Places Discussed

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*Mediterranean Sea

*Mediterranean Sea. Seaway on which the slave-dealer Labrax tries to abscond with Daemones’ daughter Palaestra to Sicily in order to sell her for a better price and cheat Plesidippus, a young man who loves Palaestra. A storm conjured by the gods shipwrecks Labrax’s vessel, ends his scheme, and temporarily separates four of the characters, while also separating Labrax from his money and Palaestra from proof of her true identity. Just as the goddess Venus emerged in birth from the sea in ancient myths, first Palaestra and then her identity emerge from the sea, allowing a rebirth of sorts, in her recognition by Daemones.


Cyrene (SI-ree-nee). Also known as Cyrenaica. North African town in what is now Libya and home to the Greek exile Daemones. The same storm that blows the roof off Daemones’ seaside cottage reunites him and his wife with their daughter in the home they have made in this foreign land. The home serves as a backdrop and symbol of the reconstituted family.

Temple of Venus

Temple of Venus. Temple to the Roman goddess located near Cyrene. The temple and the woman who tends it provide temporary shelter for the shipwrecked women. Labrax’s madness and impiety are demonstrated in his assault on them as they cling to the temple’s altar. The temple serves as a witness to the divine source of the storm, and to the familial and erotic love that the storm allows to blossom (Venus as goddess of love). Divinity unites what human actions have geographically torn asunder.


*Athens. Original home to the exiled Daemones, his wife, and Palaestra, it is also the city from which Plesidippus hails.


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Arnott, W. Geoffrey. Menander, Plautus, Terence. Oxford, England: Clarendon Press, 1975. An introductory survey of New Comedy. Brief comparisons suggest the similarities and differences between the Greek playwright and his Latin successors.

Duckworth, George. The Nature of Roman Comedy: A Study in Popular Entertainment. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1952. The classic study on the subject of Roman comedy. Provides a comprehensive introduction to Latin playwrights, including Plautus.

Konstan, David. “Rudens: City-State and Utopia.” In Roman Comedy. Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 1983. Examines the plays of Plautus and Terence in the light of the cultural system in the ancient city-state society. Sees the theme of this play as an attempt to extend the boundaries beyond the city-state to include heaven and nature.

Leach, Eleanor Winsor. “Plautus’ Rudens: Venus Born from a Shell.” Texas Studies in Literature and Language 15, no. 5 (1974): 915-931. Analyzes the use of myth in Plautus’ play. Sees the play as a reenactment of the birth of Venus, with her restorative powers, from the chaotic sea.

Segal, Erich. Roman Laughter: The Comedy of Plautus. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1968. Organized by topics. Presents an argument about Plautus’ comedy as a whole: His comedy was meant to make the Romans laugh by reversing Roman values on stage.

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Critical Essays