De tragikomische definities voorbij in Plautus’ Amphitruo | Amsterdam University Press Journals Online
Volume 52, Issue 2
  • ISSN: 0165-8204
  • E-ISSN: 2667-1573



In this article I reassess the figure of Alcumena in Plautus’ Amphitruo in order to shed new light on the interpretation both of her character and of the play as a whole, which is usually called ‘tragicomedy’ after the playful definition given in the prologue. In previous scholarship, Alcumena was seen as a tragic character embedded in a comedy, and as such she was regarded as the embodiment of the tragicomic mixture suggested by the play’s alleged self-denomination. By contrast, more recent interpretations have reread her figure as farcical, making Alcumena more consistent with the spirit of other Plautine comedies. However, this recent reassessment has neglected some elements that might undermine the new interpretation. Personally, I believe that the application of such exclusive labels as ‘tragic’ and ‘comic’ to Alcumena is not satisfactory from an exegetical point of view. My aim is therefore to overcome such tragicomic exegetical dichotomy by taking some neglected aspects into due account, and especially by applying Pirandello’s theory of humour to the case of Alcumena. This theory’s focus on ‘the contrary’, unlike other definitions of humour, accounts for the simultaneity of the serious and non-serious aspects implied by Alcumena’s presence on stage. Once her ‘humorous’ – in the Pirandellian sense – nature has been brought to light, it is then possible to overcome a dichotomous interpretation of her character as either tragic or comic and, last but not least, gain a better understanding of the generic interplay within the .


Article metrics loading...

Loading full text...

Full text loading...
This is a required field
Please enter a valid email address
Approval was a Success
Invalid data
An Error Occurred
Approval was partially successful, following selected items could not be processed due to error