As is generally the case for Roman comedy, humor in the work of Plautus (d. 184 BCE) is generated by the theatrical spectacle, innovative treatment of the stereotypical plots and characters inherited from Greek New Comedy, opportunities for metacomedy, and the tensions inhering in the Roman family. Plautine verbal humor, however, stands out in the Roman tradition for its exuberance. This entry focuses on some of the characteristic marks of Plautine verbal fanfare.


Plautus is extraordinarily creative in comic word formations, especially significant names. Whereas Greek New Comedy employed stock names for its characters, Plautus, preferring Greek to Latin roots, amped up his source plays' character names, as was proved by the 1968 papyrus discovery of a section of Menander’s Double Deceiver, Plautus’s source play for ...

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