Characters Discussed

(Great Characters in Literature)


Amphitryon (am-FIHT-ree-uhn), a Theban general. Having defeated his enemies, Amphitryon is eager to return to his home and his wife. When she says that she already has seen him, he first thinks her unfaithful or mad. Confronted by a man who looks like him and insists he is indeed Amphitryon, he begins to think that he himself has lost his mind. When he breaks down the door to his house, he is insulted by Mercury, who is disguised as Sosia, then rebuked by his wife, and finally confronted with someone who looks just like him. On his way to kill everyone inside the house, Amphitryon is knocked down by one of Jupiter’s thunderbolts. Coming back to consciousness, he is assured that his wife is innocent of any wrongdoing, and he bows to the will of Jupiter.


Alcmena (alk-MEE-nuh), the faithful wife of Amphitryon, who left her pregnant when he went to war. She believes that she has spent the night with her husband, and she has the golden cup he gave her to prove it. When he turns up again, with another golden cup, she is stunned. All she can do is deny his accusations of infidelity and conclude that he is mad. Alcmena goes into labor. She invokes the gods and, with much thunder but without pain, she produces twins, one of whom jumps up and kills two snakes. Jupiter explains that he is the father of the stronger son.


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(Great Characters in Literature)

Anderson, William S. Barbarian Play: Plautus’ Roman Comedy. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1993. Focuses on what the author calls the playwright’s deconstruction of Menander, the ways in which he alters elements in his source to make his plays Roman instead of Greek. Good notes, thorough index, comprehensive bibliography.

Duckworth, George E., ed. The Complete Roman Drama. 2 vols. New York: Random House, 1942. General introduction provides an excellent summary of Roman drama and its cultural setting. Introduction to the Amphitryon is extremely helpful; combines facts with interpretation and includes some comments on later influence.

Hunter, R. L. The New Comedy of Greece and Rome. Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press, 1985. Lucid discussion of forms, motifs, and themes in New Comedy, with numerous references to Plautus and Amphitryon. Extensive notes and a bibliography.

Sandbach, F. H. The Comic Theatre of Greece and Rome. London: Chatto & Windus, 1977. Both the chapter “Drama at Rome” and the chapter devoted to Plautus provide excellent overviews. Insists that Plautus was less dependent on Greek sources than is generally assumed. Essential Greek and Roman terms are defined in a glossary, which includes a thorough discussion of meter. Brief bibliography. Illustrated.

Segal, Erich. Roman Laughter: The Comedy of Plautus. Harvard Studies in Comparative Literature 29. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1968. Shows how Plautus’ works reflect Roman culture and literary traditions. References to Amphitryon appear throughout the text and the notes. Carefully indexed.