Satire, in order to resonate with the audience, has to reflect something about reality, but, in Juvenal's case, it is surely a heightened, exaggerated version of it, even a caricature. As evidenced, this is by far the longest, and in some ways the most offensive, of the Satires by Juvenal, his sixth, which he devotes to a wide-ranging attack on the folly, for men, of marriage. Postumus, are you really
Taking a wife? You used to be sane enoughwhat
Fury's got into you, what snake has stung you up?
Why endure such bitch-tyranny when rope's available
By the fathom, when all those dizzying top-floor windows
Are open for you, when there are bridges handy
To jump from?
Juvenal did not have a narrow view of women. He does not, in this satire, portray all wives as vicious oppressors. Instead, the female stereotype is firmly defined as nasty, lying, vicious, pretentious, emasculating, garrulous, aggressive, vulgar, nymphomaniacal, gluttonous, dishonest, shameless, greedy, selfish, quarrelsome, impertinent, and disgusting. However notably absent in this satire is the idea of women as stupid and ineffectual. Instead, they are offensively intelligent -- a legitimate castrating bitch. Some women are extravagant, drunken gossips; others are insatiable nymphomaniacs and/or cruel and domineering liars. A whorish corruption, according to Juvenal, is the leading characteristic. Of course, some men may occasionally come across a virtuous woman: she is (the famous phrase) a rara avis, as unusual as a black swan. But Juvenal is a tough man to please: "Who could endure a wife that possessed all perfections?" Such rare birds are invariably "haughty, condescending prigs" who spoil virtue with pride. As well, from my point of view, any woman who would profess to be perfect or unflawed has two of the greatest flaws of all, which could make her as ugly as any leper or scarred person: vanity and overwhelming self-pride. But, there are other flaws as well which can encompass...
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