A: Terence Pf: 161 bc, Rome Tr: 1598 G: Latin com. in verse S: A street in Athens, before the homes of Phaedria and Antipho, 2nd c. bc C: 11m, 2f, extrasTwo cousins Phaedria and Antipho have fallen in love, the former with a courtesan whom he cannot afford, the latter with an impoverished orphan, Phanium, who is in fact his uncle's daughter, the product of a bigamous relationship in Lemnos. Phormio, a helpful parasite, helps Antipho by invoking an Athenian law which stipulates that a close relative must marry an orphan (having no idea that Antipho is indeed Phanium's nearest relative). When their fathers return, they are outraged at Antipho's marriage and pay Phormio to have it dissolved. Instead Phormio hands over the cash to Phaedria, allowing him to buy his courtesan. Finally, Phaedria's father is shamed into compliance by having his bigamy exposed and Phanium revealed as his daughter.
A: Terence Pf: 161 bc, Rome Tr: 1598 G: Latin com. in verse S: A street in Athens, before the homes of Phaedria and Antipho, 2nd c. bc C: 11m, 2f, extras
Based on a no longer extant Greek original, Phormio is arguably the most sophisticated of Roman comedies, thanks to its intricate plot, comic ironies, parallel situations (in which the two cousins are envious of each other, both believing the other to be more fortunate in love), and, above all, to the character of Phormio. While Plautus' slaves (as in Plautus' Pseudolus) are often scheming rogues, Phormio, while naturally self-serving, is clever enough to use the law to his own ends and appears as the righter of wrongs. He provided the prototype for Molière's The Rogueries of Scapin (1671), in turn imitated by Thomas Otway (The Cheats of Scapin, 1677), Edward Ravenscroft (Scaramouch as Philosopher, 1677), and Colman the Elder (The Man of Business, 1774).