Compare Plautus’ The Pot of Gold and Menander’s Dyskolos.

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Compare Plautus’ The Pot of Gold and Menander’s Dyskolos.

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The two plots of these plays are very clearly interlinked, and Plautus took various elements of Meander’s work in order to help him write his own play. Both plays feature an old man who is very curmudgeonly and grumpy. In Meander’s work, this old man is called Knemon, and Sostratos has to try and convince Knemon to let him marry his daughter. Although Knemon is initially opposed to the match, an accident that Sostratos unwittingly is part of makes him see life differently and Knemon becomes a reformed individual, permitting the marriage. Sostratos then is able to marry Knemon’s daughter, and encourages his father to let Knemon’s son, Gorgias, marry his own sister. When his own father does not support this idea because he would be allowing two paupers to enter the family, Sostratos upbraids him and reminds him about the true purpose of having wealth, which is to “make rich as many people as you can by your own efforts. For this act never dies.” Sostratos’s father needs to realise that it is better to have “a visible friend than invisible wealth that you keep buried away.” If you help others out, they will return the favour when you are in need, whereas this would not be the case if you were a miser. 

In the same way, in The Pot of Gold, it is Euclio who is both the curmudgeonly old man and the miser, and it is clear from the outset that he is so obsessed with his pot of gold that he has hidden somewhere that he is paranoid about somebody stealing it, even suspecting his old slave:

Oh, but how horribly scared I am she’ll come some sly dodge on me when I’m not expecting it, and smell out the place where the gold is hidden. She has eyes in the very back of her head, the hellcat. Now I’ll just go see if the gold is where I hid it. Dear, dear, it worries the life out of me!

Note how Euclio is so concerned about the gold that it dominates his life and worry consumes him. Just as the father of Sostratos and Knemon learn the error of both of their ways in Meander’s work, so too does Euclio go through an experience where he has a change of heart, and realises how much of a problem his wealth has become for him. He ends up by giving the wealth to his daughter and newly-married son-in-law and being much happier as a result. Both plays therefore contain very similar ideas and storylines, and are used to comment on the dangers of greed and how money should be used. 

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