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Dish to cash, cash to ash : the last Roman parasite and the birth of a comic profession

Dish to cash, cash to ash : the last Roman parasite and the birth of a comic profession

Vidovic, Goran

MA Thesis in Medieval Studies, Central European University, Budapest, May (2009)

Abstract

The subject of the thesis is the unconventional role of the parasite Mandrogerus in the early fifth-century Latin comedy, the Querolus. The topos of parasitic gluttony is replaced by the hunger for gold, and this transition is accompanied by frequent humorously ambiguous allusions to food in connection with money. Mandrogerus ultimately appeared not as a ridiculous, voracious and subservient clown but as a hitherto unattested comic character: an arrogant independent impostor chasing after gold. However, his attempts to get hold of the treasure ended up unsuccessfully. The author organized the plot in order to secure the parasite’s defeat and restoration to dependent position; I argue that he thereby demonstrated how binding the comic conventions were. The appearance of Mandrogerus during his episode of independence I compare with the satirical images of legacy-hunting practices, and I conclude that the comic character of the parasite in the Querolus is upgraded, concretized, and updated. This development is interpreted as a symptom of modernity of this comedy.

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