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IF there is any one who desires to please as many good men as possible, and to give offense to extremely few, among those does our Poet enroll his name. Next, if there is one who thinks1 that language too harsh is here applied to him, let him bear this in mind--that it is an answer, not an attack; inasmuch as he has himself been the first aggressor; who, by translating plays verbally,2 and writing them in bad Latin, has made out of good Greek Plays Latin ones by no means good. Just as of late he has published the Phasma3 [the Apparition] of Menander; and in the Thesaurus [the Treasure] has described4 him from whom the gold is demanded, as pleading his cause why it should be deemed his own, before the person who demands it has stated how this treasure belongs to him, or how it came into the tomb of his father. Henceforward, let him not deceive himself, or fancy thus, "I have now done with it; there's nothing that he can say to me." I recommend him not to be mistaken, and to refrain from provoking me. I have many other points, as to which for the present he shall be pardoned, which, however, shall be brought forward hereafter, if he persists in attacking me, as he has begun to do. After the Aediles had purchased the Eunuch of Menander, the Play which we are about to perform, he managed to get an opportunity of viewing it.5 When the magistrates were present it began to be performed. He exclaimed that a thief, no Poet, had produced the piece, but still had not deceived6 him; that, in fact, it was the Colax, an old Play of Plautus;7 and that from it were taken the characters of the Parasite and the Captain. If this is a fault, the fault is the ignorance of the Poet; not that he intended to be guilty of theft. That so it is, you will now be enabled to judge. The Colax is a Play of Meander's; in it there is Colax, a Parasite, and a braggart Captain: he does not deny that he has transferred these characters into his Eunuch from the Greek; but assuredly he does deny this, that he was aware that those pieces had been already translated into Latin. But if it is not permitted us to use the same characters as others, how can it any more be allowed to represent hurrying servants,8 to describe virtuous matrons, artful courtesans, the gluttonous parasite, the braggart captain, the infant palmed off, the old man cajoled by the servant, about love, hatred, suspicion? In fine, nothing is said now that has not been said before. Wherefore it is but just that you should know this, and make allowance, if the moderns do what the ancients used to do. Grant me your attention, and give heed in silence, that you may understand what the Eunuch means.
1 If there is one who thinks: He alludes to his old enemy, Luscus Lavinius, the Comic Poet, who is alluded to in the Prologue to the Andria, and has since continued his attacks upon him.
2 By translating literally: "Bene vertendo, at eosdem scribendo male." This passage has greatly puzzled some of the Commentators. Bentley has, however, it appears, come to the most reasonable conclusion; who supposes that Terence means by "bene vertere," a literal translation, word for word, from the Greek, by which a servile adherence to the idiom of that language was preserved to the neglect of the Latin idiom; in consequence of which the Plays of Luscus Lavinius were, as he remarks, "male scriptae," written in bad Latin.
3 Has published the Phasma: The φασμά," or "Apparition," was a play of Menander, so called, in which a young man looking through a hole in the wall between his father's house and that next door, sees a young woman of marvelous beauty, and is struck with awe at the sight, as though by an apparition; in the Play, the girl's mother is represented as having made this hole in the wall, and having decked it with garlands and branches that it may resemble a consecrated place; where she daily performs her devotions in company with her daughter, who has been privately brought up, and whose existence is unknown to the neighbors. On the youth coming by degrees to the knowledge that the object of his admiration is but a mortal, his passion becomes sdoviolent that it will admit of no cure but marriage, with the celebration of which the Play concludes. Bentley gives us the above information from an ancient Scholiast, whose name is unknown, unless it is Donatus himself, which is doubtful. It would appear that Luscus Lavinius had lately made a translation of this Play, which, from its servile adherence to the language of the original, had been couched in ungrammatical language, and probably not approved of by the Audience. Donatus thinks that this is the meaning of the passage, and that, content with this slight reference to a well-known fact, the author passes it by in contemptuous silence.
