O Brother, where do they have you now? slavery and comedy in Plautus’ Captivi

TriCollege Digital Repository

Title: O Brother, where do they have you now? slavery and comedy in Plautus’ Captivi
Author: Garrity, Annalee L.
Type: Thesis
Issue Date: 2011
Abstract: Scholars have treated the Captivi as a special case within Plautus’ corpus, even as the play proves itself as funny as any of his others; we shall not do differently here. The norm for Plautine farce is well-developed throughout the playwright’s body of work, but in the Captivi it is only half-adhered to. Plautus introduces into the play a more naturalistic mode of comedy, in which he strives to give representations of real-world models. This is seen very clearly in the treatment of the slavery of Philocrates and Tyndarus throughout the play. The Romans had several models of approaching domestic slavery, several of which are treated in what looks like to be an attempt to exorcise anxieties surrounding the practices of slavery in Republican Rome. In the Captivi it is especially important to remember the “legal” model of slavery, in which it is probably that a slave can separate himself from his condition, but the vicissitudes of fate cause him to lose his freedom. These theories interact with the example of the servus callidus, or the tricky slave, in Roman Comedy, which adheres to the essentialism of the Plautine farcical model. The Captivi presents a tug-of-war between the realistic and farcical modes. At the end of the play when Tyndarus, who has lived as a slave for the majority of his life, is revealed to be the son of the man that holds him and Philocrates captive, the farce wins out, mostly sweeping aside problems surrounding slavery raised by the naturalism model. The essential model of slavery in Roman Comedy is adhered to especially in the failure of Tyndarus to trick his new master (and father) Hegio, who punishes him. No other slave in Roman Comedy is punished in such a way, underlining Tyndarus’ rightful status as a free man. The ending, in which a family is reunited, is not entirely happy, but it is in keeping with the farcical model, with the naturalism present in the play complicating how we might perceive the so called happy endings in farce.
Subject: Latin literature
Subject: Slavery in literature
Subject: Plautus, Titus Maccius. Captivi
Permanent URL:

Files in this item

Files Description Size Format
Garrity.A.L.Release.pdf Garrity.A.L.Release 55.67Kb PDF
Garrity.A.L.Thesis.pdf Garrity.A.L.Thesis 275.9Kb PDF


Garrity, Annalee L.. "O Brother, where do they have you now? slavery and comedy in Plautus’ Captivi". 2011. Available electronically from

This item appears in the following Collection(s)


Advanced Search


My Account