Academic journal article Medium Aevum

Satiric Advice on Women and Marriage: From Plautus to Chaucer

Academic journal article Medium Aevum

Satiric Advice on Women and Marriage: From Plautus to Chaucer

Article excerpt

Satiric Advice on Women and Marriage: From Plautus to Chaucer, ed. Warren S. Smith (Ann Arbor, Mich.: University of Michigan Press, 2005). xiv + 295 pp. ISBN 0-472-11426-3. $70.00.

This collection of twelve essays is concerned with satiric attitudes towards women and marriage in Latin writing from Roman comedy through to medieval antifeminist satire. It combines close readings of key texts with a broad scope, successfully demonstrating the continuity of literary ideas relating to women and marriage from the classical era to the Middle Ages, while drawing attention to the differing intellectual and cultural contexts in which those ideas endured.

The opening chapter by Warren S. Smith offers a survey of the closely related topics of satire against women and marriage: although satire may express real masculine insecurities, Smith questions the reliability of the potentially selfdefeating satiric voice. In chapter 2, Richard Hawley supplements previous accounts of the transmission of Greek ideas of marriage to Roman culture by considering the use of Greek literature in Roman education. In chapter 3, Susanna Morton Braund discusses comedies by Plautus and Terence that deviate from the usual paradigm where marriage resolves the comic plot: here, existing marriages are threatened with divorce, an experiment which threatens generic boundaries. In chapter 4, Smith contextualizes Lucretius' attack on the passion of love in De rerum natura with reference to similar passages in the same work on the dangers of disobeying reason. In chapter 5, Karla Pollman argues that Ovid is unconventional in the challenges that his poetry poses to the moral expectations and gender roles of the Augustan era. In the sixth chapter, Smith returns to the theme of the self-defeating satirist, with a discussion focusing on Horace and Juvenal. …

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