Themes

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Last Updated on June 19, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 464

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Plautus' play, Pot of Gold (Latin: Auluaria) would have sounded like a funny to his Roman readers, too. Aulularia is a diminutive word translating to "little pot." Like many of Plautus' plays, it was based on a lost Greek original. The plot is constructed around a household god (Lar familiaris) who exposes a pot of gold in the household of the home's occupant, Euclio. The existence of a household god would not have been considered unusual; all Roman households had notional gods that they considered spiritual protectors of the home.

The play begins with a statement to the audience of this household god, explaining how the course of events were set in place: The current occupant's miserly grandfather had a pot of gold that he hid from his son. The son, too, was irritable and unpleasant, and so the household god kept this secret inheritance hidden. However, his son (the home's current occupant, Euclio, grandson of the gold's original owner) has a daughter who was very devout, and prayed dutifully to this household god. This inspired the god to reveal the gold to Euclio.

Euclio becomes zealous in guarding his newfound treasure. The gold makes Euclio suspect of everyone with whom he comes into contact, including a suitor of his daughter, Megadorus (whose name is a pun on "great gift" in Greek). Megadorus offers to marry his daughter without a dowry, although Euclio still suspects he is after money.

Meanwhile, Euclio's daughter is pregnant by another man, Lyconides. Moments of dramatic irony include Euclio's interpretation of wedding preparations for his daughter and Megadorus as a mass attempt to steal his gold. Meanwhile, a slave of the man who impregnated Euclio's daughter witnesses where the gold has been hidden and steals it. Later, when Lyconides prepares to confess to Euclio his violation of Euclio's daughter, Euclio assumes the confession is on account of having stolen the gold. By this point, Euclio's daughter has borne a child, and Megadorus has withdrawn his marriage proposal. Lyconides is soon after informed by his slave of the slave's theft of Euclio's gold, and Lyconides insists that he return the gold.

The conclusion of the play survives only in epitomized form; however, it is clear that Euclio eventually gives his blessing to the marriage of his daughter and Lyconides, and presents them with his recovered gold as a wedding gift.

Irony and the duplicity of slaves are prominent themes in the play. As often in Plautine comedy, there is constant misunderstanding of intentions (here between Megadorus and Euclio, and Euclio and Lyconides). Also common in Plautus' works are the duplicity of slaves, who are often featured as cunning characters, not to be trusted. Nevertheless, The Pot of Gold, like Plautus' other comedies of error, is redeemed by a happy ending.

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