The Fiction of Patriarchy in Terence's Hecyra

To label the history of Terence's Hecyra "checkered" would be too generous, for its detractors regularly have outnumbered its enthusiasts. Its first two audiences voted with their feet, deserting one performance for a rope dancer, another for a gladiatorial show, as we learn from the prologue to the surviving and finally successful third version (4, 39-42).1 The scholarly tradition has been no kinder. When Ashmore wrote his commentary on all the plays of Terence, the Hecyra trailed his summary list as "the one of least merit,"2 yet one lonely voice in the twentieth century, that of Gilbert Norwood, insisted that the Hecyra was "possibly the finest masterpiece of high comedy in the world."3 What accounts for such disparity?
The faults of the Hecyra are usually alleged to lie in the exposition of its extraordinarily complex plot, compounded by the lack of an expository prologue. A full discussion would begin with the relation of Terence's play to its Greek predecessors but would lead us far from our purpose here.4 Let us simply note that, if the didascalia are to be believed, the first version of the Hecyra had no prologue at all: acta primo sine prologo (5).5 Moreover, we should recall that the script we have is for the third (and successful) performance. There are good grounds for believing that Terence did not simply produce 249|250 exactly the same script all three times but attempted to improve it.6 Thus the performance history, two versions which failed followed by success, is difficult to reconcile with such a notion of faulty, delayed exposition. The play's final success suggests that, whatever problems there were in these first versions, the were resolved in the final successful performance. Our question then should be, not how Terence's exposition is inferior to an entirely hypothetical Greek original, but what purpose the present play's exposition is intended to serve.
Recent studies of the Hecyra have focused mainly on its ironies. David Konstan7 in particular has illuminated the ways in which the usual structure of New Comedy is inverted in the Hecyra. In a typical Roman comedy, passion (amor) comes into conflict with social and familial obligation (pietas) when the young man falls in love with an apparently ineligible (i.e., non-citizen) young woman. When the young woman is discovered to be a citizen, passion and duty are reconciled, and the marriage can take place. In the Hecyra, by contrast, the young man attempts to use the claims of pietas in the service of his private desires to destroy his own existing marriage. As a result, as Konstan puts it, "[T]he inversions and reversals in the story come near to stripping the code [of New Comedy values] of all normal sense."8
What purpose do these inversions and ironies serve? While it may be far from clear which system of education (if either) Terence favors at the end of the Adelphoe, it is apparent that he regards the issue as one of real importance, one the audience is meant to continue struggle with. T. McGarrity has studied in welcome detail the trope of seeming versus reality in the Hecyra, but it is not enough to say with him that the abrupt and ironic ending "serves a thematic purpose in much the same manner as the opening scenes. The sudden cessation of the action involves the audience itself with the theme, for its expectations of an extended resolution of the plot do not coincide with the reality of the performance."9
I propose to return to an insight of Norwood, the play's most passionate defender: "[the Hecyra] is a woman's play. . .with women as the chief sufferers, the chief actors...."10 I shall argue that the curious ending of this play leaves us with an ironic but remarkably sensitive appreciation of the position of women within the partriarchal 250|251 city-state. In no other ancient comedy are women so noble--nor so readily condemned. Nowhere is the contrast between seeming and reality so sharp as between the perceptions of women held by men in this play and their actual roles. The action of the Hecyra is double: the unfolding of the real and potentially tragic story of male perfidy and the parallel necessity of constructing and maintaining a narrative in which all the difficulties are the fault of the women in the play.
Essential to my reading and the method of performance criticism is the audience's linear experience of the play in the theatre. Most approaches to the play begin with a discussion of background details which the audience learns only late in the play. Such discussion is a distorting lens, however, for it wrenches the play out of the order in which the audience experiences the performance. I therefore propose to go through the play's action in order and deal with problems, if such they seem when experienced in that order, in their proper place.
