Roman Drama has been divided into two categories: comedy and tragedy. Terence and Plautus are the two infamous Roman playwrights. The two playwrights differ in style; Terence is funny but with caution, where as Plautus mocks the Roman way of life. Plautine comedy has a stock plot with stock characters that is still used today in plays and movies, such as A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum. The stock characters in Plautine comedy include a master, a love struck adolescent male, a forbidden virgin, and a clever slave that becomes the master in a sense of being self aware.
Plautus’ play, Amphitruo, breaks this pattern and is the first of its kind with a unique plot of being a tragicomedy. Plautus keeps the slave and master complex, but doubles the encounter by Mercury and Jupiter disguising themselves as Amphitruo, the master, and Sosia, the slave. The virgin is fulfilled by the virtuous wife, Alcmena. However, there is no love struck youth, just a god lusting after a mortal, and there is where the tragic comes into the tragicomedy.
Dramas with kings and gods are not meant to be comical, as Mercury states in the prologue. However, tragedy is not where Plautus has his skills. Throughout Amphitruo he uses his staple techniques, such as pleading monologues and comical bickering. Each character has their own agenda for the plot, each driven by their priorities. Explore the Character Development page to see how I establish Mercury’s priority list.