Abstract

Abstract:

In New Comedy, plots involving a child conceived through rape present unique complications for women. In such plays women must work together to hide the pregnancies and rid themselves of the 'evidence.' Further, they do so within the confines of New Comedic conventions—there is no recourse to abortion. This article looks at rape-pregnancy plots in Roman Comedy, focusing particularly on the rape-pregnancy plot of Terence's Hecyra, and asks why the women of Roman Comedy do not abort or attempt to abort when they have been the victims of rape. Rather, standard practice for unwanted pregnancies in Roman Comedy was infant exposure. While infant exposure and the recovery of exposed infants is necessary to the plots of many New Comedies, it is still surprising that there is little mention of abortion in the plays. Later Greek and Roman writers mention abortion to disparage and condemn it. We might expect something similar in Roman Comedy. The lack of abortion in Roman Comedy, I argue, allows for a sympathetic portrayal of women. In the Hecyra especially we see women struggling with the negative consequences of a rape-pregnancy, working together to counter the negative stereotypes perpetuated by the male characters, and showing themselves virtuous according to the moral standards of the world in which they live.

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Additional Information

ISSN
1935-0228
Print ISSN
0160-0923
Pages
pp. 35-56
Launched on MUSE
2019-09-28
Open Access
No
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