Places: Pseudolus

  • Last updated on December 10, 2021

First produced: 191 b.c.e. (English translation, 1774)

Type of work: Drama

Type of plot: Comedy

Time of work: Late third century b.c.e.

Asterisk denotes entries on real places.

Places Discussed*Athens

*Athens. PseudolusAncient Greek city that was the center of Greek culture. Although Athens provides the setting for the play, the play might have been set in any Greek city or Rome itself. Plautus adapts–and adds elements to–the New Comedy, as represented by the work of the Greek poet Menander. At the turn of the second century b.c.e., Rome was militarily and economically powerful, in transition from city-state to world empire. Plautus’s models are Greek, but he uses them comically to reflect the social and cultural changes that are producing strains in traditional Roman life.

House of Simo

House of Simo (SIH-moh). Middle of three adjacent houses in Athens that is the residence of the stern old father of Calidorus, a teenager madly in love with the young courtesan Phoenicium. Pseudolus, the protagonist, is Simo’s quick-witted, crafty slave. In Plautine comedy, raised stages generally represented city streets with temporary wooden scenery supplying the background facades of several houses.

House of Ballio

House of Ballio (BA-lee-oh). Residence of a slave dealer and pimp. Ballio owns Phoenicium and has sold her to a Macedonian captain. However, before he can complete the deal, Pseudolus swindles him out of both the girl and his fee. Ballio’s house is stage left of Simo’s. His proximity to his very proper neighbors illustrates the intrusion of sordid materialism into respectable Roman life.

House of Callipho

House of Callipho (KAL-lee-foh). Residence of a tolerant old man, who is a foil to the inflexible Simo. His house is stage right of Simo’s.

BibliographyGarton, Charles. “How Roscius Acted Ballio.” Personal Aspects of the Roman Theatre. Toronto: Hakkert, 1972. The most renowned actor of his day, Roscius played Ballio, instead of the lead role of Pseudolus. Refers to comments of Cicero and examines the role and how the actor appeared on stage.Plautus, Titus Maccius. Pseudolus/Plautus. Edited by M. M. Wilcock. Bristol, England: Bristol Classical Press, 1987. Latin text with valuable introduction and commentary. Includes close plot analysis.Segal, Erich. Roman Laughter: The Comedy of Plautus. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1968. Valuable study of Plautus’ work, setting social and cultural contexts for the plays and commenting on their appeal to Roman audiences.Slater, Niall. Plautus in Performance: The Theatre of the Mind. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1985. Chapter on Pseudolus follows the evolution of Pseudolus’ scheme, which he concocts as he goes. Emphasizes the power of language through which Pseudolus, speaking for Plautus, constructs a metadrama (a play about making a play) by using theatrical metaphor and direct address to the audience.Wright, John. “The Transformation of Pseudolus.” Transactions of the American Philological Association 104 (1974): 403-416. Reflects on problems with the play, including inconsistency over Calidorus’ awareness of the fact that his mistress has been sold by Ballio and the apparent weakness of Pseudolus as a fully developed character. Argues that Pseudolus is transformed by metaphoric language, being associated with such various roles as cook, teacher, and poet (playwright).
Categories: Places