Pontem interrumpere: Plautus' Casina and absent characters in Roman comedy

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In the opening of Plautus’ Casina the interpolated (?) prologue warns the audience: ‘in case you’re waiting for [Euthynicus], he isn’t returning to the city in this comedy today. Plautus didn’t want him to, he demolished a bridge on his way (64-66)’. euthynicus is the young lover of the play, com- peting with his father for an alluring slave-girl, the eponymous Casina. Casina too, despite (or because of?) her telic role as the craved object of the characters’ desire, was never allowed by plautus to cross into the world of the play. Casina and euthynicus are not alone: Roman comedy is populated by a crowd of missing characters, which the playwrights keep or move on the other side of the bridge, for parts or indeed the whole of the play. All these missing characters ‘benefit us in their absence as if they were present’, as the same prologue of Casina pro- claims (20), with reference to the most important absence of all, plautus himself. The aim of the article is to investigate the crowd of absentees in Roman comedy, starting from a close-reading of plautus’ Casina and focusing on a number of prototypical roles and fun- ctions, as well as discussing their contribution to the dramatic framework of Roman comedy.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)185-208
Number of pages24
JournalPan: Rivista di Filologia Latina
Publication statusPublished - 10 Dec 2019


  • Absent characters
  • Absence
  • Casina
  • Plautus
  • Proxy
  • Impersonation


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