It's for this reason that I'm thoroughly enjoying "Five Roman Comedies," a collection of Plautus and Terence plays translated into "modern verse" (eg., "the modern verse of Classical Studies professors in 1970").
It is really, really wonderful to know that we find the same things funny today that we did 2200 years ago: the irony of confused identities, the bumblings of a cocky idiot, the old routine of "Go quickly! And wait, don't forget what I told you to do! Now go, hurry! Wait, remember to be careful! Now hurry up and go! Wait a second, don't forget to be as quick as you can!"
Isn't this touching? Obviously our brains have changed little (if any) since Roman times, but neither have our joys and fears. And there is something ESPECIALLY touching that -- so long ago -- we had a theatrical system to entertain each other with, and that -- against all odds -- so many of these works have survived for us to read today.
Anyway, while reading these plays I'm torn between enjoying the "modern verse" translations and wishing they were a bit more literal. Like, I know instantly what "knucklehead" means to us today, but I sort wonder how the ROMANS had expressed such a thing. I'm currently reading the hilarious "Mostellaria," and the translator (Palmer Bovie) has really gone to town with the idioms. Here's my favourite section, which I hereby decree to be the best part of any play, anywhere:
TRANIO:That's great stuff! Then, as now, we've always found it enormously funny when two unlikeable people insult each other.
Why don't you go up in smoke? I'll see you inhale first,
you halitosis garlic-green rotten excuse for a rustic
retreat, with goat-goo on your feet. I repeat:
You whiff of damp air, what's it like down there in your pig-sty?
Whew! What a combination of nanny goat and mongrel bitch!