Titus Maccius Plautus

Asinaria; or The Ass-Dealer

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Asinaria; or The Ass-Dealer by Titus Maccius Plautus - ("The Comedy of Asses") is a comic play written in Latin by the Roman playwright Titus Maccius Plautus. In the play an Athenian gentleman, Demaenetus, tells his slave Libanus that he knows his son Argyrippus is having an affair with the prostitute Philaenium next door, and he asks him to try to find some money to pay for the affair. When by chance a stranger comes bringing money owed for some donkeys sold by Saurea, the steward of Demaenetus's wife, Libanus's fellow-slave Leonida pretends to be Saurea, and the two slaves trick the stranger into giving them the money. Argyrippus is given the money on condition that his father is to be allowed to enjoy the first night with the prostitute. But a jealous rival, Diabolus, snitches on Demaenetus to his wife Artemona, who storms to the brothel and prevents her husband from enjoying the girl as well. Analysis Asinaria belongs to the genre called fabula palliata, of Greek plays adapted for a Roman audience. This has caused a debate over Plautus' originality and creativity arguing contamination, while others point out that neither is redundant, or conflictual with Plautus' dramatic intentions. The initial reversal of roles comes from Demenetus and his wife Artemona, as he is the dependent on her dowry and she implicitly plays the strict paterfamilias. Classically, the paterfamilias is the obstacle in his dependent son's relationship, while Plautus makes Artemona the obstacle in front of Demenetus' desire for Philaenium. Moreover, by introducing Demenetus in the role of a rival, Plautus disturbs the classical paradigm of the love triangle present in Miles Gloriosus (play) and Pseudolus. Plautus takes great care to enrich his characters beyond their obvious roles. In this play, Demenetus is ostensibly cast as a senex, but he denies both the audience and his slave Libanus in their expectations to get angry over his son's affair with a prostitute. The play takes an unexpected turn with his stipulation to spend one night with Philaenium. Thus Demenetus goes beyond both the strict father and the avuncular role of senex and becomes involved in a love triangle.
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