At the same time performance criticism seeks to construct a horizon of social expectations against which to read the audience's experience of the play. For a Roman comedy, there can be problems of whether to read against a Roman or a Greek social background. I believe that this play works against a horizon of expectations generally shared by Greeks and Romans, though there are elements specific to the Roman milieu alone. A Roman comedy presumes a Roman audience, and any play which hopes to succeed plays to that audience. If a given element in the play can only (or far better) be explained by the Greek background, we should presume the audience knows this background, either from contact with the Greek cities of southern Italy or from previous plays. It is, after all, the fiction that these plays are set in Greece.
It bears repeating that the Hecyra begins where other ancient comedies end--with an acknowledged, legitimate marriage in place.11 Moreover, we view that marriage first through the eyes of two women--for whom marriage is an enemy. As the play opens Philotis and Syra are discussing the marriage of Pamphilus to Philumena, an event which has disillusioned the romantically inclined young Philotis, for it ended Pamphilus' affair with her friend Bacchis.12 251|252
The opening scene between Philotis and Syra, soon joined by Pamphilus' slave Parmeno, fills in the background to the marriage. Though Pamphilus had sworn to his mistress Bacchis that he would never marry (60-62), his father Laches eventually began to pressure his only son to marry and provide the family with an heir (116-122). Pamphilus finally agreed and was betrothed to Philumena, the daughter of a neighbor. Since his affection for Bacchis remained powerful, Pamphilus (as Parmeno informs us) refused to consummate the marriage in the hopes that Philumena would voluntarily return to her father, when she saw she was neglected. Pamphilus was too much of a coward to state openly that he remained attached to Bacchis (126-156). According to Parmeno, however, after the marriage Bacchis turned against Pamphilus (maligna multo et magis procax facta ilico est, 159: "she immediately became much harsher and more demanding"); he, gradually won over by his wife's patience, finally fell in love with her instead (160-170). Just at this point, though, Pamphilus was called away from Athens on extended business, and in his absence there has been an apparent falling out between Philumena and her mother-in-law Sostrata, in whose charge she was left; at least so Parmeno explains Philumena's return to her father's home.
The emotional tonality of this opening scene is as complex as the plot it delineates. The two women "read" the situation in markedly different ways. While the older and more cynical Syra sees relationships between women like herself and citizen men as war (72) in which women must plunder as best they can, Philotis still believes in happy endings for women like herself (despite her own recent ill-treatment by a soldier who carried her off to Corinth) and hopes that the rift Parmeno reports between Philumena and Sostrata will mean the end of Pamphilus' marriage and the renewal of his connection with Bacchis. Parmeno seems quite callous in the face of the women's feelings. His loyalty is all with his weak-willed master. He displays no sympathy for Bacchis but vilifies her for refusing to continue her relationship with Pamphilus on the same basis after his marriage as before. He initially seems to admire Philumena's patience which wins over Pamphilus but is equally ready to hold out hope to Philotis and Syra that Pamphilus' marriage will end over this rift between mother-in-law and daughter-in-law.
The next voice we hear belongs to Pamphilus' father Laches, who enters denouncing his unhappy wife and the whole race of women: (198-204): 252|253
Pro deum atque hominum fidem, quod hoc genus est, quae haec est coniuratio!
utin omnes mulieres eadem aeque studeant nolintque omnia
neque declinatam quicquam ab aliarum ingenio ullam reperias!
itaque adeo uno animo omnes socrus oderunt nurus.
viris esse advoras aeque studiumst, simili' pertinaciast,
in eodemque omnes mihi videntur ludo doctae ad malitiam; et
ei ludo, si ullus est, magistram hanc esse sati' certo scio.
His wife Sostrata, following him, denies she has quarrelled with her daughter-in-law and suggests the girl may only want to see more of her own mother (235-236), but Laches insists it must be Sostrata's fault--not surprisingly, in view of their own estrangement. We learn that they now live apart, he in the country, she in the city, and so he relies on reports (presumably from servants like Parmeno) for his view that the women have quarrelled.13
