Professor number This paper shall analyze the institutions of marriage and slavery in the Roman society that Plautus talks about in his play, The Braggart Soldier. These shall be looked into through the characters of the slaves in the play, Sceledrus and Palaestrio, and the women in the play, Philocomasium and Acroteleutium…
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The position of the women in Plautus’s society is also brought out through this play, through the married and the unmarried women, in the play who live out different roles. Slavery and Marriage in The Braggart Soldier The influence of social institutions is seen in most of one’s activities and art is no exception. The art of Plautus, reflects the social realities that existed during his age. Slavery and marriage were two of the most important institutions that were prevalent during the period that Plautus wrote his plays. These plays portray a certain kind of subversion that is possible on the part of these subaltern groups. They are able to obtain a certain kind of superiority over their masters and their clients for a certain amount of time. However, the superiority that they attain over their superiors is something that is undercut by the fact that it is a temporary phenomenon that fails to challenge the institutions in themselves that remain deeply entrenched in the consciousness of the very people that seem to attempt the subversion. This subversion, by the end of the play, even though it succeeds in the downfall of the protagonist of the play, Pyrgopolynices, serves the ends of another member of the aristocracy, Pleusicles. In the end, the slaves and the prostitute do not do anything for themselves; what they do is to fulfill their roles as slaves, which essentially place them back in their social positions, irrespective of their masters. The actions of Palaestrio and Philocomasium, from the beginning of the play, seek to foil the actions that the protagonist of the play, Pyrgopolynices, seeks to bring about. Both these characters have certain features in common; both f them were captured by the soldier. The helplessness and the lack of agency that these two characters share happens as a result of their social positions that are defined by their economic and gender belonging. Philocomasium does not possess any agency since she is a woman and does not have any agency. Throughout the play, she is looked upon as a possession that the two men in the play fight for. Her identity too, is shaped by the man that she is with, rather than the position that she defines for herself. On the other hand, Palaestrio has some agency of his own, even though it manifests itself in his loyalty to his former owner, Pleusicles. This reveals a deeply entrenched system of slavery where the slave internalizes the system and mentally enslaves himself to his owner. Palaestrio is unable to think of himself as a person whose identity may be anything except that of the slave of Pleusicles. This manifests itself in his inability to accept Pyrgopolynices as his master. He however, possesses more ability to act than the Philocomasium, who is totally deprived of any agency, because of her position as a woman in a patriarchal society. The little agency that Palaestrio has does not lead to any awareness about his position as a slave that could lead to any solidarity between him and the other slaves. This is evident from this speech of his. Palaestrio: Someone from our house has done a naughty thing, from what I hear- The old man’s commanded that my fellow slaves be beaten up. Well, he said except for me- who gives a hoot about the rest? (Plautus 8) It is this lack of solidarity that makes Palaestrio
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