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.
*Act One, Scene Two: Valentine-"Well...I'll take Lightning for his run." [page 18]
Bernard to Hannah- "No, no- a freebie. The joke that consoles. My tortoise Lightning, my fiancee Hannah. [page 23]
*Act One, Scene Three: Set Description: His[Septimus'] portfolio is on the table. Plautus (the tortoise) is the paperweight.[page 35]
*Set Description: [Septimus] picks up the apple. He picks off the twig and leaves, placing these on the table. With a pocket knife he cuts a slice of apple, and while he eats it, cuts another slice which he offers to Plautus.[page 35]
*Set Description: [Septimus] takes Thomasina's lesson book from underneath Plautus and tosses it down the table to her.[page 37]
*Act One, Scene Four, Set Description: Lightning, the tortoise, is on the table and is not readily distinguishable from Plautus.[page 43]
*Act Two, Scene Five, Set Description: Valentine has his tortoise and is eating a sandwich from which he extracts shreds of lettuce to offer the tortoise.[page 53]
*Act Two, Scene Five: Bernard to Valentine- "Well, only if you stop feeding tortoises." Valentine- "Well, it's his lunch time." [page 58]
*Act Two, Scene Five: Bernard, reading to Hannah from The Peaks Traveller and Gazette - "...a hermitage occupied by a lunatic since twenty years without discourse or companion save for a pet tortoise, Plautus by name, which he suffers children to touch on request; a tortoise. They must be a feature." [page 64]
*Act Two, Scene Seven, Set Description: He [Septimus] strokes the tortoise absently as he reads. Thomasina takes up pencil and paper and starts to draw Septimus with Plautus. Thomasina giving drawing to Septimus- "There. I have made a drawing of you and Plautus." Septimus- "Excellent likeness. Not so good of me." [page 87]
*Set Description: Gus gives Hannah Thomasina's drawing- Hannah to Gus- "'Septimus holding Plautus,' I was looking for that..." [page 97]
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 Casket Comedy
The Two Menaechmuses
The Braggart Warrior
The Haunted House
The Little Carthaginian
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