Rape is a theme in 4 of Terence’s 6 plays, and especially in Eunuch (and Mother-in-Law). In the U.S. today, rape is considered a serious crime in any context, and the rapist is prosecuted for violating the victim, no matter the victim may be, how old, or what gender. By contrast, in Roman times, whether rape was considered a “crime” depended on the social status of the victim. If the rapist was an upper-class male and the victim a slave, no crime was committed per Roman law (though in this case the rapist likely would have to pay restitution, i.e. a fixed fine, to the slave’s owner for violating his personal property). Bearing this in mind, reflect on how Chaerea’s rape of Pamphila in Eunuch is presented. Is it simply a plot device, and if so, what larger goal(s) might it serve within the play itself? Given the standards of Roman society, would the audience have found the rape offensive in the same way that modern audiences do? Why or why not?
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