140. Captivi (The Prisoners) by Plautus (c.193 BC)

Plot:  Hegio, an elderly but rich Aetolian, has already lost one son, Tyndarus, abducted as a child of age four by an unscrupulous runaway slave. So he is frantic that his other son, Philopolemus, now a grown man, has been captured by the enemy in the war between Aetolia and Elis. He sets out to buy up captured Elian soldiers, trying to find someone important enough to ransom for the return of Philopolemus. He manages to buy a number of men, including Philocrates and his servant Tyndarus, who have exchanged identities to try and secure Philocrates’ freedom.

As before, my copy is the Penguin edition translated by E. F. Watling.

My thoughts:  No rude slaves or libidinous women, this play is not what I had gathered a typical Plautine comedy to be. With nearly everyone acting in the noblest of ideals I found it refreshingly clean and yet suspenseful leading up to its resolution, as Hegio has discovered he has been tricked into releasing Philocrates, and has unknowingly sent his own long lost son Tyndarus to his death working in the mines. It would have made a great tragedy with a little tweaking.

The only real comic figure is the parasite Ergasilus; yet even he has a good heart, running to Hegio (his last remaining sympathetic friend) to tell him of Philopolemus’ return.

Personal rating: a high 6/10


Next :  Amphitryon by Plautus


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