Phidippus, the father of Philumena, now appears, and the two old men attempt to join forces against this "conspiracy" among the women.14 Phidippus, however, will not force his daughter to return against her will.15 The old men depart together, leaving Sostrata to lament the harm done by male stereotypes of female behavior (277-278):
sed non facile est expurgatu: ita animum induxerunt socrus
omnis esse iniquas. . . .
Her parting hope that her son will come to save the situation (280) is ironically undercut by his arrival speech. Parmeno has intercepted his master returning from abroad and filled him with the tale of female feuding, and Pamphilus' self-pity has immediately come to the fore (e.g., 281, 292). He accepts without question the notion that one of the women, either his wife or his mother, must be to blame (nam aut matrem ex ea re me aut uxorem in culpa inventurum arbitror, 299).16 Parmeno tries to reassure him by suggesting that the quarrel may be over some trifle (312-313): 253|254
itidem illae mulieres sunt ferme ut pueri levi sententia:
fortasse unum aliquod verbum inter eas iram hanc concivisse ita.
Parmeno misses, though the audience would not, the irony of line 312 in his mouth: slaves fall in the same class as women and children in the ancients view, those lacking the mental capacities of free adult males. Indeed the word puer can mean either child or slave. Parmeno has already proved himself a puer levi sententia in the opening scene where, after his first hint to Philotis that all is not well with his master's marriage, he attempts to be discreet (101-113). He claims he cannot trust Philotis to keep a secret (108-109) but is soon coaxed into telling the whole story. He admits that an eagerness to gossip is his greatest fault.17
A cry from within, which Pamphilus recognizes as Philumena's voice, cuts short these reflections. In the crisis his love for his wife comes to the fore (324-326):
cesso hinc ire intro. . . .
nam si periclum ullum in te inest, perisse me una haud dubiumst.
He races in to her. Shattered, he re-emerges from the house a short time later, for he has found his wife in labor; since he refused his wife's bed in the first months of their marriage, he is sure the child is not his. In a long soliloquy (361-414) he reports the event and the plea of his mother-in-law Myrrhina.18 According to her, her daughter was raped before her marriage by an unknown assailant. Myrrhina has pledged to expose the child and do her best to keep the male world from knowing of the birth.19 If word somehow leaks, she will claim Philumena has had a miscarriage. Pamphilus has promised to keep silent but now he doubts he can take his wife back. The return of Parmeno poses a new problem (415): since Parmeno knows of his master's abstinence from Philumena early on in their marriage, he 254|255 must be gotten out of the way until she gives birth, lest he raise any questions. This Pamphilus accomplishes by sending the slave off on a fool's errand which will keep him the whole day at the Acropolis.
The knowledge of Philumena's pregnancy virtually splits Pamphilus in two. Sympathy and knowledge link him to the inner, female world of the play. He shares with the women (at least Philumena and Myrrhina) the knowledge that he did not consummate his marriage at once. His promise to keep silent is another bond. He feels deep sympathy for his wife, especially as he thinks of her future -- and yet he cannot shed his traditional values. He will not receive back a woman who has known another man and must therefore undertake the duplicitous task of acting according to his masculine values while honoring his word to Myrrhina.
Before he can even plan, Pamphilus is confronted by the two fathers, who beg him to take Philumena back. Pamphilus' only resource is to fall back on the fiction of a quarrel between Philumena and Sostrata: in the ironic inversion of values Konstan has so well delineated, he insists that duty toward his mother (pietas) demands he suppress his love (amor) and give up Philumena.20
The multiplex ironies of the extraordinary statement are worth dwelling on for a moment. Pamphilus here threatens both familial and narrative order. In the patriarchal society of Rome the obligations of pietas all point to the pater familias, the male head of the household. Pietas includes the obligation of the wife to be subordinate to the husband, though we have seen that Sostrata is sufficiently free from the control of her husband that she lives apart from him.21 Pamphilus' view of pietas in promoting his mother to equality with his father only reinforces her independence.
