment.

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