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|Characters||Pseudolus, slave of Calidorus
Simo, father of Calidorus
Callipho - neighbor of Simo
Ballio, Phoenicium's pimp
Harpax, slave of an officer
Charinus, Calidorus' friend
Simia, slave of Charinus
Young Slave, of Ballio
|Setting||a street in Athens, before the houses of Simo, Callipho, and Ballio|
Pseudolus is a play by the ancient Roman playwright Titus Maccius Plautus. It is one of the earliest examples of Roman literature. The play begins with the shortest prologue of any of the known plays of Plautus, though it is not known whether Plautus wrote this prologue himself or if it was added later.
Simo - An Athenian gentleman
Calidorus - Simo's son
Pseudolus - Simo's chief slave
Callipho - a neighbor and friend of Simo
Charinus - a friend of Calidorus
Ballio - a pimp
Phoenicium - (mute) a girl in the possession of Ballio and loved by Calidorus
Harpax - an officer's orderly
Simia - a slave
Calidorus, the young son of the Athenian nobleman Simo, laments to his clever slave Pseudolus about how his love, Phoenicium, has just been sold as a slave. The Macedonian general Polymachaeroplagides has bought her from her pimp, Ballio, for 2000 drachmae, and 500 of them are to be delivered that day by messenger. Pseudolus promises his young master Calidorus that he will solve his problem.
An interaction between Ballio, Pseudolus, and Calidorus makes Ballio suspicious of Pseudolus' machinations. Afterwards, Pseudolus asks Calidorus to produce a loyal friend who would be able to help in his plan.
Pseudolus then runs into Simo and one of Simo's friends. Simo has heard that his son has fallen for a prostitute and is trying to raise the money to buy her freedom. Simo bets Pseudolus 2000 drachmae that Calidorus will not successfully save Phoenicium from servitude.
Meanwhile, Ballio is running around town making birthday preparations (today is his birthday), and he is talking to a cook whom he has just hired. While Ballio is away from home, Pseudolus intercepts the messenger, Harpax, who was sent to deliver the last 500 drachmae and retrieve Phoenicium.
Pseudolus claims to be Ballio's slave, Syrus, and tries to receive the money on his behalf, but Harpax refuses, having been ordered to deliver the money to Ballio alone. Nevertheless, Pseudolus successfully deflects the messenger to a nearby inn where he is instructed to await word from Ballio.
Later, Calidorus produces Charinus, a loyal and wealthy friend, who loans Pseudolus the 500 drachmae that he needs. Charinus further reveals that there is a new foreigner slave in Athens that very few people in Athens know about, and he is reportedly incredibly intelligent.
Pseudolus then finds the slave and instructs him to impersonate Harpax and meet with Ballio. After this meeting, Ballio runs into Simo and they talk about how Calidorus must be crushed and that Phoenicium is on her way to the Macedonian General. Ballio then meets the real Harpax, whom he takes to be an imposter sent by Pseudolus. Ballio and Simo proceed to ridicule Harpax until they realize that he is, in fact, the real messenger and that Pseudolus has already fooled them and obtained Phoenicium.
In the end, Calidorus gets the girl, Ballio has to repay the real Harpax, and Pseudolus wins the bet with Simo. Simo and Pseudolus go out drinking together in the end.
- "The clever slave" – Pseudolus is an example of the stock character of the clever slave, common in Plautus' works.
- A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum - The basic plot, as well as the character Pseudolus
- Latin text of Pseudolus, from the Perseus Digital Library
- Review of translation (2008) by David M. Christenson