The Comic "The Swaggering Soldier" Book Review

A discussion on whether Plautus' "The Swaggering Soldier" is merely funny or whether there is a message within the play.
# 146511 | 950 words | 6 sources | MLA | 2010 | NZ
Published on Dec 30, 2010 in Literature (Greek and Roman) , English (Analysis)

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This paper discusses how in "The Swaggering Soldier", Plautus demonstrates that he is a skilled comedian, capable of employing a wide variety of literary, illusory and allusory techniques both to create and maintain laughter. The paper contends that in order for a comedy to be funny, an underlying theme referencing social tensions is essential, absence of this would render the play un-funny. It briefly discusses humor theory and relates this to what makes a comedy funny; indicating how a social context is vital to this.The paper then examines this context by analyzing the play, paying particular attention to how different themes of love are pursued by the different characters, with different results. It attempts to show that this is the primary theme of the play and it is precisely the existence of such a theme that makes "The Swaggering Soldier" successful as a comedy in the first place.

From the Paper:

"Raskin and Attardo's general theory of verbal humour contends that there are four stages in parsing humour; recognition of a social context, cognitive reasoning, affective responses and finally, laughter. A social tension is identified and negotiated leading to a therapeutic response from the audience, then follows laughter, either from amusement or relief. Assuming that the prime goal of a comedian is to make the audience laugh, then it follows that an serious and recognisable theme is essential for this goal to be realised. Plautus takes commonly held Roman views about love, blends these together with stock character types to create an absurd, reversed, saturnalial world for his audience to revel in. The audience is free to enjoy this revelry in safety, unlike tragedy there will be a happy ending. The viewer is free to laugh and be entertained, all the while knowing that appropriate social justice will prevail for both the good and the bad. "

Sample of Sources Used:

  • Plautus. The Swaggering Soldier in The pot of gold and other plays translated by Watling, E.F. London: Penguin, 1965.
  • Glasgow, R.D.V. Madness masks and Laughter. Madison (NJ): Fairleigh Dickenson University Press, 1995.
  • Hanson, J.A. The glorious military in Roman drama, edited by T A Dorey, T.A. and Dudley, D.R. London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1965.
  • Lowe, N.J. Comedy, Greece and Rome, new surveys in the classics NO 37. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2007.
  • Segal, E. Roman Laughter. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1987.

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