Marriage and Power in Plautus’ Casina
Dominant Femininity and the Anxieties of Patriarchy
This article is an endeavour to highlight some features of the comic representation of marriage in Plautus’ Casina. At its core lies the interpretation of the serviles nuptiae as a productive metaphor, whose multi-layered meanings shadow the comic, as well as highly problematic, reversal of power roles between husband and wife. Evidence of this can be found in the emphasis placed on the male partner’s seruitus (both Olympio and Chalinus are slaves, but Casina isn’t) and, especially, in the portrait of the senex as a seruus, which points out his overt subordination to his wife Cleostrata. As an account of this comic reversal, whose radical features in Casina extend well beyond the topos of the uxor dotata, my analysis tries to explain the comic potential of the over-powerful wife as a reflection of the patriarchal world-view of archaic Rome, where dominant femininity would normally induce deep cultural anxiety among free male citizens.