Last Updated on June 19, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 367
Themes of The Braggart Soldier include loyalty, self-image, and manipulation. Plautus explores these themes as the story of the braggart soldier who captures another man's love and steals her away unfolds.
Loyalty is an important theme in The Braggart Soldier. Pyrgopolynices feels that he is owed loyalty and honor for his many great deeds—even though those deeds are inflated in his own mind and do not reflect reality. As a result, he is followed around by his slaves. Notably, one of them spends his time repeating what his master believes rather than what is true—but he then gives sly asides to the audience to show that he is aware that Pyrgopolynices is not as great as he believes.
On the other hand, Pleusicles is a mirror of Pyrgopolynices. He is more modest, and he is clever enough not to brag about himself. He inspires actual loyalty in the people around him. When his love is kidnapped, one of Pleusicles's own slaves leaves Athens to alert him, ends up in the household of her captor, and works to bring the lovers back together. Loyalty is also shown to Pleusicles from his lover, Philocomasium, and the neighbor of her captor, Periplecomenus.
Self-image is another theme explored in the play. Pyrgopolynices does not see himself the way he actually is. As a result, he has no real relationships or happiness. He gets pleasure only from his own belief that he is god's gift to the country and to women in general. He is so convinced of this false self-image that he kidnaps Philocomasium and only releases her when he thinks another woman is interested in him.
Manipulation is also a key theme in The Braggart Soldier. Everyone works together to manipulate Pyrgopolynices to release Philocomasium and Palaestrio. They do it by playing his own beliefs about himself against him. When he thinks another woman is interested in him, he does not question her intentions. Instead, he sends away his captives with the gifts he had given Philocomasium. The conspirators also manipulate a slave of his to convince him that Philocomasium has a twin so that he will not report to his master that she is meeting with Pleusicles.