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Analysis on Mostellaria

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Titus Maccius Plautus (c. 254-184 BCE), also known as Plautus, was a Roman comedy playwright. He produced many comedies that were mostly adapted to cater to the Roman audience’s taste from the Greek models. His comedies are classified as New Comedy, which contain great differences to the Old Comedy, like those of Aristophanes’. In Plautus’ comedies, the themes, instead of talking about politics as in those of Old Comedy, are more focused on father-son relationship and the betrayal between these two characters. Plautus’ works include: Amphitruo, Asinaria, Aulularia, Bacchides, Captivi, Casina, Cistellaria, Curculio, Epidicus, Menaechmi, Mercator, Miles Gloriosus, Mostellaria, Persa, Poenulus, Pseudolus, Rudens, Stichus, Trinummus, Truculentus and Vidularia

Mostellaria is Latin and its English translation is “The Ghost.” The story happens in ancient Athens. A young fellow, Philolaches, son of Theuropides, an Athenian merchant, leads an extravagant life for three years, indulging himself in wine and parties with his friend, Callidamates. With his slave Tranio’s help, Philolaches buy a girl as his mistress, Philematium. Philolaches’s father, Theuropides, knows nothing about this thing because he is in Egypt. One day, when Philolaches, Callidamates along with many other revellers are having party, Tranio bursts in and announces that Theuropides is back and will soon arrive in the house. Tranio tells his master to hide into the house, making no sound. Then he goes out to prevent Theuropides from entering by claiming that the house is haunted by a person who was murdered 66 years ago so that there has been no one there for six months and that his son is now in another place. When Tranio is telling the lie, a money-lender comes and request that the money Philolaches has borrowed be paid back. Theuropides asks what the money were borrowed for so Tranio lies that Philolaches used the money to buy his neighbor Simo’s house while the money was used to buy Philematium. After examing the house, Theuropides is very satisfied with the purchase and tells Tranio to fetch Philolaches back. A servant of Callidamates comes to fetch him home when Tranio is away and accidentally reveals the truth to Theuropides. Upon knowing the truth, Theuropides flies into a rage and decides to punish Tranio. However, Tranio is in the end not punished thanks to Callidamates’s, who is finally sober, intercession. The play ends with no body being punished and no casualty.

In Poetics, Aristotle states that Comedy is an imitation of inferior actions. Comedy imitates the ridiculous, which is part of the ugly. As to the length, Comedy is no less than Tragedy, it is of a length that allows the hero in the story to go through from good fortune to bad and vice versa, containing also “beginning, middle and end.” Comedy should also have its universality of characters, time and place in plot. A universal plot is an appropriately delimited series of casually consequent events. While a tragic plot is about an error that will arouse the pity and fear of the audience, a comic plot is ridiculous without a painful or destructive error. A comic character first does mischievous things without knowing to whom he is doing harm to and then the mischief nearly completed but is somehow avoided. When his mischief is informed, he might be punished but not to death since no killing should be involved and no bad thing should happen in a comic plot. Abusive languages is used in Comedy to achieve “laughable content” because “abuse is often laughable.”

In Act 1 Scene 1, which means the beginning, of Mostellaria, Tranio has a quarrel with Grumio, Theuropides’s servant who is left at home, in abusive langauages. Grumio refers to Tranio as “whip-scoundrel” while Tranio calls him a blockhead and so on. In this beginning, we can see that Plautus uses abusive

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