Slaves in those times were often of gentler birth and wider culture than their masters: but judging from the extreme purity of his latinity, unobscured and undefiled by any trace of barbarism, it seems likely that Terence was brought over in his early childhood: he therefore owed to his master his liberal education, granted doubtless all the more freely that he gave token of future greatness. Admitted to the society and close friendship of Scipio and Laelius and other patrons of mark he had every opportunity for enlarging his culture and achieving dramatic success. Detractors were not wanting to put the most dishonourable sense on this attachment of the great; others, again, tried to rob the dramatist of his wellearned laurels by insinuating that the works issued in Terence's name were not absolutely his own, but that he received material assistance in their composition from his patrons. The poet himself seems to allow that there was some foundation for this charge, in the prologue to one of his plays "':

Nam quod isti dicunt maleuoli, homines nobilis
hunc adiutare adsidueque una scribere:
quod illi maledictum uemens esse existumant
eam laudem hic ducit maxumam, quom illis placet
qui nobis uniuorsis et populo placent,
quorum opera in bello in otio in negotio,

suo quisque tempore usust sine superbia. It is impossible to believe that these words of high praise can have been applied to Laelius and Scipio, as at that date they hardly deserved them: further, if we adopt the earlier date for Terence's birth, these patrons were his juniors, and therefore unable or unlikely to have helped him. Still the evidence is unmistakeable that he received some extraneous help.

Six comedies have come down to us: the Andria, Eunuchus, Heartontimorumenos, Phormio, His works.

10 Prol. Adelphi, 15—20.


[ocr errors]

Hecyra and Adelphi. Of these the Andria is the most pathetic, the Eunuchus the most lively (a quality which made it popular and lucrative to its author") and the The Hecyran Hecyra unquestionably the worst. may indeed dismiss the theory advocated by Wagner that its ill success was due to the virtuous character displayed by a courtesan, whose generous interference brings the play to a happy dénouement. We have Terence's own testimony that it was hissed off the stage long before the end had been reached. Its prologue gives us its history and tells how it was removed because the audience preferred a boxing-match, a combat of gladiators and the prospect of the performances of a ropedancer. The fact was that the Roman populace was anything but literary, and would at any moment have turned away from the comparatively severe pleasure of a drama, written in Terence's style, to the excitement of shows and prizefighting. The popular taste universally would postpone the pleasure of the mind to that of the eye. Moreover, the Hecyra is singularly wanting in action and is rendered tedious by a soliloquy of inordinate length. Story of Caeci

In regard to the Andria, the first of the

plays, a pretty story is told that the poet was bidden take his, manuscript for approval to the best judge of that day, the comedian Caecilius Statius 13. Young Terence was told to sit on a low stool and begin to read: but he had not got beyond the early scene where the funeral is described, the chief mourner in which is the heroine of the piece, before Caecilius asked him to sit at his side and join him at supper. Chronology again interferes to prevent our accepting

lius' kindness.

11 It brought him in 8,000 sesterces = £64 nearly. 13 In his preface to Terence.

13 Hor. Ep. 2, 1, 59, says: Dicitur-uincere Caecilius graui. tate: by which he probably means that his plots were of a pathetic and even solemn kind.

this anecdote: unless we suppose that the play was not represented till two years after this incident. Caecilius died in 168 B.C., and the first representation of the Andria is placed in 166 B.C. ".

We may reasonably credit Suetonius' statement that Terence died possessed of a small property on the Appian road : he speaks, however, in the prologue to the Phormio as though living were rather a precarious and difficult matter : yet in the main his plays were successful and his patrons of sufficient wealth to keep him from want. His chief enemy was an older contemporary poet named Luscius Lanuvinus, to whom he alludes in every prologue except that of the Hecyra. His main charges were 1st, want of originality: this has been already alluded

Charges against to in the connection with Scipio and Terence. Laelius : 2nd, contaminatio or the practice of taking portions from two or more plays of other authors and working them up together. Terence replies by throwing the charge back on Luscius, who had borrowed, not over intelligently, from two plays of Menander, the Phasma and the Thesauros, and by citing the eminent examples of his predecessors Naevius, Plautus and Ennius. 3rd, general poverty of style and diction". If the stories told be true, Terence may have found his detractors too strong for him : for to escape their persecutions, or, as others suggest, to improve his knowledge of Greek customs and language, he took his final and fatal journey to Greece. He is supposed to have been drowned as he was returning home, bringing with him transla

His death.

