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The Life and Work of Plautus

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Derick Wallace

on 2 October 2013

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Transcript of The Life and Work of Plautus

The Life and Work of Titus Maccius Plautus
By Rick Wallace
Early Life
254 – 184 BC
• Born in Sarsina, a small town in central Italy
• Worked as a stage carpenter or scene-shifter in his early years
• Acting talent was discovered
Gained the nicknames: “Maccius” (a clownish stock character in popular comedic plays), “Plautus” (a term meaning either “flat-footed” or “flat-eared” like the ears of a hound)
• Saved enough money to change careers

In Between
After he left the stage for the first time, he:
Became a merchant, which meant that he either owned a ship or a charter for one
Became a moneylender
Went bankrupt because of poor luck
Returned to Rome and served in the Second Punic War for 6 years
Return to Theater
• Worked as a manual laborer and studied Greek Drama, particularly the New Comedy of Menander, a greek playwright
• These studies allowed him to produce his plays, released between 205-184 BC
• Wrote around 52 Plays, 20 have survived – none in their original forms, all have been altered in some way

Time Period
• Roman playwright of the Old Latin, any Latin written before 75 BC
• Comedies are the earliest surviving intact works in Latin literature
• Plautus was a popular comedic playwright while Roman theater was still in its infancy and largely undeveloped
• Roman Republic was expanding in power and influence

Stagecraft
• No permanent stages in Rome during the life of Plautus
Not until 55 BC
Pompey dedicated one in the Campus Martius
• Typically the plays of Plautus were acted out on stage during the festival games (Ludi)
• No separation between the stage and the audience, different perspective

Influences
• Greek Old Comedy
Known for its critical political and societal commentary
Extremely conscious of the world in which it functions
• Greek New Comedy
Lacked a lot of political, social, and intellectual content
Focused on the family unit

Influences (Continued)
• Prologue
Plautus's prologues have been commented on during the years because of the nontraditional approaches he used
Hes been excused of this because of his need to win over his audience
He did this by using word play and puns which effectively engrossed his audience in the play that was about to start
• Greek
Plautus’s audiences typically had an understanding of Greek
Mostly soldiers who had encountered the Greek during the First and Second Punic Wars
This allowed Plautus to use more Greek references and words
Showed that his plays were originally Greek
Used the Greek to imply the superiority of Rome during a time of Rome's constant expansion

On Plautus's Grave
His Epitaph reads:
postquam est mortem aptus Plautus, Comoedia luget,
scaena est deserta, dein Risus, Ludus Iocusque
et Numeri innumeri simul omnes conlacrimarunt.

Since Plautus is dead, Comedy mourns,
Deserted is the stage; then Laughter, Jest and Wit,
And Melody's countless numbers all together wept.
Surviving Plays
Curculio
Menaechmi
Miles Glorious
Poenulus
Pseudolus
Influence of Plautus
Playwrights have looked to Plautus for:
Characters
Plot
Humor
Plautus's familiarity with the absurdity of human nature and both the comedy and tragedy that come from that absurdity has affected playwrights many years after his death. Notably:
William Shakespeare
A Comedy of Errors, based upon the Menaechmi
Full transcript