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Plautus, (born c. 254 bce, Sarsina, Umbria? —died 184 bce), an excellent Roman comic dramatist, who works, loosely adapted from Greek plays, developed a truly roman inn drama in the Latin language.


Little is known for particular about the life and personality of Plautus, who ranks with Terence as one of the two great Roman comic dramatists. His work, moreover, gift scholars through a variety of textual problems, due to the fact that the manuscripts by which his dram survive room corrupt and also sometimes incomplete. Nevertheless, his literary and also dramatic skills make his plays enjoyable in their own right, while the success of his comic genius has had actually lasting significance in the history of western literature and also drama.

According come the grammarian Festus (2nd or third century ce), Plautus to be born in northeastern central Italy. His customarily assigned birth and also death dates are largely based on statements do by later on Latin writers, especially Cicero in the 1st century bce. Also the three names usually provided to him—Titus Maccius Plautus—are that questionable historic authenticity. Internal proof in some of the theatre does, that is true, suggest that these were the surname of your author, but it is possible that they are stage names, even theatrical hoax or allusions. (“Maccus,” because that example, to be the timeless name that the clown in the fabula Atellana (“Atellan plays”), a long-established famous burlesque the was native to the Neapolitan an ar of southerly Italy; “Plautus,” follow to Festus, derives from planis pedibus, planipes gift a pantomime dancer.) over there are more difficulties: the poet Lucius Accius (170–c. 86 bce), who made a study of his other Umbrian, appears to have actually distinguished between one Plautus and also one Titus Maccius. Tradition has it the Plautus was associated with the theatre native a young age. An early story claims that he shed the earnings made from his early success as a playwright in one unsuccessful company venture, and also that because that a while afterward he was obliged to earn a life by working in a serial mill.

Approach come drama

The Roman precursors of Plautus in both tragedy and also comedy borrowed most of your plots and all of their dramatic approaches from Greece. Also when taking care of themes taken from roman life or legend, castle presented this in Greek forms, setting, and dress. Plautus, prefer them, take it the mass of his plots, if not every one of them, from plays composed by Greek authors of the late fourth and early third centuries bce (who represented the brand-new Comedy, as it was called), especially Menander and Philemon. Plautus did not, however, lend slavishly; back the life stood for in his theatre is superficially Greek, the flavour is Roman, and also Plautus included into his adaptations roman concepts, terms, and also usages. He referred to towns in Italy; come the gates, streets, and also markets the Rome; to roman laws and also the company of the Roman law courts; to roman inn magistrates and also their duties; and also to such Roman organizations as the Senate.

Not all references, however, were Romanized: Plautus apparently collection little save by consistency, despite the fact that few of the Greek allusions the were left may have been unintelligible to his audiences. Terence, the much more studied and also polished playwright, mentions Plautus’s carelessness as a translator and upbraids him because that omitting an entire scene from one of his adaptations native the Greek (though over there is no criticism of him because that borrowing material, together plagiarism being then pertained to as wholly commendable). Plautus allowed himself countless other liberties in adapting his material, also combining scenes from 2 Greek originals into one Latin beat (a procedure well-known as contaminatio).

Even much more important to be Plautus’s method to the language in which that wrote. His action was lively and slapstick, and also he was able to marry the activity to the word. In his hands, Latin ended up being racy and also colloquial, city varied and choral.

Whether these brand-new characteristics obtained from now shed Greek originals—more vigorous 보다 those of Menander—or even if it is they stemmed native the developed forms and tastes the burlesque traditions native to Italy can not be determined with any kind of certainty. The latter is much more likely. The result, at any type of rate, is the Plautus’s plays read favor originals rather than adaptations, such is his witty command the the Latin tongue—a gift admired by Cicero himself. That has often been said that Plautus’s Latin is crude and “vulgar,” yet it is in fact a literary idiom based ~ above the language that the Romans in his day.

