An article titled “In Defense of Myrrhina: Friendship Between Women in Plautus’ Casina” by Visiting Assistant Professor of Classics Anne Feltovich was published in the fall issue of the journal Helios.
According to Feltovich, the scholarly community has long been interested in examining friendship between men in classical literature, but friendship between women has received little attention. Because of its focus on the household and everyday life, comedy is one of few genres that portrays interactions between women. The fact that these plays, like most Greek and Roman literature, were authored by men presents a methodological challenge for those wishing to study female friendship.
In her article, Feltovich argues that a history of androcentric bias in scholarship has led to a misinterpretation of a scene in which Myrrhina and Cleostrata disagree. She said that many describe Myrrhina’s oppositional behavior in this scene as misogynistic and inconsistent with her otherwise strong expressions of solidarity later in the play, with some scholars going so far as to posit that the playwright did a sloppy job in adapting this Latin play from its Greek model.
Feltovich, however, exonerated the playwright, demonstrating that Myrrhina calls attention to the social inequality of women in order to protect her friend, not because she agrees with it. In this way, Feltovich said, a male-authored play shows awareness of social inequality and the tools that women use to cope.
According to the journal’s website, Helios “is a forum for the scholarly synthesis of close readings of philological text with contemporary critical approaches,” including feminist theory. It is a publication of Texas Tech University Press.