Saturnalia Skit & More
by Linda Chester
With apologies to Deborah Carter , Brian Ballantine, and Ryan Tuccinardi of Linganore High School in Frederick, Maryland, I tinkered around with their most excellent skit in order to bring in some CLC references. Knowing how tight time is this time of the year, here's my effort:
Narrator (who is allowed to hold a script)
Various non-speaking members and friends of familia:
Scene: outside the domus. Grumio is pacing and trying to figure out a way to make Saturnalia come earlier.
Narrator: Here we are outside the domus of a wealthy citizen of Pompeii, the banker L. Caecilius Iucundus. It is the 17th day before the Kalends of January -- or December 16, to you -- and the festival of Saturnalia begins tomorrow, on December 17. This most joyous of holidays, in honor of the god Saturn, lasted anywhere form three to seven days. One of the traditions during Saturnalia was for masters to free their slaves -- temporarily, of course. As our play begins, one slave is waiting eagerly for his moment of freedom.
Grumio (addressing audience): Here we are on the 17th day before the kalends of January, already several days into the holiday season, and I don't think I can wait another moment for my pilleum -- the cap of freedom that my master will give me to wear during the Saturnalia. I wonder if there is any way to speed up this sundial here, to trick him into giving me my pilleum a day early? (He walks around the imaginary sundial, contemplating.)
Clemens: Io Saturnalia, Grumio!
Grumio: Not yet, Clemens. We'll have to wait another day to use that greeting, unless I can think of a way to hurry time along. Just think -- tomorrow when we wake up, the master and his family will be serving our breakfast instead of the other way around!
Clemens: Yes, but the best part about Saturnalia is being allowed to gamble openly and in public. I am going to win enough money to buy my freedom permanently! Then I'll save all the denarii that I earn so that I can buy Melissa's freedom and make her my wife.
Grumio: You are a dreamer. All you ever do is lose money when you gamble, whether it's in public or in secret. And you stand as much chance of winning the affections of the lovely Melissa as Quintus does. She pays more attention to Cerberus here ( snoring loudly as he sleeps in the garden beneath the sundial). No, the best part about Saturnalia is being chosen The Saturnalicius Princeps, the Master of the Saturnalia in the household. That lucky person gets to order everyone else around for seven days!
Clemens: Now who is the dreamer? The Saturnalicius Princeps will be a member of the master's family, and you know it.
Grumio: Do you have all your gifts prepared for the last day?
Clemens: Not yet, but with the money I win at gambling, I'll be able to buy the most wonderful dolls for all the children, and the most beautiful candles.
Grumio: Well, I suppose we should get back to work, since the Saturnalia hasn't started yet. (They exit.)
Narrator: Now it has finally arrived. Although almost the entire month of December was spent in celebrating some holiday or another, it was the Saturnalia that everyone looked forward to. There was no school during this time, no business. No one had to work at all. Oh, the other celebrations were very nice, especially the solstice festival for Sol Invictus -- the unconquered sun -- and the Kalends of January, or New Year, in honor of Janus. But Saturnalia was the one called "the best of days" by the great poet Catullus.
(Enter all three characters, the master holding two paper hats.)
Caecilius: Io Saturnalia!
Grumio and Clemens: Io Saturnalia, domine.
Caecilius: Today I am not your dominus, your master. Today we are all equal! Here are your pillea. Wear them in good health. (He gives each slave a cap to wear.)
Grumio. At last! And where is my breakfast?
(Good-natured chuckles all around.)
Caecilius: Very soon my family will be bringing out the traditional Saturnalia cake for everyone! My wife and son are picking up our loaves from the baker right now. They got off to a late start, since they spent so much time decorating the house. There is laurel and cypress everywhere!
Clemens: How soon will the formal sacrifice begin? (aside, to Grumio.:) The sooner the ritual is over and the holiday has officially begun, the sooner I can start earning my freedom money!
Caecilius: Right after breakfast, we will all head over to the Temple of Saturn and watch as the priests ceremoniously untie and remove the woolen bonds around the feet of Saturn's statue, symbolizing freedom for everyone. And tonight, the banquet, where everyone will dress informally and have riotous fun! Look, here comes the rest of my familia along with some of our friends. Salvete, Syphax, Pantagathus, Felix, Celer, Lucrio, Poppaea, Actius, Sorex, and even Hermogenes, carrying the money he owes me and a bone for Cerberus! They are helping Metella and Quintus bring the Saturnalia cake. Let me be the first to serve you, gentlemen!
Omnes: IO SATURNALIA!
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Last update December 17, 2000. This site was re-created August 1998 by Ginny Lindzey, Webmistress, Texas Classical Association. All text and graphics are copyrighted. Original photo of arch by Roger Robison. To report problems and to get permission to reprint articles, please contact Ginny at firstname.lastname@example.org