Mostellaria (Plautus)

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Verses 85-137 of the Mostellaria in the manuscript Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana , Vaticanus Palatinus lat. 1615, fol. 87v (10th / 11th century)

Mostellaria (add to: fabula Mostellaria " ghosts Comedy " of monster " monster ghost" , that with the suffix -ellum and nasaliertem -o- the diminutive mostellum and with the suffix adjektivierenden -aria the adjective Mostellaria forms) is the title of a Comedy written in Latin by the Roman poet Titus Maccius Plautus .

The comedy was written around 200 BC. The model for the Mostellaria was an unknown Greek comedy that Plautus reworked for a Roman audience: although the play is set in Athens and has Greek characters, Roman living conditions are repeatedly mentioned and reflected in the verses. Thus Plautus' comedy belongs to the comoedia palliata type .

Plautus' comedies are operetta-like singing games. The Mostellaria also contains dialogic speaking verses and aria-like singing verses ( cantica ). The music is lost, but the rhythm is recognizable through the meter .


  • Tranio  : A slave to Theopropides who thinks up a ghost curse to hide the truth.
  • Theopropides  : An old Athenian merchant who returns from Egypt after a long and dangerous journey.
  • Philolaches  : the son of Theopropides, who drove himself into ruin for the courtesan Philematia.
  • Philematia  : Former hetaires and lovers of Philolach.
  • Scapha  : Also a former courtesan and now the Philematium's slave.
  • Callidamates  : Philolach's drinking companion, also a well-heeled Athenian.
  • Delphium  : Former whore and the mistress of Callidamates.
  • Simo  : An old neighbor of Theopropides.
  • Phaniscus  : a slave of Callidamates.
  • Misargyrides  : the moneylender who also has Philolaches in chalk.
  • Pinacium  : Also slave of Callidamates and friend of Phaniscus.
  • Grumio  : Old and faithful slave of Theopropides.


In the expository dialogue of the first scene, the slaves Grumio and Tranio abuse each other. We learn that Tranio had received the assignment from his master Theopropides three years ago to look after the housekeeping and the young son Philolache when he left. Tranio, however, took advantage of the long absence of the Lord to squander the fortune and in particular to induce Philolaches to lead a dissolute way of life and to support him in it.

In the next scene Philolaches appears and shows himself in a long monologue ( canticum ) as a guilty, sad, remorseful young man. Nonetheless, he stands by his love for Philematia, a prostitute he has bought freely for a lot of money, who in turn has a great affection for Philolaches, as we learn in the third scene. Together with the young Athenian Kallidamates - who comes on stage drunk - and his girlfriend Delphium, Philolaches and Philematia start a happy drinking party in front of their house. Suddenly Tranio rushes onto the stage and reports of the unexpected arrival of Theopropides, whom he saw while shopping in the port of Piraeus. Now good advice is dear, Tranio advises the desperate Philolache to lock himself up with his friends in the house; he would take care of the matter himself.

When Theopropides appears, Tranio prevents him from entering his house by telling him that his son left the house a long time ago because the ghost of a murdered man was up there as a ghost (hence the title of the comedy!) . The old gentleman first takes this lie from him. New problems arise, however, when the moneylender, from whom Philolaches had borrowed 40 mines to buy Philematia out, comes to Philolaches house to collect his interest. Tranio can get rid of the usurer for the time being, but has to tell the old man, who overheard the conversation, a new story of lies: Philolaches bought a new house with the money because the old house was no longer habitable. When asked by the old man, Tranio incorrectly describes the house of his neighbor Simo as the house that Philolaches bought.

Now the old man wants to visit this house and it comes to new entanglements, because Tranio also has to tell the real owner Simo a story of lies: Theopropides wants to visit the house because he is planning renovations in his own house. When Theopropides leaves the house after the inspection, he meets two slaves in front of his old house who want to pick up their master, Kallidamates. He questions her and now learns the whole truth; Simo also confirms the true facts shortly afterwards.

Now Theopropides is preparing a terrible punishment for Tranio. However, he realizes that his lies have been exposed and sits down on a street altar to use this place as an asylum. He still mocks Theopropides with ironic remarks. Finally, Kallidamates appears and asks for forgiveness for his friend Philolaches. The old father grants him this right away. However, when Kallidamates put in a good word for Tranio, Theopropides initially resisted persistently: the cheeky slave had given him too much. In the end, however, Tranio also receives impunity from him. ( End of the piece )

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