In 1991 Suzanne Dixon published an article that suggested that, from the late Republic onwards, it is possible to detect a sentimental ideal of family life at Rome. She also argued that there is a significant paucity of affectionate terminology in Plautus' mid-republican works. My thesis looks for traces of a Roman sentimental ideal in Plautus' comedies. I analyse his plays, being careful to interpret them in the light of comic convention and paying attention to the varying forms of comic drama, and I search for sentimental themes related to wives and husbands, parents and children, the home, and slaves and outsiders. I consider the evidence and arguments used by Dixon and other historians and also look at modern examples of sentimentality (in literature and in other cultural material), using these as a tool to measure sentimentality in Plautus. My overall contention is that Plautus' metatheatrical plays deliberately explored and exploited the sentimental ideology of his original audience. In fact, some of the works’ humour depended upon the spectators' knowledge of the ideal and its claims upon their attention; Plautus wryly exposed the tensions that existed between the ideal and the realities of daily life. Plautus’ plays were successful and obviously communicated well with his contemporaries. I therefore conclude that sentimental ideology was well known in Rome prior to the late Republic – that it is an enduring concept, discernible in many cultures and eras
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