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Wordle: Martial VI 



There are three comedic actors, but your Paula, Lupercus, loves

Four: Paula also loves a mute face.

VI meter: Elegiac Couplet

moē|dī trēs|sūnt, sĕd ă|māt tŭ ă|Paū lă, Lŭ|pēr cĕ,

  Quāt tŭ ŏr:|ēt κω̄|φὸν||Paū lă πρό̆|σω̄ πο̆ν ă|māt.




In 6.6, Paula is said to have loved one more person than is customary or expected of her. Although this is humorous on its own, there is an additional hidden obscenity within this epigram. The punchline of this epigram does not depend on the quattuor; rather, upon the Greek phrase in the second line. κωφὸν πρόσωπον can be translated as a mute character or face. This is a subtle way of saying that Paula's fourth lover is not a specific person, but "face," or cunnilingus. This frequently overlooked joke is not surprising in one of Martial's epigrams, of which over sixty include references to oral sex. Examples of metonymy, such as using the words mouth or face to stand for oral sex are not uncommon.

This epigram can be read in a more harmless way, however. It can refer to the common theme of female's love for actors or the mute character may be the fourth actor in Paula's play. Typically, only three actors could have speaking roles and thus, the fourth must be silent. Martial's writing style allows the reader to interpret the epigram in either way, which elevates his literary talents as an epigrammatist (Parker).

Parker, Holt N. "Innocent on the Face of It: An Overlooked Obscenity in Martial (6.6)". Mnemosyne, Fourth Series, Vol. 47, Fasc. 3 (Jun., 1994), pp. 380-383.

Watson, Lindsey and Patrician, eds. Martial: Select Epigrams. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2003.

K. Renner