Plautus in Arcadia
In the play Arcadia, Plautus is simply described as a form of "paperweight" used to hold down Septimus' papers on his desk. However, Plautus is a character that links the past and future times. As the action of the play "shuttles back and forth" between the early nineteenth century and the present day, the state of the room and props never change. In this sense, Plautus is synonymous to Lightning of modern times. Septimus and Valentine represent the main care-givers to the tortoise. For example, in one scene Septimus feeds Plautus an apple. In another, Valentine gives Lightning pieces of lettuce from his sandwich. Wherever the tortoise is placed at the end of a scene in one time period, he is in the same position in the next, providing a link between the two distinct times.

Plautus is a seemingly unimportant aspect of the story until the end, when Hannah is attempting to find the identity of the hermit of Sidley Park. In Act Two, Scene Five, Bernard reads to Hannah from The Peaks Traveller and Gazette, which describes the hermit as "without discourse or companion save for a pet tortoise, Plautus by name..." Hannah's hypothesis that Septimus was Derbyshire's hermit is proven in the last scene when Gus approaches her, bearing a portrait. Thomasina's drawing from the 19th century, 'Septimus Holding Plautus' is the evidence that proves her theory. This climax of the story would not have been present if Plautus was not a part of the 19th century.

A seemingly unimportant character, Plautus/Lightning is an important character. The tortoise is more than a paperweight- he provides a link from the past to the present day. Plautus is a unique "prop" because he is synonymous to Lighning, and is involved in both time periods present in Arcadia. Most importantly, Plautus is the key link proving Septimus was the hermit occupying the hermitage, an important piece of the story.

Plautus/Lightning Appearances in Play:

Positioning in play in regards to the actors:

Top of Show: Facing center stage, head in, on top of piece of beige paper.

Top of Act II: On floor facing up-stage. Down stage left. Plate with large bread crumbs and lettuce.

Plautus, the writer:

Much of what is known about Plautus is inferred from his work or derived from later writers such as the grammarian Festus of 3rd century AD and dramatist Cicero of 1st century BC.

Plautus was born in 254 BC in the northeastern region of Italy. There are three names commonly associated with him - Titus Maccius Plautus - though these additional names may have been theatrical jokes used in some of his plays rather than names given at birth. Plautus was involved in the theater from a very young age and adapted numerous plays, of which twenty-one have survived (see list below).

The majority of Plautus's plots were, as was a common practice of the time, taken from Greek plays. Plautus especially used the plays of authors of the late 4th and 3rd century BC, often frequenting the works of Menander and Philemon. While most other playwrights of his time borrowed all aspects of their plays from the Greek, Plautus is notable because his adaptations had a distinctly Roman flavor with Roman concepts, terms, and usages. Plautus used many liberties in adapting his works, dropping entire scenes and using such procedures as contaminatio, combining scenes from two different original plays. Plautus had an excellent command of the Latin language, and he used this skill to "marry actions to the word" and to make characteristically witty adaptations. Most of Plautus's plots are based purely on farce, often using exaggeration, rapid action, backwards portrayal, and coarse humor. Despite Plautus's humorous approach to most of his plots, his plays also recognized the virtues of honesty, nobility, and loyalty. The plays of Plautus are also noted for their musical liveliness, which have been attributed with a resemblance to twentieth century musicals.

Plautus's plays are some of the earliest of Latin literature to survive, having an active stage life up until the time of Cicero and being well read (excluding the Middle Ages) even today. Plautus and his plays have had a profound impact on the course of European theater. His style of comedy and character types are prevalent in the works of such authors as Molière, Jean Giraudoux, Cole Porter, Nicholas Udall, Shakespeare, Rostand, Bernard Shaw, and Bertolt Brecht.

The Comedies of Plautus: (To Greek translations of plays)


The Comedy of Asses

The Pot of Gold

The Two Bacchuses

The Captives


The Casket Comedy



The Two Menaechmuses

The Merchant

The Braggart Warrior

The Haunted House

The Persian

The Little Carthaginian


The Rope


Three Bob Day


The Tale of the Traveling Bag

Texts in Latin
Another Plautus Biography
Links to Plautus works

This page has been compiled by

Jesse Weisshaar & Shandra Wendorff