Deconstructing the “Fourth Wall”: Metatheatricality in Plautus’ Miles Gloriosus and Osofisan’s Tegonni

E. F. Taiwo


The Roman theatrical tradition owes a great deal to the spirit of Greek theatre in antiquity, particularly as pioneered by Menander in New Comedy. The reception and subsequent reputation of the Greek theatrical convention among Plautus’ audience, has recently been attributed to his skilful re-theatricalisation of the alien drama through the use of what scholars have variously identified as metatheatre, -the self-referentiality of drama. The use of this technique has called attention to the highly metafictional world of Plautine drama and in this case, his Miles Gloriosus, which has also been emphasized as metatheatrical. The contemporary Nigerian theatre practitioner/playwright, Femi Osofisan, has also shown metatheatrical moments in his works. Osofisan’s Tegonni, has betrayed a reception of such metatheatricality as identified in Plautus’ Miles Gloriosus. But beyond hosting own critique, both plays portray an undercurrent of events privileging a socio-cultural hermeneutics, whose currency subsists even in contemporary climes.
The paper examines the reception of Plautine metatheatrical techniques and its attendant socio-cultural interpretations in Miles Gloriosus, and in post-colonial Nigerian drama through a reading of Femi Osofisan’s Tegonni, an African Antigone.


Theatricality; Plautus; Plautine

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