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  • Varro's Bimarcus and Encounters with the Self in Plautus's Epidicus and Amphitruo*
  • T. H. M. Gellar-Goad

The current scholarly communis opinio holds that the referent of the title of Varro's Bimarcus and the Menippean satire's two speakers are not (as previously believed) two different men named Marcus but rather two sides of the Varro-ego himself, arguing in an internal dialogue.1 Joel Relihan sees the split-author dialogue of Persius poem 1 as a reiteration of Bimarcus, and Kirk Freudenburg argues that Bimarcus is the inspiration both for the split persona of the satirist in Persius poem 3 and for the bewildering nested quotations of Damasippus in Horace's Sermones 2.3, while Mikhail Bakhtin presents Bimarcus as the foundation for the enduring western literary trope of the author split in two.2 I argue, in turn, that [End Page 117] Varro's schizophrenic dialogue was itself inspired by Plautine models for the two kinds of encounters with the self found in Plautus's Epidicus and Amphitruo. All three of these encounters draw attention to metatheatrical and metaliterary concerns in the texts in which they appear, and all three thematize the fragmentation of Roman identities, both citizen and enslaved, literary and social-historical. Plautus's characters Epidicus, Mercury, Sosia, and Amphitruo serve as useful models for the Varro-ego of Bimarcus.


Varro's connections to comedy and to the works of Plautus are well established. Werner Krenkel discusses the prominence of comedy in the extant fragments of Varro's Saturae Menippeae (2002.1.88). T. P. Wiseman emphasizes the stagedness of the texts (2009.143, 147), and the Varro-ego himself even refers to "my theatrical style" (hic modus scenatilis) in Modius.3 While Freudenburg characterizes Varro as "Plautus's biggest fan, and his only imitator in satire" (2013.319), Frances Muecke argues (2013) that Plautus is also a fundamental influence for Varro's satiric forebear Lucilius and thus for Roman satura as a genre. And, of course, Varro was the leading Plautine scholar of his day and the ultimate arbiter of authentic and fake Plautine plays (see, e.g., Lehmann 1995).

Comedic elements abound in the extant fragments of Bimarcus itself. Schizoid dialogue of the kind originating in Bimarcus is also comic, as Bakhtin notes (1984.117). The speaker in fragment 59 complains about the uninspired comedic proliferations of Quintipor Clodius compared to his own slim volume ("cum Quintipor Clodius tot comoedias sine ulla fecerit Musa, ego unum libellum non 'edolem,' ut ait Ennius?" "Even though Quintipor Clodius has made so many comedies without any inspiration, I'm not supposed to 'whittle out,' as Ennius puts it, a single pamphlet?"). Fragment 55, "chortis cocorum atque hamiotarum aucupumque" ("among the battalions of cooks and fishermen and birdhunters"), not only invokes a culinary procession common in Roman comedy but also may depend specifically on Terence's Eunuchus 256–57: "concurrunt laeti mi obuiam cuppedinarii omnes: | cetarii, lanii, coqui, fartores, piscatores," "All the fancy chefs rush happily up to me: fishmongers, butchers, cooks, [End Page 118] sausagemakers, fishermen" (so Vahlen 1858.141). The line-end of Bimarcus fragment 52 (quantum sumptifecerit) both echoes a line-end from Plautus's Casina (425: restim sumpti fecerim) and is collocated by Nonius (p. 485, line 2) with a citation of Plautus's Trinummus (249: quod facit sumpti). Alessandro Perutelli (1997.425–27) argues that Bimarcus fragment 70 ("non Hercules potest, qui Augeae egessit κόπρον," "Hercules couldn't, even though he'd dealt with Augeas's caca") uses Plautine language. Most significantly, Bimarcus fragment 51 calls up "the old man that the Latin stage has seen super-duper-mocked" ("scena quem senem Latina uidit derisissimum") in a trochaic septenarius line—the single most common verse form in Plautine comedy (so Moore 2012.172). This fragment's old man should not, I argue, be taken as a reference to the old men of mime or Atellan farce,4 but rather those of Plautus's comedies, where horny old men get their memorably mocking, low-comic comeuppance in Latin verse in, among others, the conclusions of Asinaria and Casina.


Varro's Bimarcus survives in a...


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