MERCURY AND METATHEATRE II: THEARGUMENTUMIN PLAUTUS' AMPHITRUO'
AbstractIntroduction The term "metatheatre" is used by Abel for "theatrically self-conscious theatre" (1963 :passirn), while it is used by Gentili to indicate "plays constructed from previously existing plays" (1979: 15, 33-35). The title of Slater's work, The Theatre of the Mind: Metatheatre in Plautus (1981), offers in itself the most succinct definition of metatheatre. In "theatre of the mind", Slater refers to Plautus' creation of "a form of drama strikingly self-conscious of its own theatrical nature" (1981 :iv). This selfconsciousness is what constitutes metatheatre, and is prevalent throughout the Plautine corpus, especially in those plays in which one of the characters actually takes on the role of playwright (1981:v). In addition to this, there are numerous references to the playas a play/ to the performers as players and playwrights, and to theatrical conventions, all of which imply a keen theatrical awareness on the side of playwright, players and audience. Slater's fusion of the two definitions (1981: 15) as plays modelled on the Greek originals (Gentili 1979) and manifestations of theatrical selfconsciousness (Abel 1963) is therefore perfectly accommodated in Plautus' comedies which may be regarded as the very paradigm of metatheatre.
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