A free Education & Community Engagement program
Lecture | Musical Comedy in Ancient Rome: The Genius of Titus Maccius Plautus
Professor of Classics and Giger Professor of Latin
Thursday May 31 at 7 pm
Princeton Public Library
65 Witherspoon Street, Princeton
free and open to the public
Co-sponsored by The Princeton Public Library
Stephen Sondheim’s A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum is based on a much earlier masterpiece by Plautus, the first known author of Latin literature, working around 210-185 BC. Plautus wrote musical comedies in free translations of Greek originals (all now lost). His productions combined slap-stick farce with dazzling verbal wit. They were a medley of spoken verse and song, accompanied by an on-stage orchestra. Later European comedy is unimaginable without Plautus, who provided models for Shakespeare’s Comedy of Errors and Molière’s Amphitryon, and this lecture will concentrate on how Plautus anticipated modern musical comedy in ways so brilliantly revived in A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, which is based primarily on Plautus’ masterpiece Pseudolus.
Denis C. Feeney is Professor of Classics and Giger Professor of Latin at Princeton University. Professor Feeney is especially known for his highly influential book The Gods in Epic on the interaction between Roman literature and religion, and his recent book Caesar’s Calendar: Ancient Time and the Beginnings of History (University of California Press, 2008). In 2016 he was elected a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and a Corresponding Fellow of the British Academy.