The two great playwrights of the early Roman theater are Plautus and Terence. When we read a play from each, we will discover how Rome was changing from the early Republic to the later Republic. By studying these two writers of the theater, we will see how the power of Greece was one of the most important cultural issues for the growing Republic. Plautus is a voice of the old agrarian Rome, its roots back home on the farm. Terence is the voice of the new international Rome, fascinated and envious of Greece.
Not much is known about Titus Maccius Plautus' early life. It is believed that he was born in Sarsina, a small town in Umbria in central Italy, around 254 BC. According to Morris Marples, Plautus worked as a stage-carpenter or scene-shifter in his early years. It is from this work, perhaps, that his love of the theater originated. His acting talent was eventually discovered. He adopted the names "Maccius" (a clownish stock-character in popular farces) and "Plautus" (a term meaning either "flat-footed" or "flat-eared," like the ears of a hound). Tradition holds that he made enough money to go into the nautical business, but that the venture collapsed. He is then said to have worked as a manual laborer and to have studied Greek drama—particularly the New Comedy of Menander—in his leisure. His studies allowed him to produce his plays, which were released between c. 205 and 184 BC. Plautus attained such a popularity that his name alone became a hallmark of theatrical success. (Wikipedia)
Michael Grant, History of Rome, Part III, "Rome Against Carthage"
We will read two plays:
- The Menaechmi (The Brothers Menaechmus), p. 97
- Pseudolus, p. 213
The Pot of Gold and Other Plays,
E. F. Watling, translator,