Stock Characters  

Day 5: Stock Characters


Objective: Students will be able to demonstrate their understanding of Roman Stock Characters by deciding which characters in the play are which stock characters.


Materials Needed: Scripts, signs from last time, stock characters powerpoint,  Day 5.Roman Stock Characters Worksheet


Hook: Show powerpoint from Prezi – Roman Stock Characters and pass out worksheets:


  • The Parasite – parasitus
    • Leeches off the main characters by emptying their tables
  • The Tricky Slave – Servus Callidus
    • Always finds a solution to the young master’s love problems (often humiliating his young master’s father) and tends to earn his freedom for doing so
  • Young Lover – adulescens
    • Falls in love with a courtesan he cannot have, master of the tricky slave. Thinks of nothing except the girl he is in love with
  • Courtesan – Meretrix
    • Serves little more than as an object of the young lover’s affection, leading figure in love with the young lover. Sometimes she is bought by the young lover, sometimes she turns out to be freeborn, discovers this, and marries the young lover.
    • OR greedy and older
  • Or Virgo – a young maiden
    • Love interest of the adulescens, doesn’t get much stage time, beautiful and virtuous with little personality. Treated as a prize
  • Old man – Senex
    • Often the father of the young lover, authority figure who gives wisdom to the young man and is very traditional – this view often contrasts with the young lover’s, causing conflict that is usually resolved by the old man giving in to the young lover.
  • Braggart Soldier – Miles Gloriosus
    • Loves himself more than anything else
    • Very stupid, cowardly, and gullible
    • Interested in the same girl as the adulescens most of the time
  • Maid/nurse – Ancilla
    • Minor character used as a tool and messenger
  • Matrona – Mother
    • Lover her children but is tempermental towards her husband
    • Does not have to be devoted and loyal, but sometimes is


Discussion/Transition: What about our characters in the play so far? Who is the Parasite? (Peniculus) The Tricky Slave? (we don’t know yet) The Adulescens? (Manaechmus I or II? We don’t know yet!) The Meretrix? (Desiree) Virgo? (Wife) Senex? (Old Man – we haven’t met him yet) Miles Gloriosus (There is none) Ancilla (The Maid) Matrona (none).

  • Why do playwrights use stock characters?
  • What stock characters do our modern playwrights and screenwriters use? (possible answers: The valley girl, the cheerleader, the jock, the nerdy girl who takes off her glasses and she’s beautiful, etc.)


Continue reading, following the same pattern as before.


Wrap-up: 5 minutes before the end of the class, stop the reading and ask the students which character they identify with most so far in the play and why.