Biography of Plautus

Plautus, or Titus Maccius Plautus, was one of the most famous of the Roman comedic playwrights. Not much is known about him; ancient sources that described his early career as a stagehand, his bankruptcy, and his time working in a mill have now been discredited.

Plautus may have been born around 254 BCE in Sarsina, a mountain village in the Apennines of Umbria. His name means “splay-foot/flatfoot.” He may have become a Roman soldier, which is where he may have been exposed to Greek theater.

Plautus has twenty complete surviving plays and fragments from several other works. Some of his most famous works include Bacchides, Persa, Amphitruo, Epidicus, Rudens, and the Brothers Menaechmi. These plays are adaptations of 4th century BCE Greek New Comedy, but Plautus expanded the roles of stock characters, stretched plots to implausibility, and frequently used wordplay and puns. He tended to focus on lower- and middle-class life.

His plays remained popular after his death and are credited with influencing European comic theatre, especially Shakespeare and Moliere.

Study Guides on Works by Plautus

Plautus was a Roman comic playwright, living from approximately 254 BC to 184 BC, and The Brothers Menaechmus is frequently considered to be his greatest work. Plautus’ comedies are the earliest Latin works to have survived in their entirety, and...