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Eunuch


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A: Terence Pf: 161 bc, Rome Tr 1598 G: Latin com. in verse S: A street in Athens, before the homes of Phaedria and Thais, 2nd c. bc C: 13m, 5f, extrasA young man, Phaedria, is in love with Thais, an Athenian courtesan. However, she is also being wooed by a braggart soldier, Thraso, who makes Thais a gift of a young girl, Pamphila. Not to be outdone, Phaedria resolves to give Thais a present of a eunuch. When Phaedria's younger brother Chaerea sees Pamphila being brought to Thais' home, he resolves to disguise himself as the promised eunuch to gain access to her. A young gentleman, Chremes, now appears. He has been summoned by Thais, who eventually reveals that he is Pamphila's sister and that the jealous Thraso intends to carry her off by force. Thraso's assault on Thais' house is repelled, and Chaearea, discovering that Pamphila is a freeborn lady, asks for her hand in marriage. Phaedria is now persuaded to share Thais with Thraso, and so the play ends happily for everyone.

A: Terence Pf: 161 bc, Rome Tr 1598 G: Latin com. in verse S: A street in Athens, before the homes of Phaedria and Thais, 2nd c. bc C: 13m, 5f, extras

Based on a no longer extant play of the same name by Menander, with two characters borrowed from Menander's Kolax, this proved to be the most popular of Terence's plays in ancient Rome, winning him the highest fee ever paid for a comedy. In addition to the characteristically tightly woven plot, Terence here engages in a great deal of fun in a farcical manner that might more readily be associated with Plautus, derived mainly from the stock figure of the ineffectual braggart soldier, Thraso. The figure of Thais reappears in Hrotsvitha's Paphnutius, and The Eunuch provided a source for Ariosto's The Pretenders (1509) and for the first English prose comedy, George Gascoigne's The Supposes (1566), which in turn provided the sub-plot of Bianca and her suitors in Shakespeare's The Taming of the Shrew. Other versions include Charles Sedley's Bellamira, or the Mistress (1687), Thomas Cooke's The Eunuch, or the Darby Captain (1736), Edmund Ball's The Beautiful Armenia (1778), and the figure of the Braggart Soldier recurs in the plays named under Plautus' play of that name.

Subjects: Literary Studies (Plays and Playwrights).


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