This text is part of:
Click on a word to bring up parses, dictionary entries, and frequency statistics
PAMPHILA and Chremes were the children of an Athenian citizen. Pamphila, while an infant, was carried off from her home at Sunium by robbers, and by them sold to a merchant of Rhodes. He presented her to a courtesan of that place, who had her brought up with her own daughter Thais as her younger sister. When Thais grew up she removed to Athens with a lover of hers, who at his death left her all his property. She then kept company with a soldier named Thraso, who went to Caria after living with her a short time. Meanwhile her mother had died, and her uncle wishing to realize money by Pamphila, who was beautiful and accomplished, sold her to Thraso, who happened to be at Rhodes on his return to Athens, and carried her with him intending to make a present of her to Thais. During his absence, however, Thais had found a new lover, one Phaedria, son of Laches. This Thraso discovers on his return, and in order to secure his footing with her, makes his present conditional upon Phaedria's dismissal. This causes Thais great perplexity, for she is really attached to Phaedria, and yet much wishes to get possession of Pamphila, whose history she has learnt in part, and whom she hopes to restore to her Athenian family, intending by so doing to make herself friends in Athens. Accordingly she shuts her door against Phaedria. He is at first highly incensed at her conduct; but after an interview with her, consents to absent himself from Athens for a day or two, that she may have time to obtain Pamphila from Thraso. Before he goes he gives orders that an Ethiopian slave, and an eunuch whom he has bought for Thais, shall be taken to her house. At this moment Thraso sends Pamphila under the escort of Gnatho his follower. On her way to Thais' house she is seen in the street by Chaerea, Phaedria's brother, who at first sight falls desperately in love with her, and hurries after her, but being detained on his way by an old friend of his father's, arrives just too late to see her taken into the house. Here he falls in with Parmeno, his father's slave, and between them they concoct the scheme on which the plot of the play turns. Chaerea is dressed up in the eunuch's clothes and conducted to Thais' house, where he soon has an opportunity of carrying out his intended scheme, during the absence of Thais at Thraso's house; after which he makes his escape. This event causes the greatest consternation in the household; and is no less distressing to Thais, who finds her plan for restoring Pamphila to her relations thus awkwardly frustrated. For in the meantime she has obtained some interviews with Chremes, the brother of Pamphila, and has nearly identified Pamphila when the catastrophe comes to her knowledge. Phaedria, too, is much disconcerted at discovering that his present has worked so much mischief. All parties, in fact, are at their wit's end, with the exception of Chaerea, who, upon discovering Pamphila's history, makes the best amends he can by undertaking to marry her. Pythias meanwhile, Thais' maid, pays off old scores by driving Parmeno to divulge the whole matter to Laches, father of Chaerea and Phaedria. The result is of course a happy explanation on all sides. Thais is taken under Laches' protection, and continues her intimacy with Phaedria. Chaerea and Pampphila marry. Parmeno is forgiven by his grateful young master: and the only person who suffers is the unfortunate Thraso, who is beaten clean off the field, and is only too glad to submit to be the perpetual butt of these young sparks, on condition that he shall be allowed to be one in their parties, and thus still enioy the society of Thais. This is the outline of the play, which gives a very lively and amusing action. But the most admirable feature is the manner in which some of the subordinate parts are worked out. The bye-play between Pythias and Parmeno is admirable. The character of the Parasite as drawn in Act II. scene ii. is admirable, and striking from its novelty after the hackneyed ideal which is presented to us in all the plays of Plautus. No less admirable is the Braggadocio of Act III. scene i., the features of the character being the same as those of the Miles Gloriosus of Plautus, except that Terence with greater humour makes Thraso prouder of his wit than of his military exploits. The scene in which Thraso is represented as attacking Thais in her house (Act IV. scene vii.) is highly ridiculous, and reminds one more strongly than any passage of Terence of the free humour of Aristophanes. We cannot wonder that the Eunuchus should have been the most popular of all Terence's plays: for here there is the nearest approach to the "Plautini sales," which were the true Roman comedy. It is said to have been purchased by the Aediles for the sum of 8000 sesterces (above 64 £ 10 s. sterling), the largest sum which had been given for any play. The leading incident of the plot makes it unfit for the modern stage: but when we say this we say all that can be said against the play. The execution is highly delicate, even in the famous scene which describes the successful issue of Chaerea's scheme. The play is said by the author of the Life of Terence to have been acted twice in one day: and no doubt it was acted on more than one occasion.
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License.
An XML version of this text is available for download, with the additional restriction that you offer Perseus any modifications you make. Perseus provides credit for all accepted changes, storing new additions in a versioning system.