He similarly threatens to reverse the usual flow of narrative time in the drama. The normal Roman comedy moves from the apparent disjunction of amor and pietas to their union when the object of love 255|256 is identified as simultaneously the object of duty. Pamphilus now, while claiming that he still loves the woman he married out of duty to his father's wishes, threatens to make time run backward by claiming pietas can now disjoin him from his love. The fathers both agree he is acting wildly, but he escapes before they can argue with him.
Philumena's father Phidippus now discovers the birth--which precipitates a major shift in male thinking. Phidippus regards the birth of a male heir as the happy result of his a Laches' hopes, but his suspicions are aroused by his wife's attempts to keep the birth quiet. The possibility that Pamphilus might not be the father is raised only to be dismissed immediately (527-531); Phidippus concludes that his wife Myrrhina is to blame. He accuses her of opposing Pamphilus as a son-in-law because of his previous relationship with Bacchis and of attempting to turn her daughter against the marriage (cf. esp. 536-539); he then takes steps to prevent exposure of the child. Myrrhina's soliloquy shows the extent to which she herself has absorbed the patriarchal values of the culture: while reporting her fears of a full revelation, she also expresses horror at the prospect of acknowledging the child of an unknown assailant as a legitimate family member.22
Sostrata now increases the pressure on her son by announcing her intention of joining her husband in the country. She reasons that her withdrawal will allow her daughter-in-law to return. There is an obvious irony in filial marital discord achieving the reconciliation of a long-standing separation of the parents. More interesting are the terms in which her husband Laches views this reconciliation: it is a process of self-fictionalization, a subordination of the individual to the requirements of mythic type (620-621):
. . . .postremo nos iam fabula
sumu', Pamphile, "senex atque anus."
As Donatus rightly remarks,23 the words imply the beginning of a story (or perhaps we might more accurately translate fabula here as "play"). The parents will now conform to the requirements of comic pattern, whatever denial of self is required.
In the face of this parental self-mythologizing, Pamphilus' own fictive abilities begin to fail him. He can no longer attribute his 256|257 refusal to devotion to his mother. Phidippus' announcement of the birth offers him another opportunity. He desperately tries to argue that his wife's concealment of the birth proves she has no wish to reconcile, but Laches dismisses that as well. Fortunately for Pamphilus, Laches has his own theory -- that the real reason for Pamphilus' refusal is a continued affection for Bacchis. Faced with the demand that he at least take and acknowledge the child,24 Pamphilus denies affection for Bacchis, then simply flees.
Continuing to believe that Bacchis is the root of the problem, the fathers now send for her, both to cajole and to threaten. Finally the audience is able to evaluate for itself this woman of whom it has heard so much. Bacchis, far from the mercenary woman Parmeno depicted in his opening account, proves unusually generous and noble. She denies having encouraged Pamphilus25 in such temperate tones that the old men merely request that she repeat her story to the "women within" (754-755). Quite silently, the blame has returned to these women. Bacchis reluctantly agrees.
This offstage confrontation precipitates the astonishing recognitions and denouement. Myrrhina recognizes a ring Bacchis wears as that stolen from her daughter by the unknown rapist. Bacchis recalls that Pamphilus, after giving her the ring, confessed to having taken it from a girl he drunkenly assaulted on the street: Pamphilus himself is the unknown assailant.26 The audience learns this fact only a few moments before Pamphilus himself. Bacchis emerges from her interview with the women inside and sends Parmeno running off to fetch Pamphilus and convey the brief news the Myrrhina has recognized the ring. She fills in the details in a soliloquy (816-840) until Pamphilus arrives.
Pamphilus appears, still asking Parmeno for reassurances of the truth of this news. He expresses his joy curiously (843):
deu' sum, si hoc itast.
