Plautus and Terence used stock characters (the young lovers, the clever slave, the irate father) and devices (mistaken identity), but each handled these conventions in his own distinct manner. Plautus was the son of a poor Umbrian farmer who may have fought in the Second Punic War. The playwright Plautus is said to have been a popular actor, true comedian, jovial, tolerant, rough of humor. He not only modeled his plays on the Greek New Comedy, but unhesitatingly inserted long passages translated from the Greek originals. He was the master of comic irony and, as its originator, copied by Moliere, Corneille, Jonson, Dryden and Fielding. Shakespeare based his Comedy of Errors on Plautus's Menaechmi. Of more than 100 plays, 21 survive.
Mason Hammond is Pope Professor of Latin, Emeritus, Harvard University.