The folly of boyhood love

Pseudolus - Titus Maccius Plautus

It was interesting to note that in the introduction they mentioned that the plot of this play was one of those really hackneyed plots in the Roman times. That may be the case, but the fact that it has survived suggests that Plautus' take on the subject was a superior version of this well worn plot, or it simply could be the first. It is sort of like Die Hard – an original idea that ended up spawning a bunch of copies that tried, and failed, to live up to the original. Mind you, Pseudolus is not a play about a cop being trapped in a skyscraper on Christmas Eve, painting the words 'Ho, Ho, Ho, now I have a machine gun' on a dead body.


Now I have a machine gun - Ho Ho Ho


No, Psuedolus is about how the son (Calidorus) of an Athenian nobleman (Simo) falls in love with a woman who is sold as a slave. I initially thought that it may have been similar to the Captivi, where the woman was initially a free woman, however it turns out that the woman is a slave, meaning that she is basically a prostitute (well, that is probably not the best description because prostitutes are generally paid, and enter that profession willingly, where as slaves aren't). The problem is that Calidorus can't afford to purchase his love (and it sounds that Simo is not willing to give him the money – which is not surprising because I am sure Simo had other women in mind to be his wife).

I was about to suggest that this play is similar to a very popular movie from the eighties:


Pretty Woman Poster


however that happens to be a romantic comedy, and Richard Gere has no problem whatsoever paying for Julia Robert's services. Plautus is certainly not a romantic comedy, it is farce, and I am almost inclined to believe that such, boring, stories were not really written back then (though since we have a very limited sampling of Roman comedy I could quite well be wrong).

As is typical, especially with Plautus' plays, everything turns out good in the end, thanks to the shrewdness and cunning of the play's title character, a slave named Psuedolus. Obviously the slave's owner (referred to in the translation that I read as being a pimp) comes out second best, but then he was the one that was causing all of the problems in the first place. Still, as I suggested, the whole concept is ridiculous. The idea of wealthy son of a nobleman falling in love with a slave would be preposterous, though I am sure it happened quite a lot. I could quite well imagine the audience thinking 'yes, I remember when my stupid son fell is love with that slave, and after he got bored of her I swore that the next time I would not be giving him any more money' (which is probably why Simo didn't want to fork out the cash for his son in the first place.