While not completely unparalleled, this is an extremely powerful expression of joy.27 There is an underside to Pamphilus' accidental apotheosis, though: he has been freed from the consequences of his 257|258 own actions. A divine rapist in the spirit of Jupiter, he has no thought for the feelings of Philumena. He seems to assume that any hurts will be assuaged when he takes her back as his wife and mother of his acknowledged heir--insofar as he thinks of her at all.28
Yet Pamphilus is not so careless a divinity as he would have us all believe. After exchanging compliments with Bacchis, he anxiously inquires: (865-869):
Pam. dic mi, harum rerum num quid dixti meo patri?
Bac. nil.
Pam. neque opus est
adeo muttito. non placet fieri hoc item ut in comoediis,
omnia omnes ubi resciscunt. hic quos fuerat par resciscer,
sciunt; quos autem non scire aequomst, neque resciscent neque
At the moment the real story of the Hecyra is known only to the women of the play and the one responsible for the whole crisis, Pamphilus. He is particularly anxious that the truth not leak to the male world, embodied by his father. I suspect that he fears not so much the revelation of the fact of the rape as of his own weak-willed and vacillating course throughout his marriage.30
A comparison with Menander's Epitrepontes, the only surviving New Comedy with a plot even resembling that of the Hecyra, is revealing at this point.31 In Epitrepontes, the leading young man Charisios has also unknowingly raped his wife before marriage. She gives birth only five months into the marriage and while her husband is away, then abandons the child. Her husband, returning, abandons her and moves out of the house. The resolution comes about in two stages, first with the revelation that Charisios has fathered a child by rape, and then with the discovery that his wife is the mother of this child. The two stages allow for recognition and moral growth on 258|259 Charisios' part. At one point he overhears his wife insisting to her father that she wishes to remain loyal to her marriage, even though her husband has abandoned her. Having just learned of his own child, fathered by an act of rape, he recognizes both his wife's loyal nature and the similarity of her position to that of the (as yet unknown to him) girl he has victimized. He repents and resolves to take her back.32 Even Charisios' recognition of the full truth does not end the play. The news of their reconciliation, including the details, must be made known, particularly to Charisios' father-in-law, Smikrines.33
The Hecyra ends with and explicit rejection of just this fiction of New Comedy (non. . .ut in comoediis, 866),34 but ironically at the same time it commits itself to a different fiction. Male authority and dignity are preserved by suppression of the truth. The real and potentially tragic story of rape and rejection disappears behind a narrative in which the women are to blame for all the problems.35 The mother-in-law (and it hardly seems to matter which one) will bear the official blame for Pamphilus' and Philumena's estrangement, in keeping with the male ideology about mothers-in-law which Sostrata enunciateed at the beginning of the play (277-278).
Male fictions eventually triumph. In this, Laches' victory over his wife foreshadows that of his son. Sostrata, who has been living an independent life in the city, agrees to join her husband in the country 259|260 and will, like Mrs. Millamant, once more "dwindle into a wife."
Terence's choices in the exposition of the Hecyra emphasize the triumph of public/male fictions over private/female realities in the play. The critical assumption that an ancient audience had to be told the essentials of a play's plot seems to me as unjustifiable as it is general. Terence does not wait until nearly the end of the play to tell us that Pamphilus is the mysterious rapist because he has simply been unable to cram the information in any earlier. The exposition as we have it serves rather to emphasize that truth can emerge only briefly from the inner world of the play before a new public explanation will be fashioned to replace it.
As Norwood rightly insisted, Terence is no feminist -- but neither is the Hecyra a simple comedy of remarriage.36 If order is restored at the end, it is only with the tacit recognition of the lies on which that order is based. We have seen pietas twisted and exploited to serve private passions rather than some social good. Its devaluation has exposed the fragile supports on which the traditional patria potestas rests. The ironies of the Hecyra have proved to be imbedded deeply in the Roman patriarchal order. Terence preached no doctrine, advises no course of action, but contents himself with showing that the restoration of order is not real. It is a fiction, yet a fiction which is ironically more powerful than those of comedy.

