Metagenre and the competent audience of Plautus' Captivi

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Classical Literature and Philology


Writing on Poenulus and Plautus' genre, Henderson has proposed that the extant Plautine plays are 'emphatically heterogeneous', such that 'no one play typifies the oeuvre.' His argument counters a charge often leveled against Roman Comedy, that the plays are all the same, or at least that they all amount to the same thing. Henderson was right that they are not and do not, but the fact remains that Plautus' plays have a certain predictability. Their formulaic nature is what promises, in the face of manifold obstacles, a happy ending. It is what indicates that the fragments of Vidularia once added up to a recognition play-and what defines 'recognition plays' as a group. It is what prompts claims that Captiui is 'unusual', filled with 'oddities' and 'mistakes'.