Classical Tradition in Elizabethan Theatre: The Influence of Latin Comedy on Shakespeare’s "Comedy of Errors".
Martinez Maritxalar, Usua
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Comedy plays have been part of our society at least for two thousand years. Such a rich theatrical culture implies that, historically, many different works have been written by various authors worldwide. Hence, in a bigger or smaller amount, there are many similarities among works which have remarkably different backgrounds. This is the case of the Elizabethan play The Comedy of Errors, by William Shakespeare. The mentioned play is highly influenced by Latin comedy, primarily by the play Menaechmi, written by Titus Maccius Plautus. This paper aims to analyse the influence Roman comedy and Menaechmi had on Shakespeare to write The Comedy of Errors. For that, firstly the background of each work was presented, that is to say, the Roman and Plautus’ comedy, and the theatre in Elizabethan times with specific mention to Shakespeare. Subsequently, based on particular references from Menaechmi and The Comedy of Errors and little research made about them, I identified the differences and similarities between them. The results showed that Shakespeare’s play is highly influenced by Plautus’ one and may be considered a version of it. The outcomes also revealed that contaminatio could be applied to Plautus as well as to Shakespeare and literary authors in general. By the same token, not only Plautus influenced Shakespeare’s writings but, he also created a whole comedy pattern which was followed by a big amount of theatrical culture. To finish with, it would be worthwhile to focus on further studies regarding the factor contaminatio related to the historical development of theatre and the influences the playwrights have had and still have among each other.