1Actually we seem to have preserved for us part of the prologue to the second version (1-8) as well as the prologue to the third (9-57). The final prologue elaborates somewhat (53-55) on the competition which doomed the first performance (4). The text is cited (except where noted) from P. Terenti Afri, Comoediae (Oxford 1958), ed. R. Kauer and W. M. Lindsay with supplements by O. Skutsch. The only generally available commentary on the Hecyra is in S. G. Ashmore, The Comedies of Terence (New York 1908). Useful but hard to obtain is P. Terenti Afri, Hecyra (Pretoria 1963), ed. with commentary by T. F. Carney. On the two prologues see Ashmore ad loc.

2Ashmore (note 1, above) 33.

3Gilbert Norwood, The Art of Terence (Oxford 1923, rept. New York 1965) 33.

4W. E. Forehand, Terence (Boston 1985) 92-104, is typical of the complaints about Terence's exposition in the play. For those interested in the issue, the best starting place is E. Lefèvre, "Hecyra," Die Expositions-technik in den Komodien des Terenz (Darmstadt 1969) 60-80. Lefèvre argues that Terence, in order to make room for literary polemics in his prolgues, has displaced key elements of the original expository prologue of the Greek play until much later. Lefèvre draws on the work of W. Schadewaldt, "Bemerkungen zur Hecyra des Terenz," Hermes 66 (1931) 1-29. These attempts to argue that substantial amounts of the prologue have been displaced until later in the play are criticized with good reason by D. Sewart, "Exposition in the Hekyra of Apollodorus," Hermes 102 (1974) 247-60. All the relevant bibliography on the question can be found in the discussions of Lefèvre, Schadewaldt, and Sewart.

5Because this would be out of keeping with Terence's practices elsewhere, many editors beginning with Dziatzko have chosen to delete it (and see Carney ad loc.). It is now generally accepted that the didascalia are in error on one other point--i.e., in ascribing the Greek original to Menander rather than Apollodorus (again see Carney). It seems curious, though, that an explicit denial of a prologue to the first version should simply be invented (we would assume one in the absence of any statement of the subject), nor can I accept the omissions in the didascalia that Carney argues for.

6Norwood (note 3, above) 12 assumes that 1-57 are the prologue to the final version and takes line 5 (planest pro nova) to mean that the final version is "entirely new." Ashmore's note ad 5 is more accurate to the Latin, but surely some alteration of the text is still implied.

7David Konstan, Roman Comedy (Ithaca 1983) 130-41.

8Konstan (note 7, above) 141.

9Terry McGarrity, "Reputation vs. Reality in Terence's Hecyra," CJ 76 (1980-81) 149-56 (156). Forehand (note 4, above) 102-04 sees this as the chief theme of the play as well.

10Norwood (note 3, above) 91.

11Cf. Konstan (note 7, above) 133. A marriage has also already taken place in Terence's Phormio (also based on a play of Apollodorus), but the project of that play is to bring about paternal acknowledgement of the union. Only Menander's Epitrepontes (on which see below) is at all comparable.

12Bacchis and Philotis are both members of that large class of displaced women which the turmoil of the Hellenistic age created. The basic study of the social status of such women and their depiction in comedy is now that of Elaine Fantham, "Sex, Status, and Survival in Hellenistic Athens: A Study of Women in New Comedy," Phoenix 29 (1975) 44-74. They are not slaves, but because they have no male relatives to protect them and give them status, there is no place for them in the social system of the city-state. I will argue that one effect of the Hecyra is to highlight the vulnerability of such women. Whether Terence "intended" his audience to feel sympathy for these women is of course beyond determining, nor will I commit the sin of biographical criticism by suggesting that Terence's own status as outsider in Roman society may have made him more sensitive to such issues. Doubtless the audience views Philotis and Syra according to their stock types when the scene opens. It is commonplace of Terentian criticism that his characters are never the stock type only. In this play the comedy of playing against type is insufficient explanation, I think, for a pattern which concentrates on the female characters.

13Laches has come to town because of these reports (189-190). We are given no detailed discussion, but he and Sostrata seem to have quarrelled over money. Laches, typical of the Roman's obsession with property (on which see Erich Segal, Roman Laughter [Cambridge, MA 1968] 53-56), has retreated to the country to guard and maintain his property (res occurs twice in this explanation, 224-225) against what he views as his wife and son's depredations. Whether this was the explanation of Laches' absence from town in the Greek original is undeterminable. Parmeno seems to attribute the rift between Laches and Sostrata to Laches: nam senex/rus abdidit se, huc raro in urbem commeat (174-75).

14Laches seems quite unaware of his contradiction in charging the women simultaneously with conspiring together and feuding with one another.

15Phidippus's indulgent attitude toward his daughter's wishes would seem to a Roman audience to be typical of the upper class male. See in particular the ground-breaking study of Judith P. Hallett, Fathers and Daughters in Roman Society (Princeton 1984), esp. 76-149, with her explication of "filiafocality" in the Roman upper class family.

16Here I prefer Fleckeisen's conjecture nam aut (which Ashmore adopts) to the mss. tum.

