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Tragic Re-Presentation and the Semantics of Space in Plautus' Casina

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image of Mnemosyne

This article examines motivations for tragic parody in Plautus' Casina, 621 ff. It details how the Casina, and Pardalisca's parodic scene in particular, treat themes common to Greek tragedy—the spatial opposition between male and female worlds, the on-stage struggle for power between men and women, and female madness—and also explores Plautus' comic manipulation of Aristotle's tragic theory. Through her tragic performance, Pardalisca provides a very different perspective on the absent Casina from the one provided thus far in the play and believably represents Casina's possible actions and state of mind. Pardalisca transgresses the conventional boundaries between male/outside and female/inside established early in the play, and she uses the public space outside of the house to externalize and legitimize the private concerns of women inside the house, and to rupture the physical and emotional constraints on women through her paratragic scene. The final 'wedding' scene then comically mirrors Pardalisca's tragic scene and provides a glimpse of the sexual violence Casina might have been compelled to endure had she been forced to comply with Lysidamus' plan, yet neatly turns male violence back on male characters and makes them the comic victims, not just of the women characters, but of themselves.


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