The Role of Slavery in Roman Comedy

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The Role of Slavery in Roman Comedy The theater of the Roman Empire was very similar to that of the Greek theater. Masks were worn by the actors to amplify their voices and to allow some actors to play two different roles, and women were not allowed to have roles in the theater. Roman playwrights such as Plautus and Terence borrowed comedic stories from the Greek theater, “Romanizing” them in the process. For instance, Terence wrote a play called Heauton Timorumenos or The Self-Tormentor. A Greek comedic playwright named Menander wrote a play with the same title. Since Menander’s version is lost, historians aren’t sure how original Terence’s version is. We can suspect that at least some of Terence’s version is merely a translation…show more content…
Another slave, Trachalio comes along, though, and claims that if Gripus doesn’t split the treasure with him, then he will report Gripus to the original owner of the treasure. Gripus argues that the treasure is his because the sea belongs to no one, and consequently that which is recovered from the sea belongs to the finder. Trachalio suggests they settle the argument by talking to Gripus’ owner Daemones. Daemones sides with Trachalio, who wanted the treasure not for himself, but for the original owner, Palaestra. Daemones then chides Gripus for his selfishness, “Daemones angrily sends him into the house and complains about the poor quality of slaves; luckily, he reflects, Gripus didn’t meet another like himself, or both would have been implicated in the crime,” (Konstan 84). Trachalio is the cunning slave in this example, and he, like Tyndarus, is not motivated by selfish reasons, but by doing what is right. This is the reason why the cunning slave is celebrated in Roman Theater. Duckworth describes the attitude of this slave as, “the freedom and insolence of the comic slaves, their immunity from serious punishment, their happy-go-luck existence…combine to paint a picture of slave life that bears little relation to reality,” (Duckworth 290). In his essay entitle Comic Shackles, Ulrike Roth elaborates on this point saying, “But
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