Assistant Professor of Classics Anne Feltovich recently presented at the annual meeting of the Classical Association of the Atlantic States in Philadelphia. Her paper, “Masculinity and Power on the Roman Stage,” examined the connection between insecure masculinity and the excessive abuse of slaves in the works of the Roman playwright, Plautus.
Feltovich said Plautus depicts male characters who are insecure about their social position among other males, either because of poverty or social status, and who compensate for this insecurity by the excessive abuse of slaves. In turn, these slave characters are the primary vehicle for their abusers’ demise.
She argues that we should read this as a critique of the wrong kind of masculinity, and that the agency which Plautus ascribes to slaves reflects their position as the growing class of outsiders in Republican Rome.
The paper is derived from a chapter Feltovich wrote for the forthcoming volume Blackwell Companion to Plautus.