The plots that Plautus’s theatre are sometimes well organized and interestingly developed, but much more often lock simply administer a framework for scene of pure farce, relying greatly on intrigue, failure identity, and comparable devices. Plautus is a truly well-known dramatist, whose comic effect springs indigenous exaggeration, burlesque and also often outlet humour, fast action, and also a on purpose upside-down portrayal of life, in i m sorry slaves give orders to their masters, parents are hoodwinked come the benefit of sons who need money for girls, and also the procurer or braggart soldier is outwitted and also fails to secure the seduction or possession of the desired girls. Plautus, however, did additionally recognize the virtue the honesty (as in Bacchides), of commitment (as in Captivi), and of nobility of character (as in the heroine the Amphitruo).

Plautus’s plays, practically the faster literary works in Latin that have actually survived, room written in verse, as were the Greek originals. The metres that used included the iambic 6 foot line (senarius) and also the trochaic 7 foot heat (septenarius), which Menander had additionally employed. Yet Plautus varied these with longer iambic and trochaic lines and an ext elaborate rhythms. The metres room skillfully chosen and also handled come emphasize the the atmosphere of the speaker or the action. Again, the is possible that now shed Greek plays inspired this metrical range and inventiveness, however it is much much more likely the Plautus was responding to features currently existing in renowned Italian dramatic traditions. The Senarii (conversational lines) to be spoken, however the rest was sung or chanted come the accompaniment of dual and fingered reed pipes, or auloi. It might indeed be claimed that, in their metrical and also musical liveliness, performances the Plautus’s plays rather resembled musicals the the mid-20th century.

Although Plautus’s original texts did not survive, some variation of 21 of them did. Also by the moment that roman inn scholars such as Varro, a contemporary of Cicero, ended up being interested in the playwright, just acting execution of his dram remained. These had actually been adapted, modified, cut, expanded, and generally lugged up-to-date for production purposes. Critics and scholars have ever because attempted to create a “Plautine” text, but 20th- and 21st-century editors have actually admitted the impossibility of efficiently accomplishing together a task. The plays had actually an energetic stage life at least until the time of Cicero and also were occasionally performed afterward. Conversely, Cicero had actually praised their language, the poet Horace was a an ext severe critic and considered the dram to absence polish. There was renewed scholarly and literary attention in Plautus during the 2nd century ce, however it is unlikely that this was accompanied by a phase revival, despite a performance of Casina is report to have been offered in the early fourth century. St. Jerome, towards the finish of that century, states that after ~ a night of too much penance the would read Plautus as a relaxation; in the mid-5th century, Sidonius Apollinaris, a Gallic bishop who was also a poet, discovered time to read the plays and praise the playwright between the alarms the the barbarian invasions.

During the middle Ages, Plautus was small read if at all—in comparison to the renowned Terence. By the mid-14th century, however, the humanist scholar and poet Petrarch knew eight of the comedies. Together the remainder pertained to light, Plautus started to affect European residential comedy ~ the Renaissance poet Ariosto make the very first imitations of Plautine comedy in the Italian vernacular. His influence was perhaps to be checked out at its most advanced in the comedies the Molière (whose play L’Avare, for instance, was based upon Aulularia), and it can be traced as much as the 20th century in together adaptations together Jean Giraudoux’s Amphitryon 38 (1929), Cole Porter’s musical Out of This World (1950), and also the musical and motion snapshot A Funny Thing taken place on the method to the Forum (1963). Plautus’s share character species have likewise had a long line of successors: the braggart soldier mile Gloriosus, because that example, came to be the Capitano of the Italian commedia dell’arte and is recognizable in Nicholas Udall’s Ralph Roister Doister (16th century), in Shakespeare’s Pistol and also even in his Falstaff, in Edmond Rostand’s Cyrano de Bergerac (1897), and in young name Shaw’s Sergius in Arms and also the Man (1894). A trace of the character perhaps remains also in Bertolt Brecht’s Eilif in Mother Courage and Her Children (1941). Thus, Plautus, in adapting Greek brand-new Comedy to roman conditions and taste, likewise significantly influenced the course of the european theatre.

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This short article was most recently revised and also updated by catalen Kuiper, senior Editor.