Devil in the Details: The Young Man of Plautus, Asinaria 127–248 Once Again



The inferior status of Asinaria has become virtually an article of faith in modern scholarship. In re-examining the identity of the youthful lover of lines 127ff., this study teases out elements of the play’s thematic structure, as well as its approach to plot and characterization, in an attempt to demonstrate that much has been missed in earlier discussions, particularly as regards the portrayal of the young lovers Argyrippus and Philaenium. The analyst readings to which this work has traditionally been prey have promoted an understanding of Asinaria, and of Plautine farce more generally, that is shown to be untenable. In the process, such readings have precluded an appropriate engagement with one of the most intriguing challenges posed by this work: the staging of lines 127ff. if indeed, as the text suggests, these lines are to be attributed to Diabolus.