17Most studies of the Hecyra focus on the ironic contrast between Parmeno's view of himself as a typical clever slave (servus callidus) and his real uselessness, indeed counter-productivity in the play. Forehand (note 4, above) 97-98 is typical. The ancient commentary of Donatus was the first to note this. Aeli Donati, Commentum Terenti (Leipzig 1905), ed. P. Wessner, p. 335 ad 808 invites us to note how "from the beginning of the comedy to the end Parmento is sent running about and never learns what he most desires to." If one takes the portrayal of Parmento as the chief source of the comedy in the play, one can agree that Terence should have pointed out at the beginning the contrast between Parmento's picture of himself and his real role in the play: cf. Sewart (note 4, above) 257ff. I see Parmento, however, as part of a larger ironic pattern of male ignorance. Note the forms of nescio in lines 319, 321, 322 which emphasize the ignorance of both master and slave in the present crisis. At 312-313 the irony is pointed. Parmento tries to assimilate himself to the free male world by denigrating women but through his ignorance undermines both his own and the male world's claim to superior status.

18This scene was probably a dialogue in which Myrrhina participated in the Greek original: see Schadewaldt (note 4, above) 10ff.

19Pamphilus quotes Myrrhina thus: (396-397): maxume volo doque operam ut clam partus eveniat patrem/atque adeo omnis. Note the emphatic position of patrem at the end of line 396.

20nunc me pietas matri' potiu' commodum suadet sequi (481).

21See Hallett (note 15, above) 211-62 on the legal and social roles of Roman wives in general. As the Roman audience would naturally interpret Laches and Sostrata's situation in Roman terms, a brief discussion of the Roman concept of manus in marriage is in order here. For our purposes Roman marriages may be divided into those in which the wife passed into the authority (the patria potestas) of her husband and legally counted among his children (i.e., marriages cum manu) and those in which she remained under the authority of her father (marriages sine manu). Despite the theoretical existence of a system of male guardianship for women even after their fathers had died, marriages sine manu in practice gave women considerable legal independence. Sostrats's marriage to Laches is presumably sine manu. The foundation of this independence was economic, as comic stereotypes of wives with large dowries demonstrate (dowries would be returned in the event of divorce). In a marriage sine manu the wife remains bound by her pietas (filial duty) to her father rather than to her husband. Pamphilus, then, in declaring that pietas binds him to the wishes of his mother (481), who in turn is bound presumably still to her father, offers a very serious challenge to the authority (patria potestas) of his own father Laches. A divided pietas threatens the order of the family. As there is no Greek equivalent for the Roman concept of pietas, Terence's focussing of the issue on this term must be an innovation.

22While neither a Greek nor a Roman father would likely contemplate accepting another's child with equanimity, it was doubtless more of a conscious sacrilege for an Athenian father: see Fantham (note 12, above) 67-70. Pamphilus in Terence does not make much of the issue in his soliloquy. Later in the play in a two-line aside (648-649), Pamphilus says the child is an insuperable barrier, but we must remember that there he is being hard-pressed by both fathers. In that atmosphere it is not surprising to see his masculine values predominate.

23From Wessner's edition of Donatus (note 17, above) 303-04 ad 621: "senex atque anus. These two names placed thus indicate the substance and beginning of stories of this sort....pronouncing senex atque anus like the beginning of a tale." Thus I also prefer Faber's conjecture of fabula for the mss. fabulae.

24Even if there is to be a divorce, the child will still legally belong to Pamphilus. Cf. Hallett (note 15, above) 235-36: "Furthermore, a husband (or his pater) legally owned his children in both types of a marriage, whereas a wife not in her husband's manus had no legal claims upon them, and a wife in manus was merely numbered among them."

25750-752. She may be slightly disingenuous here. She implies to Laches that she barred Pamphilus from her house, whereas we know from Parmeno that he visited her, though presumably he did not enjoy her favors.

26It is of course this piece of information which all who have written on the relations of the Hecyra to its Greek source assume must have been in the Greek prologue; whatever Apollodorus' choice may have been, the effect here is to juxtapose the revelation and immediate concealment of the real sequence of events.

