The Braggart Soldier

by Plautus

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Last Updated on September 5, 2023, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 678


The Braggart Soldier is named for Pyrgopolynices, a title that accurately reflects his misplaced vanity and overabundant arrogance. The soldier is obsessed with his accomplishments, minimal though they may be, and is obsessed with portraying himself as a successful, heroic man. At the beginning of the play, it becomes evident that a contributing factor to the size of his ego is the lackeys who follow him around, praising his values and building him up.

Pyrgopolynices’s arrogance is not limited to his career; indeed, he seems to feel that he is a gift to all women. At the beginning of the play, he kidnaps Philocomasium, an Athenian woman, yet he imagines that she stays with him in Ephesus because she loves him and not because he keeps her trapped in his home. His arrogance is his downfall; by the end of the play, Pyrogopolynices faces justice for his misdeeds. The braggart must face reality and realize that his arrogance is unearned. 


Artotrogus appears at the beginning of the play. Yet another Roman stock character, Artotrogus is a parasite who leeches off the main character. In The Braggart Soldier, Artotrogus earns his meals by excessively flattering Pyrgopolynices. Artotogus follows the soldier wherever he goes, agrees with everything he says, and unduly builds the ego of a man he knows is not nearly as worthy or accomplished as he pretends.


Philocomasium is a young woman from Athens whose life is disrupted when Pyrgopolynices decides to kidnap her and force her to accompany him to his home in Ephesus. She must leave her lover behind and fears she will be stuck with this man she does not love. However, Philocomasium is resilient and clever, and when Palaestrio arrives, her resourcefulness shines through. When circumstances demand, she proves to be an accomplished actress, convincing her kidnapper that she is, in fact, her twin sister. Though The Braggart Soldier aims to put her in the box of damsel in distress, she often proves her mettle and aids in facilitating her and Palaestrio’s escape.


A young Athenian man, Pleusicles plays the role of the young lover. He travels to Ephesus when the woman he loves is kidnapped and, with the help of his servant, Palaestrio, contrives a clever plan to free her. He is a single-minded man who is quick to action and motivated by the desire to bring the man who kidnapped Philocamsium to justice.


Palaestrio is the lynchpin of the play’s plot. He plays the part of the tricky slave, is responsible for tracking down Philocomasium—although he stumbles across her by accident—and aids his master's lover in achieving her freedom and his own. By design, Palaestrio is a cunning man, and his loyalty to his master dictates that he would do anything to aid him. At his suggestion, they create a hole in the wall so the lovers can meet, and it is he who contrives and orchestrates the schemes to trick their captor, Pyrgopolynices.


An elderly man who willingly joins the scheme against his next-door neighbor, Pyrgopolynices, Periplectomenus is a kind soul who allows the grief-stricken Pleusicles to stay with him. He is a man of principles who is outraged by his neighbor's actions and views Pyrogopolynices's kidnapping of an innocent woman and courtship of his fake wife with disdain. After the Athenian trio departs for home, Periplectomenus facilitates his neighbor’s punishment by ordering his servants to beat him and joining in himself.


Sceledrus is another slave of Pyrgopolynices. He observes an instance when the two lovers meet but is fooled when they pretend that Philocomasium has a twin. Beyond his role as a spy, Sceledrus is a relatively unimportant character in the play.


Acroteleutium is a lovely courtesan hired by Periplectomenus who pretends to be his wife. She convincingly acts as if she is in love with Pyrgopolynices to convince him to exchange the captive Philocomasium for her and plays a crucial part in acquiring the Athenian woman’s freedom and contriving the braggart soldier’s punishment. 

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