What is the plot of Plautus's The Swaggering Soldier?
The Plautine comedy The Swaggering Soldier (Miles Gloriosus) centers on a young lover who yearns to be with the courtesan he loves. Pyrgopolynices, the braggart Captain who gives the play its name, arises as the young lover's competitor for the courtesan's affection.
The young lover enlists the aid of a slave trickster, Palaestrio, to ensure his union with the courtesan. Palaestrio essentially plays the middle man in this comedy of errors. He brings about the dismissal of the courtesan Philocomasium from the house of Pyrgopolynices, to effect the union between the young lover and the courtesan. He does so by informing Pyrgopolynices that there is another woman who desires him even more. Given Pyrgopolynices's egotism, Palaestrio's ruse is successful. Removing the braggart from the equation allows for the happy ending.
The simplicity of the plot belies the extensive commentary on various aspects of Roman society, particularly the role of courtesans. Courtesans, or kept women, are seen merely as objects to be possessed, rather than as human beings.