27The Pamphilus of Terence's Andria speaks at the end of his play of having obtained deorum vitam (959), "the life of the gods," and the same phrase occurs at Heauton Timoroumenos 693. An actual claim of godhood, however, may imply more than the perquisites of the same.

28One might compare Jupiter in Plautus' Amphitruo, the only successful adulterer in Roman comedy. Alcumena is there expected to be content to be the mother of Hercules; Jupiter's rape by deception is forgotten in the finale.

29Here I give the text of Ashmore. The differences from the Kauer/Lindsay/Skutsch are minor, save for 865 meo patri (the reading of the Bembine codex) rather than iam patri.

30An essential element of any such explanation would involve his revelation that he did not consummate his marriage at the beginning. Recall Philotis' derisive question of Parmeno when the latter first asserts the marriage was not consummated on the wedding night: she asks how a half-drunk young man could fail to take advantage of a girl in such circumstances and declares she does not believe it (138-40). Myrrhina also points out to Pamphilus that only he knows the child is not his, since the Romans accepted that the gestation period for a live birth could be as short as seven months (391-394). See Schadewaldt (note 4, above) 2-4 on ancient beliefs about gestation periods.

31Though some scholars have wished to follow the didascalic ascription of the original of the Hecyra to Menander and see the Epitrepontes as that Menandrean play, there is far better evidence for ascribing that original to Apollodorus, who probably took his inspiration from Menander. See Carney (note 1, above) 18-19n., 21n.

32We learn of this first through the slave Onesimos' report of Charisios' very emotional (described virtually as a mad scene, 879) speech of repentance (888-899), then through Charisios' own monologue (908-932). See the comments of both W. G. Arnott in the Loeb edition, Menander I (Cambridge, MA 1979) 489-93, and A. W. Gomme and F. H. Sandbach, Menander: A Commentary (Oxford 1973) 360-66.

33See Gomme and Sandbach (note 32, above) 369-70, who suggest that Smikrines, as the enemy of the marriage, must be teased and ridiculed in the style of Old Comedy (e.g., he learns the news from an insolent slave). Clearly, though, whatever shame Charisios feels is outweighed by the need for a full revelation.

34While comments on the play as play are common in Plautus (see N. W. Slater, Plautus in Performance [Princeton 1985]), such an expression is unparalleled in Terence. The claim that such a reference will only strengthen the dramatic illusion (see George Duckworth, The Nature of Roman Comedy [Princeton 1952] 134) is not persuasive, and one can sense the uneasiness of other commentators (cf. Carney [note 1, above] ad 620-21). Though certainty is impossible, it is on balance more likely that such a comment represents Roman innovation, for Greek New Comedy provides no precedent for comedy commenting on itself: see N. W. Slater, "Play and Playwright References in Middle and New Comedy." LCM 10.7 (1985) 103-05.

35The suppression of the truth at the end of the Hecyra generates considerable uneasiness, not the "thoroughly joyous conclusion" that Forehand (note 4, above) purports to find (p. 98). Ancient drama recognized the tragic potential of the rape plot. Menander in the Epitrepontes has the slave Onesimos quote Euripides' Auge at one point (1123-1124) to point the tragic parallel. The Auge contained a similar rape at a night festival by Heracles; he, like Charisios, was eventually identified by the ring he left with Auge. One wonders if there were another tragic parallel behind the Greek original of the Hecyra beside the Auge. Perhaps Pamphilus is a god like the Apollo of the Ion who rapes Creusa, fathers Ion, but must conceal the rape at the end of the play so that Xuthus will believe Ion to be his own son. There too a patriarchal fiction must be preserved.

36One ancient example does not a genre make -- perhaps not even two. I am nonetheless struck by some interesting parallels between the Hecyra and the genre identified in the subtitle of Stanley Cavell's Pursuits of Happiness: The Hollywood Comedy of Remarriage (Cambridge, MA 1981) esp. 1-42. Cavell makes some very interesting remarks on the "feminist" element in the comedy of remarriage which might suggest future lines of enquiry for both the Hecyra and the Epitrepontes.