144. The Girl from Andros by Terence (166 BC)

Plot:  Pamphilus wants to marry disgraced Glycerium, a girl from Andros and sister of a immigrant prostitute, who he has fallen in love with and made pregnant.  But his father Simo has arranged for him to marry instead Philumena, the daughter of his friend Chremes. To further complicate things, Pamphilus’ friend Charinus is in love with Philumena. The slave Davos convinces Pamphilus that the planned wedding is a ruse by Simo, as he knows Chremes has called it off, and convinces Pamphilus to agree to the ‘wedding’ to confuse and delay Simo long enough to allow the real wedding of Pamphilus and Glycerium. But of course things don’t go according to plan. And is Glycerium really the sister of a courtesan from Andros?

My copies of the comedies of Terence are all taken from the Penguin Classic The Comedies, translated by Betty Radice (ISBN 014044324X)


My thoughts: At first glance, this seems like a rather tame Plautine comedy, with a slave trying to fool his master so that the son can marry his true love. And like Plautus, Terence is using plays from the Greek New Comedy corpus as inspiration (in this case, two Menander plays, The Girl from Samos, and The Girl from Perinthos). But as the translator Radice points out in her introduction, Terence treats his characters with more realism and less caricature, resulting in less raucousness. Whether this is an improvement depends on your taste – I  like my comedy both clever and a bit raucous.

What Terence did introduce to drama was the double plot – having two plots intertwine – in this case, two sets of lovers entangled in misunderstandings – very Shakespearean – although the second love affair is given very little stage time.

Terence was a young man, a freed slave of a Roman senator, when he wrote the first of his six plays. He went missing, presumed dead, on a trip to Greece to search for more material, but no more is known on what exactly happened, and a number of theories have arisen over the years.

He was accused of plagiarism, and at the same time ruining Greek plays by cherry-picking parts to form a different whole. His most vociferous critic went by the gloriously villainous name of Luscius Lanuvinus. It was also claimed that his plays were really written or at least heavily influenced by his more illustrious friends, but the fact that new plays did not surface after his disappearance seems to disprove that rumour.

Personal rating:  5/10

Also in that year:  In the twenty odd years since 188 BC, Philip V of Macedonia dies (179 BC) and is succeeded by Perseus who is hostile to Rome, leading to the Third Macedonian War (171-167 BC), ending in Perseus’ imprisonment and death. Roman forces takes some Greek hostages to Italy, including the historian Polybius (167 BC).

The Chinese have discovered porcelain, while the Romans have started making stone bridges and laying pavements.

Next : Terence’s next play, The Mother-in-Law

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