Plautus Menaechmi (Cambridge Greek and Latin Classics) Paperback – 12 Jan 2008
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"The commentary is lengthy and detailed. Teachers and graduate students will want to consult this edition...." Religious Studies Review
"Professional classicists will be impressed not just by the quantity of information presented on its pages, but by the quality and originality of the author's scholarship, the amount of painstaking labor that he has invested in every sophisticated analysis, and the graceful precision of his writing." Bryn Mawr Classical Review
Dr Gratwick provides a newly constituted text, a commentary for students giving help with language and context, and an introduction which sheds new light on the interpretation of Plautus's comedy Menaechmi.
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This edition contains a 63 page introduction, 1162 lines of Latin text, a little over 110 pages of commentary, a very thorough bibliography up through 1990, an index, and four brief appendices containing, respectively, an overview of the textual criticism on the play, a metrical conspectus, a discussion of Plautine prosody, and a statistical analysis of Plautus's senarius. Taken as a whole, this book is definitely pitched to a more advanced, professional audience, but I would estimate that a reader with at least 3-4 years of Latin experience would be able to read "Menaechmi" using the commentary with fairly minimal frustration. The commentator does an excellent job anticipating the reader's questions and translation difficulties, and virtually all of the tricky or colloquial Latin phrasing is rendered into very literal translation-ese. Besides making comments on textual problems and meter (see below), the commentator will also clarify obscure historical and cultural allusions, discuss lexical and etymological questions with reference to the OLD and other Latin authors, and make observations about the staging and literary qualities of the play. The introduction provides a very judicious overview of Plautus's career and his place (and the place of Menaechmi) in the development of ancient comedy, and there are occasional references and direct comparisons to other Plautine plays in the commentary proper as well.
The most prominent and the most noteworthy feature of this edition, however, is the emphasis that is placed on metrical analysis and textual criticism. The discussion of meter takes up a great deal of space in the introduction, commentary, and the appendices, and it is the most complex, detailed, and polemical treatment of meter that I have come across in any putatively non-specialist commentary on a Roman Comedy. The Latin text itself is also printed with all short vowels, the onset of longa, and brevis in longo marked, as well as with line breaks and spacing that reflect the metrical properties of the text. I can lay claim to some proficiency in scanning the various Plautine meters, but, even so, a fair amount of Gratwick's discussion of meter went over my head. Gratwick's treatment of meter is thus something one can profitably peruse after completely mastering the basics, not before.
I found Gratwick's philological engagement with the manuscript tradition of the play and with the textual criticism on it much more accessible than his treatment of meter (though of course the two treatments overlap to some degree given the importance of meter in establishing the text). Gratwick provides a detailed apparatus criticus and a critical text that reflects quite a number of his own emendations, conjectures, and editorial choices. Unusually for the green and yellow series and most commentaries geared towards non-specialist readers, the editor has chosen to leave a relatively high number of "daggers" and empty positions in the text rather than print a smoother text using overly speculative conjectures. Again, I am not enough of an expert to evaluate the validity of any of Gratwick's textual choices (which he discusses in detail in the commentary proper), but this approach does at least have the effect of allowing a non-expert reader to access, understand, and appreciate the enduring uncertainties and controversies that remain when it comes to establishing the text of "Menaechmi". This book is therefore one of those very rare non-specialist commentaries that can serve as a useful introduction to textual criticism, and for this reason, as well as for its excellent quality in other respects, it is an especially important and useful resource for anyone with a serious interest in Plautus.