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Seminar Latin: (Per-)Forming Comedy: Plautus, Amphitruo


Admission requirements

This class can be taken in fulfilment of the requirements of both the MA and the Research MA program in Classics and Ancient Civilizations (track Classics), with differential requirements.
Admission requirements for other students: a BA degree in Classics obtained from a university in the Netherlands, or a comparable qualification obtained from a university outside the Netherlands. Moreover, students with an international degree have to contact the coordinator of studies to check admissibility.


As a genre which brings interaction and its various effects on stage, drama is sui generis reflecting the production and experience of words and action. In a more specific way this is true for early Roman comedy, such as the comedies of Plautus (ca. 254-184 BC). Being developed from pre-literal forms of theatre (mimus, atellana) and being performed within politico-religious contexts, Plautine comedy was intensely concerned with ‘marking out’ a specific dramatic space and reflecting on the boundaries between the experience of literary drama and the experience of quotidian (including politico-religious) life.

In the seminar we will be concerned with Plautus’ Amphitruo, which is not only one of his most famous comedies but also introduces a new/ hybrid genre, the ‘tracicomoedia’: Dealing with a mythological subject Plautus’ Amphitruo combines elements of comedy and tragedy and addresses – as well as undermines – a wide range of expectations and modes of experience. Plautus’ Amphitruo is presented as an ‘in between’: it plays with the boundaries not only between real world and dramatic space, but also between comedy and tragedy. However, while calling up and destabilizing possible expectations it all the more contributes to a more specific definition of literary ‘Roman comedy’ and the intended effects of dramatic performance.

The seminar will start with three introductory classes. Class IV-XIII will be chaired by the students and will each be devoted to a close reading of the text and the discussion of a research question related to it. Research questions include Plautus’ theoretical implications, ancient theoretical reflections on the production and reception of dramatic art and modern approaches to dramatic culture and literature.
The final class will be devoted to the responses to & discussions of the essays.

Students are required to have prepared the Latin text of Plautus’ Amphitruo before the seminar starts in block 2.

Course objectives

Knowledge and insight

  • Survey Roman Drama & Theatre; Plautine Comedy;

  • Plautine Language & Metre;

  • Introduction into aesthetic and performative aspects of the genre.


  • Advanced research skills: independent formulation of a complex research question, collecting materials (both primary texts and results of earlier research). Analyzing results, constructing arguments, formulating conclusions;

  • Critical assessment of secondary literature;

  • Oral presentation: presenting clearly and making effective use of hand-outs, illustrations and/or multi-media techniques; responding to the argumentation of one of the essays and chairing the discussion;

  • Written presentation: writing an essay (close reading of one of the passages read in class);

  • In case of 10 EC: written presentation: writing a paper and setting out research results effectively, clearly and in a well-structured manner.


This course is a concentrated seminar. Classes two times a week in semester 1, block 2.

Please consult the timetables on the Classics and Ancient Civilizations website.

Mode of instruction


Course Load

Course load for 10 EC (= 280 hours):

  • Reading Plautus’ Amphitruo in advance: 28 h

  • Attending classes: 28 h

  • Preparing classes (reading secondary literature): 14 × 3 = 42 h

  • Preparing oral presentation: 14 h

  • Preparing essay & esponse (deadline submission: 1 dec 2015): 14 h

  • Preparing written examination: 14 h

  • Writing final paper: 140 h

Assessment method

In case of 5 EC:

  • Oral presentation (20 %);

  • Essay (1000 words) & Response (20 + 10 = 30 %);

  • Written examination: translation and short open questions (50%)

In case of 10 EC:

  • Oral presentation (10 %);

  • Essay (1000 words) & Response (10 + 5 = 15 %);

  • Written examination: translation and short open questions (25 %);

  • Paper (5000 words, incl. footnotes; deadline: 15 June 2016) (50%)

If the overall mark is unsatisfactory, either the written exam or the essay can be repeated after consultation with the teacher. The marks for the oral presentation and the response will still count in such a case.


Blackboard is used to upload powerpoints and handouts. Secondary literature will be available via ‘studiezaal’ and ‘werkgroepplank’ (University Library).

Reading list

Edition: T. Plauti Macci Comoediae, ed. W. Lindsay, 2 vols. Oxford 1904-05, vol. 1., Oxford 1904. (= OCT)
Those who don’t buy Lindsay’s edition are requested to bring a copy of his text.

Plautus’ Amphitruo, ed. D. Christenson. Cambridge 2000. (= ‘Green&Yellow’)
Students are recommended to buy an exemplar.

Introductory Literature:

  • Marshall, C.W.: The Stagecraft and Performance of Roman Comedy. Cambridge 2006.

  • Moore, T.I.: The Theatre of Plautus. Playing to the Audience. Austin/Texas 1998.

  • Slater, N.W.: Plautus in Performance. The Theatre of the Mind. 1st ed. Princeton NL 1985, 2nd ed. Amsterdam 2000.

  • Sharrock, A.: Reading Roman Comedy. Poetics and Playfulness in Plautus and Terence. Cambridge 2009.


Students are required to register for this course via uSis, the course registration system of Leiden University.


Prof. dr. A.B. (Antje) Wessels


  • Students are required to have prepared the Latin text of Plautus’ Amphitruo before the seminar starts.

  • Students are required to attend the classes regularly, to be fully prepared and to join the discussions.

  • The course will be taught in Dutch or English, depending on the first language of participating students.