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Mostellaria is a play by the Roman author Plautus. Its name translates from Latin as The Haunted House (with the word Domus understood in the title). It is a comedy with a very linear plot. It is set in the city of Athens, on a street in front of the houses of Theopropides and Simo.


Main characters

  • Theopropides - an Athenian merchant
  • Philolaches - Theopropides' son
  • Tranio - Slave owned by Theopropides
  • Philematium - A courtesan who has been set free by Philolaches
  • Callidamates - Friend of Philolaches
  • Simo - Theopropides' neighbour
  • Misargyrides - A moneylender

Minor characters

  • Grumio - Country slave, owned by Theopropides
  • Sphaerio - Slave owned by Theopropides
  • Scapha - Philematium's attendant
  • Delphium - Callidamates' girlfriend
  • Phaniscus - Callidamates' slave
  • Pinacium - Callidamates' slave


A young man named Philolaches is having a great time while his father is overseas on business. Philolaches has also borrowed a lot of money to buy the freedom of the slave-girl he loves. One day he is having a house party with many friends, when his slave Tranio interrupts the merry-making to announce that Philolaches' father has returned unexpectedly and will arrive from the harbour at any minute. Amid the general panic, Tranio has an idea. He hustles Philolaches and his friends into the house and locks the door. The father now arrives. Tranio greets him respectfully but pretends that it is dangerous to enter the house because it is haunted.

Unfortunately, at this moment a money-lender turns up to claim the money that Philolaches borrowed. Tranio thinks quickly and pretends that the money was borrowed to buy the house next door. Even when Philolaches' father meets the real owner of the house, Tranio manages to hide the truth for some time, but he is found out at last and jumps onto the top of an altar to escape punishment. All ends happily, however, when one of Philolaches' friends offers to repay the debt, thus allowing the father to forgive his son. Even Tranio is forgiven.


-"Mostellaria" is one of several Plautus plays used as inspiration for the Stephen Sondheim, Burt Shevelove and Larry Gelbart musical "A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum". The character Erroneous returns from being abroad to be told his house is haunted and must walk seven times around the seven hills of Rome to remove the ghosts.

-Kevin P. Joyce's play "When the Cat's Away" is loosely based on "Mostellaria", transposing the story from Athens to modern day Nantucket.


  • Plautus, The Rope and Other Plays, translated by E. F. Watling, Penguin, London, 1964, ISBN 0-14-044136-0.
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