Prepared Imaginary Essays
Classics 20 Fall Quarter 2006
1. Imagine that you are at a lavish dinner party with the poets, Plautus,
Vergil, and Ovid. Each one claims that his literary genre (comedy,
epic, and elegy, respectively) is the best form to articulate the essence
of the human condition, a subject on which the three cannot agree.
Posit possible arguments for each author with specific examples from
his works. Your essay should include discussion of each author’s
works in their cultural and/or political context. What form might you
choose, and why?
Outline Essay 1:
All three are completely different genres, and thus cannot be compared.
Ovid focused mainly on love, women, and mythology.
Wrote elegies, such as The Art of Love, in which he describes how to find
women, how to seduce them how to keep them, and how to loose them.
Intertwined in these poems is frequent humor, such as his opening “a tale of arms
and war”, alluding to the Aeneid, or “cupid stole a foot” as a play on words.
While effective in making humor about love, he fails to mention much about
Because he strives to add comedy, the emphasis on reality gets lost to the
emphasis on comedic poetry, and thus its reliability drops.
Elegy is too poetic, and is more concerned with writing style and comedy than
with the actual point to be told.
Eventually banished by Augustus for “Carmen et error” A poem and a mistake.
Plautus was concerned with presenting comedy through interactions between
everyday people doing every day things.
When looking at both of his stories, The brothers Menaechmi, and The Haunted
house, Plautus has a standard set of characters, usually with a similar plot.
Usually, a slave takes over the duty of the master, while the master becomes
beholding to the slave.
He uses many types of humor such as puns, obvious, allusion, alliteration, crude
Stories involve real events, such as brother being separated at birth, trying to find
each other, dealing with mistaken identity, dealing with crazy women.