The play Amphitryon, by Plautus, revolves around a small circle of characters.The major roles in the play are those of Amphitryon, Jove, and Alcamena. Twoslightly lesser roles, though of equal importance, are those of Mercury andSosia.
These two characters act as main intermediaries for their masters. Thisis one of the similarities I found in their roles. However, I also found manydifferences in these two characters.
I believe the roles of Mercury and Sosia toboth be important ones, with similarities as well as differences, which can beclearly seen in their relationships with their masters, the audience, andAlcamena as well. I think that both Sosia and Mercury respect their masters.Although in the beginning, both characters complain about being servants. Sosiasays, No easy job, this serving a millionaire; A rich mans servant leads alousy life.
All his nights and days its just a constant strife(7). Thisquote shows early in the play Sosias displeasure in being a servant. Mercurycomplains about his service to Jove as well. When he hears Sosia complain hestates, Hey, Im the one who should complain that way! Till Papa pressed meinto service today Id no idea what slavery meant. Now, hes been used tobeing a slave.(8). Despite these complaints about slavery, I think both ofthem enjoy serving their masters but for different reasons. Early in the playSosia tells the audience of how his master led us like a wonder(9).
Herefers to the victory in battle Amphitryon had over the Thebans. I believe thatSosia is rather proud of his service to Amphitryon and respects his mastersnobility and bravery. Mercury also shows signs of respect for Jove, his masterand father. Mercury, the patron god of thieves, enjoys playing tricks andcausing mischief. I believe this to be the reason he enjoys helping his fatherin this situation. Jove is playing one big joke on everyone, and Mercury likesthis very much. Of his father he says, A smooth operator, this one here.
Andwhy not? Hes my father. Watch how hes going to butter the girl up.(25).In different ways, I can see how Mercury and Sosia are very similar in respectto their masters.
Differences between Mercury and Sosia arise in their dealingswith the audience. I think that these characters’ monologues to the audiencegive insight into their personality. Sosias dealings with the audience makehim out to be a coward as well as a fool. When Sosia hears Mercury talking ofharming someone coming his way, Sosia cowers to the audience and says, Imso scared, Im numb all over!(16). When Sosia gathers enough courage toconfront Mercury, the god easily convinces him that he is not himself. Sosiasays to the audience, Hes convinced me. Ill have to find anothername!(22). In almost all his dealings with the audience, Sosia is baffled anddumb struck.
The audience knows what is happening so Sosia is made out to be adumb character. Conversely, Mercurys dealings with the audience show him tobe a cunning trickster. Being a god, Mercury has everything planned out andreveals his plans to the audience. On scarring away Sosia, he says to theaudience, this job went off very nicely(24). Mercurys monologues to theaudience are almost like narration as he tells them what happens and what willhappen. Enjoying this chaos he helped create, he says to the audience: Illget both of them all mixed up and drive them and Amphitryons whole householdcrazy, until Fathers had enough of his inamorata. Then, when its all over,theyll all find out what happened, and Jove at the end will restore Alcamenaand her husband to their former married bliss(24). In this quote, Mercurybasically describes the rest of the play to the audience; most of whom, Ibelieve already knew the story.
Another difference between the characters ofMercury and Sosia deals with each characters handling of Alcamena, wife ofAmphitryon. When Mercury acts as Sosia, he has minimal dealings with Alcamena. Ithink his opinion towards her is amusement in the role she plays in his and hisfathers game. He says chuckling, Didnt I tell you hed do this? Alittle buttering up, and he has the poor girl eating out of his hand(26).Amused by his fathers skill in seducing women, Mercury even tries to help.When Jove gives Alcamena the gold cup as a gift Mercury says to her, Sayrather a wonderful gift as wonderful as the getter(27). While Mercury treatsAlcamena with amusement, Sosia regards her sourly. He thinks shes crazybecause he knows nothing of the tricks the gods are playing.
At first he thinksshes gone crazy because she claims shes seen him even though she hasnt.He says to Amphitryon, Dont you understand? If you try to say no to amadwoman, youll make the crazy thing crazier(38). His being unaware ofthe tricks, causes him to treats her rather crudely because he believes her tobe crazy. This is another main difference I see in the characters of Sosia andAmphitryon. I believe that by examining the relationships of Mercury and Sosiawith other characters in the play, I was more able to clearly explore theirrelationships. After examining these relations I believe that Mercury and Sosiaare indeed more different than they are alike. The reason for this could be thatone character has godly powers, but maybe not.
Mercury seems to be just ascommon and scheming as any man.Theater