Quis ego sum saltem? : an investigation of Plautus' Captiui, Menaechmi and Amphitruo with special reference to problems of identity.
Murray, Shirley Anne.
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Many of Plautus' extant plays contain identity problems, the results of comic confusions in identity. The confusion may arise from deliberate deceit through impersonation, or from mistaken identity through ignorance. While mistaken identity features in many Plautine plays, these identity problems are usually brief comical complications arising from the machinations of a crafty slave or from a twist of fate. However, the Captiui, Menaechmi and Amphitruo all contain pervasive identity problems which are complicated and extend throughout the play. Further, all three plays present an unusual identity problem which provides strong contrast to the conventional Plautine problems including the ineligible girl later being found to be of free birth and now available for marriage, or the son and his slave successfully obtaining money from the son's father by trickery and impersonation. On closer examination, it is apparent that in each of these three plays Plautus has explored these identity issues and used them as a vehicle to highlight other significant social and moral issues. In Captiui, the young man who should be eligible for marriage is instead found to be the slave of his own father who has unwittingly mistreated him. In Menaechmi, two identical twin brothers, separated as young boys, who are coincidentally in the same foreign town at the same time and are repeatedly mistaken for one another, with far-reaching consequences. In Amphitruo, two mortals are impersonated by two gods, with identity theft and depersonalisation occurring. In all three plays, the identity problems form an integral part of the play and are explored extensively by Plautus. This dissertation examines the concepts of personal identity as exploited by Plautus in these three plays in the light of concepts of personal identity and the self as found in the works of ancient and modern philosophers, and of contemporary psychologists and sociologists.