Play of Mistaken Identity
AMPHITRYON (Amphitruo) - This drama is based on an old legend. Zeus has a love affair with Alcmena by means of disguising himself as her husband, Amphitryon; Mercury impersonates Sosia, a slave. This is a hilarious low comedy, full of spirit, verve, and bawdiness. There have been many later adaptations: Moliere, Rotrou, Dryden, Kleist, and Giraudoux.

Plautus' Amphitruo is not a typical Plautine comedy. From the very start the prologue reveals the peculiar nature of this drama. Projecting a negative audience reaction to the word 'tragedy', Mercury offers to transform the play to a comedy on the spot - without changing a line - but then settles on tragi-comedy as the thing dearest to his audience's hearts. The genre of tragicomedy, and in fact, the word itself, are unattested elsewhere in ancient literature. This play cannot be entirely a comedy, for it includes roles for kings and gods which typify tragedy. Nor, since the drama features comic slave roles, can it be considered a tragedy. Mercury explains that Jupiter himself, who is both king and god, will take part in the drama, adopting the guise of King Amphitruo, while the god Mercury masquerades as the slave, Sosia. Mercury does not mention the prominent role played by a female character which is another element more typical of tragedy than comedy. The character of Alcmena, a female performed by a male actor, is emblematic of Plautus' tragicomedy. The transvestism of Alcmena in performance serves as a vehicle for travesties of both gender and genre. Throughout the play Plautus deliberately draws our attention to the fact of cross-gender performance, self-consciously disrupts the dramatic illusion of the feminine, and in so doing highlights the genre-crossing of his play. Plautus' Amphitruo is an entertaining romp. It is also a highly sophisticated exploration of reality, mimesis, and the nature of identity - not least, sexual identity.

Virtue is the highest reward. Virtue truly goes before all things. Liberty, safety, life, property, parents, country, and children are protected and preserved. Virtue has all things in herself; he who has virtue has all things that are good attending him.

Virtus praemium est optimum.
Virtus omnibus rebus anteit profecto.
Libertas, salus, vita, res, parentes,
Patria et prognati tutantur, servantur;
Virtus omnia in se habet; omnia assunt bona, quem penes est vertus.

- Amphitruo (act II, 2, 17)

You will stir up the hornets.

Irritabis crabones.

- Amphitruo (act II, 2, 75)

If anything is spoken in jest, it is not fair to turn it to earnest.

Si quid dictum est per jocum,
Non aequum est id te serio praevortier.

- Amphitruo (III, 2, 39)

We should try to succeed by merit, not by favor. He who does well will always have patrons enough.

Virtute ambire oportet, non favitoribus.
Sat habet favitorum semper, qui recte facit.

- Amphitruo--Prologue (LXXVIII)

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