4 And in the Thesaurus has described Cook has the following appropriate remark upon this passage: "In the 'Thesaurus,' or 'Treasure' of Luscus Lavinius, a young fellow, having wasted his estate by his extravagance, sends a servant to search his father's monument: but he had before sold the ground on which the monument was, to a covetous old man; to whom the servant applies to help him open the monument; in which they discover a hoard and a letter. The old fellow sees the treasure and keeps it; the young one goes to law with him, and the old man is represented as opening his cause first before the judge, which he begins with these words:-- “'Athenienses, bellum cum Rhodiensibus, Quod fuerit, quid ego praedicem?'” 'Athenians, why should I relate the war with the Rhodians?' And lie goes on in a manner contrary to the rules of court; which Terence objects to, because the young man, who was the plaintiff, should open his cause first. Thus far Bentley, from the same Scholiast [as referred to in the last Note]. This Note is a clear explanation of the four verses to which it belongs. Hare concurs with Madame Dacier in her opinion 'de Thesauro,' that it is only a part of the Phasma of Menander, and not a distinct Play; but were I not determined by the more learned Bentley, the text itself would not permit me to be of their opinion; for the words 'atque in Thesauro scripsit' seem plainly to me to be a transition to another Play. The subject of the Thesaurus is related by Eugraphius, though not with all the circumstances mentioned in my Note from Bentlev." Colman also remarks here: "Menander and his contemporary Philemon, each of them wrote a Comedy under this title. We have in the above Note the story of Menander's; and we know that of Philemon's from the 'Trinummus' of Plautus, which was a Translation of it."
5 Opportunity of viewing it Colman thinks that this means something "stronger than merely being present at the representation," and he takes the meaning to be, that having obtained leave to peruse the MS., he furnished himself with objections against the piece, which he threw out when it came to be represented before the magistrates. Cooke thinks that the passage only means, "that he bustled and took pains to be near enough at the representation to see and hear plainly." The truth seems to be that Lavinius managed to obtain admission at the rehearsal or trial of the merits of the piece before the magistrates, and that he then behaved himself in the unseemly manner mentioned in the text.
6 Produced the piece, but still had not deceived him There is a pun here upon the resemblance in meaning of the words "verba dare" and "fabulam dare." The first expression means to "deceive" or "impose upon;" the latter phrase has also the same meaning, but it may signify as well "to represent" or "produce a Play." Thus the exclamation in its ambiguity may mean, "he has produced a Play, and has not succeeded in deceiving us," or "he has deceived us, and yet has not deceived us." This is the interpretation which Donatus puts upon the passage.
7 Colax, an old Play of Plautus Although Nonius Marcellus professes to quote from the Colax of Plautus (so called from the Greek Κολὺξ, "a flatterer" or "parasite"), some scholars have disbelieved in the existence of any Play of Plautus known by that name. Cooke says: "If Plautus had wrote a Play under the title of 'Colax,' I should think it very unlikely that it should have escaped Terence's eye, considering how soon he flourished after Plautus, his being engaged in the same studies, and his having such opportunities to consult the libraries of the great; for though all learning was then confined to Manuscripts, Terence could have no difficulty in coming at the best copies. The character of the 'Miles Gloriosus' [Braggart Captain] here mentioned, I am inclined to think the same with that which is the hero of Plautus's Comedy, now extant, and called 'Miles Gloriosus,' from which Terence could not take his Thraso. Pyrgopolinices and Thraso are both full of themselves, both boast of their valor and their intimacy with princes, and both fancy themselves beloved by all the women who see them; and they are both played off by their Parasites, but they differ in their manner and their speech: Plautus's Pyrgopolinices is always in the clouds, and talking big, and of blood and wounds--Terence's Thraso never says too little nor much, but is an easy ridiculous character, continually supplying the Audience with mirth without the wild extravagant bluster of Pyrgopolinices; Plautus and Terence both took their soldiers and Parasites from Menander, but gave them different dresses." Upon this Note Colman remarks: "Though there is much good criticism in the above Note, it is certain that Plautus did not take his 'Miles Gloriosus' from the Colax of Menander, as he himself informs us it was translated from a Greek play called Αλάζων, 'the Boaster,' and the Parasite is but a trifling character in that play, never appearing after the first Scene."
8 Hurrying servants On the "currentes servi," see the Prologue to the Heautontimorumenos, l. 31. Ovid, in the Amores, B. i., El. 15, l. 17, 18, mentions a very similar combination of the characters of Menander's Comedy: "So long as the deceitful slave, the harsh father, the roguish procuress, and the cozening courtesan shall endure, Menander will exist."
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