Types of Humour in Pseudolus

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  • Created on: 20-04-13 11:43


  • Plautus uses a lot of exaggeration as a comic element in Pseudolus. It is effective because it catches the audiences' attention and emphasises the point. Pseudolus, in particular, uses a lot of exaggeration in order to make fun of his young master Calidorus.

Examples from the text:

  • When talking about raising the 2000 drachmas in order to buy the love of his life, Calidorus says: "All my hope of life rests on you". This makes the character of Calidorus seem ridiculous to the audience therefore making him amusing. 
  • Psuedolus makes a deal with his master, Simo, that he will be able to trick Ballio into handing over the girl. They agree if he doesn't succeed, he will be punished by being sent to the treadmill. Pseudolus agrees, saying: "Absolutely; not for a day only, but for all eternity". It is clearly impossible to be sent for the whole of eternity, adding a comic element. It also highlights Pseudolus' confidence in his plan.
  • When Ballio hires a cook, the cook tries to persuade him of his abilities, saying he should serve the food to his enemies because: "the first taste of it will give them such a ravenous appetite that they will be biting off their fingures". Funny because it is such a clear lie, and in reality, the cook is very bad-the only one Ballio could find last minute.
  • When Ballio realises that he has been tricked, he says: "Pseudolus got me sentenced to death today". This is actually mocking Ballio himself, as it shows the audience just how money obsessed he is.
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  • In Pseudolus, the main use of sarcasm is to mock the characters of the play. For example, the character Pseudolus uses it a lot when talking to Calidorus about retrieveng Phoenicium from Ballio.

Examples from the text:

  • Pseudolus mocks Phoenicium's handwritting, saying: "A chicken's hand, was it? Some chicken surely scratched these marks". Very amusing as Calidorus has just been talking about how amazing Phoenicium is, and how he is so desperate to have her. Pseudolus' casual and sarcastic insult therefore underminds Calidorus, creating humour. 
  • Similarly, Calidorus talks about the letter being terrible, and Pseudolus replies: "Terrible." This is amusing as it is obvious to the audience that Pseudolus really isn't very interested in Calidorus and his love life, yet it is sublte enough for Calidorus not to catch on, adding to the humour.
  • Charinus describes the slave he is providing for Pseudolus to use to pretend to be Harpax. Charinus has described him as a criminal, who can get out of anything. Pseudolus replies, saying: "From your account of him, he must be a model citizen". This is amusing as he is clearly quite the opposite. Also funny that Pseudolus has made the comment, as he himself is no where near that. 
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  • The use of pantomime includes the audience, therefore making the performance more enjoyable. It gages their attention. 

Examples in the text:

  • When Pseudolus spots Harpax looking for Ballio's house, he says: "Sh! Not a word! This is the man I want". Harpax's speech in this section is also pantomime as he is talking about the house that he is trying to find. 
  • Pseudolus makes an aside to the audience, saying: "I'm sure i've never seen a more accomplished villian than this one". This is amusing as Simia hears the aside, and asks if he is refereing to him. Asides are used a lot throughout the play, especially Pseudolus explaining his plan/lack of one, and opinions about the other charaters. 
  • At the end of the play, Simo asks Pseudolus if they should invite the audience to go drinking with them. Psuedolus replies, saying: "My god, no! They never invite me anywhere". Talking about the audience and insulting them is very amusing and personal for the audience, grabbing their attention. Also addressed directly in the prologue of the play, where they are told that the play is a long one, indirectly insulting the length, which is funny. 
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  • There is a lot of irony in the play; the characters can appear completely oblivious to things that are going on, which is very amusing as it is so obvious to the audience who know the whole story. Dramatic irony.

Examples from the text:

  • Ballio tells his young slave boy to watch the cook that he has just hired 24/7. to prevent him stealing anything: "When he moves, you move". This is funny because he seems so concerned about the cook, when really it is Pseudolus that he really should be worried about, as he is going to do it right under his nose. 
  • When Ballio and Simo are talking about how Pseudolus has failed as Ballio has already sold the man, Sime asks him if he is sure. Ballio replies saying: "I couldn't be mistaken". This is funny for the audience as they already know that Peudolus has in fact already taken the girl. Ballio could not be any more wrong; Plautus has used this to mock his character and involve the audience more. 
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