14 This tells strongly against the later date for Terence's birth, as he must have composed the Andria at the age of 16.

15 Phorm. prol. 5 and note: Tenui esse oratione et scriptura


tions of several of Menander's plays, at the early age of 25 (B.C. 159).

The PHORMIO, with which we are chiefly concerned, Plot of the Phor. appeared in the autumn of that year (B.c.

161) in which the Eunuchus had been represented : it was an adaptation of the Epidicazomenos, a play of Apollodorus of Carystus in Euboea, the latest representative of the New Comedy of Athens. Such parts as can be traced to their original are mentioned in the notes. The outline of the plot is as follows:-An Athenian citizen named Chremes has two establishments, one at Athens consisting of a wife, Nausistrata, and a son Phaedria, the other at Lemnos whither he went periodically to collect rents for his Athenian wife: this latter establishment included a wife, a daughter (Phanium), and her nurse, Sophrona. His son, Phaedria, is violently in love with a music-girl, whom he would buy from her owner Dorio but for want of funds. Demipho, brother of Chremes, has gone abroad, leaving his son Antipho behind under the care of a slave, Geta. As it happens, Chremes' Lemnian family come to Athens to look for him : the mother dies, and at the funeral the girl, who is of great beauty, is noticed by a young man, who tells what he has seen to the cousins, Phaedria and Antipho. Antipho is immediately anxious to make her his wife, and to help him in his purpose calls in the assistance of the parasite, Phormio. He makes up a story that Antipho is nearest of kin to the girl and so obliged by Athenian law either to dower her or make her his wife : the marriage is effected when Demipho and Chremes simultaneously arrive in Athens: the former is very angry at his son's conduct. Phormio to oblige them promises to take the girl and marry her himself, but wants thirty minae, partly to pay expenses, partly to satisfy the claims of another girl to whom he was

[ocr errors]

espoused. This sum he gets from the old man and then hands over to Phaedria to buy his music-girl. Chremes now stumbles on the nurse Sophrona, who tells him of the death of his Lemnian wife and the marriage of his daughter. This was just what Chremes had desired : but he is anxious, as also is his brother, to recover the thirty minae. They threaten Phormio, who, to save himself, tells Nausistrata of her husband's unfaithfulness : after some persuasion she consents to overlook it and all ends well.

Molière’s Les Fourberies de Scapin is an adaptation, somewhat burlesqued, of the Phormio : the points of resemblance in plot and incident will be found in the commentary.

We have now to ask further :-how far was Terence true to his Greek originals and to what extent did he Graecise Rome ? All his co- tator of the medies are of the class technically known as palliatae : i.e. they represent throughout Greek and not Roman life. The scene is laid at Athens : the incidents, coinage, dresses are all of Greek character. And we must remember that Terence and his predecessor Plautus do not merely translate and put on the stage the works of Greek authors : neither, except in a very moderate degree, do they adapt Greek models to Roman taste, modes of thought and customs. Rather they transplant Greek life entire: in other words, they helped to produce not only a literary, but a national revolution, a distinct change in theories of life as in literary taste. This is more especially true of Terence. Plautus concedes something to popular taste by a freer use of national customs, a mixture of Greek and Plautus. Roman topography, and most of all by indulging the love for extravagant pantomime which has always characterised the Italian nation. His humour is exuberant, coarse, open, rollicking: there is bustle and

Terence an imi




« ForrigeFortsett »