Aulularia is a Latin play by the early Roman playwright Titus Maccius Plautus. The title literally means The Little Pot, but some translators provide The Pot of Gold, and the plot revolves around a literal pot of gold which the miserly protagonist, Euclio, guards zealously. The play’s ending does not survive, though there are indications of how the plot is resolved in later summaries and a few fragments of dialogue.
|Setting||a street in Athens, before the houses of Euclio and Megadorus, and the shrine of Fides|
Lar Familiaris, the household deity of Euclio, an old man with a marriageable daughter named Phaedria, begins the play with a prologue about how he allowed Euclio to discover a pot of gold buried in his house. Euclio is then shown almost maniacally guarding his gold from real and imagined threats. Unknown to Euclio, Phaedria is pregnant by a young man named Lyconides. Phaedria is never seen on stage, though at a key point in the play the audience hears her painful cries in labor.
Euclio is persuaded to marry his daughter to his rich neighbor, an elderly bachelor named Megadorus, who happens to be the uncle of Lyconides. This leads to much by-play involving preparations for the nuptials. Eventually Lyconides and his slave appear, and Lyconides confesses to Euclio his ravishing of Phaedria. Lyconides’ slave manages to steal the now notorious pot of gold. Lyconides confronts his slave about the theft.
At this point the manuscript breaks off. From surviving summaries of the play, we know that Euclio eventually recovers his pot of gold and gives it to Lyconides and Phaedria, who marry in a happy ending. In the Penguin Classics edition of the play, translator E.F. Watling devised an ending as it might have been originally, based on the summaries and a few surviving scraps of dialogue. Other writers over the centuries have also written endings for the play, with somewhat varying results (one version was produced by Antonio Urceo in the late 15th century, another by Martinus Dorpius in the early 16th century).
The figure of the miser has been a stock character of comedy for centuries. Plautus does not spare his protagonist's various embarrassments caused by the vice, but he is relatively gentle in his satire. Euclio is eventually shown as basically a good-hearted man who has been only temporarily affected by greed for gold.
The play also ridicules the ancient bachelor Megadorus for his dream of marrying the nubile and far younger Phaedria. The silly business of preparing for the marriage provides much opportunity for satire on the laughable lust of an old man for a young woman, in a clever parallel to Euclio’s lust for his gold. Again, Megadorus is eventually shown as sensible and kind-hearted enough to abandon his foolish dream.
Plautus’ frequent theme of clever servants outwitting their supposed superiors finds its place in this play too. Not only does Lyconides’ slave manage to filch Euclio’s beloved gold, but also Euclio’s housemaid Staphyla is shown as intelligent and kind in her attitude toward the unfortunately pregnant Phaedria.
Another play, Querolus seu Aulularia, was at one time ascribed to Plautus but is now believed to be a late 4th-century Latin imitation. It provides a kind of sequel in which Euclio dies abroad and informs a parasite of the hiding place of his treasurer, which the latter is to share with Euclio's son Querolus.
During the Renaissance there were a number of adaptations of the Aulularia. One of the earliest was Giovanni Battista Gelli's La Sporta (The Basket), which was published in Florence in 1543. A Croatian version by Marin Držić was titled Skup (The Miser, 1555) and set in Dubrovnik. In 1597 Ben Jonson adapted elements of the plot for his early comedy The Case is Altered. At about the same time it was also used by the Danish Hieronymus Justesen Ranch (1539–1607) as the basis for his play Karrig Nidding (The Stingy Miser).
The very successful Dutch play, Warenar, based on Aulularia, was written by Pieter Corneliszoon Hooft and Samuel Coster in 1617. In 1629, the German poet laureate Joannes Burmeister published a Neo-Latin adaptation, also called Aulularia, that reworked Plautus' comedy to a play featuring Achan and Rahab from the biblical Book of Joshua. Molière's French adaptation, L'Avare of 1668, was even more successful and thereafter served as the basis for dramatic imitations, rather than Plautus' work.
- Edward Holdsworth Sugden, 1893: Aulularia full text
- Henry Thomas Riley, 1912: Aulularia full text
- Paul Nixon, 1916–38: Aulularia full text
- Sir Robert Allison, 1942
- Lionel Casson, 1963
- The Pot of Gold and Other Plays by Plautus, translated and introduced by E.F. Watling, Penguin Classics 1965 ISBN 0-14-044149-2
- Palmer Bovie, 1995
- Erich Segal, 1996
- Wolfang de Melo, 2011
- Plautus: The Pot of Gold and other plays, London 1965, Google Books
- Fontaine, Michael. 2015. Joannes Burmeister: Aulularia and Other Inversions of Plautus. Leuven: Leuven University Press.
- There is a discussion of Plautus' play and of the various imitations in: John Colin Dunlop, History of Roman literature Volume 1 , London 1823, pp.160 ff
- Plautus; Translated by Wolfgang de Melo (2011). Plautus, Vol. I: Amphitryon; The Comedy of Asses; The Pot of Gold; The Two Bacchises; The Captives. Loeb Classical Library. ISBN 0674996534.