Bringing the Gods Onstage: Anthropomorphic Deities in Plautus' Amphitruo and Moliere's Amphitryon
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Plautus’ "Amphitruo" and Molière’s adaptation are divine burlesque plays that depict surreal scenes of divine cuckoldry and mistaken identity. In these plays a highly comic figure of reverse-anthropomorphism is employed, by which gods are seen in the image of contemporary humans. The gods of Plautus’ play are presented as members of the ancient Roman theatre troupe through the violation of dramatic illusion; the Roman comedian uses his powers as a god-like creator of the comic spectacle to mock the self-important general Amphitryon in a festival atmosphere. In Molière’s adaptation, the god Jupiter is a transparent symbol for Louis XIV, who has the power to engage in sexual affairs regardless of moral consequences due to his god-like status. Thus, in both plays, anthropomorphism is a comic figure which sees humans of the contemporary social world as god-like in order to engage in comic social critique and class-oriented humor.