1000 Books In 10 Years; Vol. 56-60: Five Plays by Plautus (he’s some Roman dude)

Plautus

Titus Maccius Plautus is a roman playwright circa 254BCE-184BCE. His work: meh. His works are some of the earliest intact works of Latin literature, but that doesn’t make them good. Originality, not Plautus’s strong suit. What is his strong suit? One dimensional characters, loose ends, and narrative that are lacking in cohesiveness.

Pot Of Gold tells the story of an old miser who has a young daughter. She’s hot, and pregnant. Knocked up by the neighbours nephew. The neighbour wants to marry her, finds out about his nephew’s interest, and lets the two marry. The old miser spends the play hiding and looking for his money. In the end, a slave is free, and the pot of gold is handed off to the young couple. Not a very compelling narrative.

The Prisoners, likewise, has slaves freed at the end. An old man whose son has been taken as a prisoner of war, buys up slaves from the other side in hopes of freeing his son, and is especially sad because he lost his younger son as a toddler who was kidnapped and sold into slavery by a slave. Surprise! One of his newly bought slaves is his long lost son! Brothers are reunited, slaves are freed, all are happy. HALARIOUS!!!

 

The Brothers Menaechmus served as the blue print of Comedy Of Errors. One twin is off looking for his long lost twin brother and is confused by all who think he is his brother, though he never clues into this, even though he is looking for somebody who is his identical twin. All confusion is resolved, and guess what, a slave is set free! Oh joy! Shakespeare, in ripping off Plautus, added twin slaves as well, but he didn’t free them.

 

 

The Swaggering Soldier is about an soldier who… swaggers! He has a woman who he has enslaved, as well as a slave he bought, who was a servant to the female slave’s boyfriend. Boyfriend comes back, has a hottie pose as an love interest to the swaggering solider, who then frees his slaves! You know, to make room for his new girl. The slaves run off, and girl spurns him, and all end up HAPPY!!!!!!

 

Pseudolus is about a slave. And another slave. And a slave owner who is in love with a slave he doesn’t own. So he talks to the pimp who owns her and then his slave comes up with a clever plan to obtain the female slave, and is rewarded with lots of money, and…. Drum roll please… FREEDOM!!!!

Formulaic, one-dimensional, and simply not interesting. My judgement may be unfair, but I’m not a big fan of ‘comedies’, so take it with a grain of salt, but not even the editor of the plays seems to be a fan. Before each he seems to begrudgingly offer some compliments, some underhanded compliments and some outright insults to each of the works. According to the editor of the plays, Plautus pays “scant attention to love”, the plays are not “faultlessly constructed”, they have “repetitions and loose ends”, the main actions of one play are “unrelated parts”, one has a “bridge-passage” which is “unnecessary”, they bear signs of “confusion” and “incompleteness” and “unsatisfactory”.

 

So, if you love comedies, knock yourself out. The endings of each play is as predictable as the starting points are clichéd. If you don’t like comedies, skip this collection.

Rambler About Rambler

Jason John Horn is a writer and critic who recently completed his Master's in English Literature at the University of Windsor. He has composed a play, a novella and a number of short stories and satirical essays.

Comments

  1. Hercules Grytpype-Thynne says:

    You’re entitled to your opinion of Plautus, although I’ll point out that situations that are clichéd today were probably somewhat less so 2200 years ago.

    Are you aware that you’ve illustrated this post about Plautus with a picture of a bust of Cicero?

  2. You are correct! They may have been far less cliche at the time. Still, before Rome there was Greece, and the Greek playwrights mastered the trade. Thank you for sharing your thoughts. And yes, I did know about the image, but I couldn’t find an image of Plautus at the time. It has been corrected.

    The characters are still quite one-dimensional and the plots contrived. I get so much more out of reading Aristophanes of Sophocles. They set the bar pretty high. I’m also partial to tragedies.

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