BMCR 2001.05.05

The Eunuch of Terence

, , The eunuch. [Classical Texts]. Warminster, England: Aris & Phillips, 2000. vi, 213 p. : ill. ; 22 cm.. ISBN 0856685135 $28.00 (pb).

At the end of a century in which there was no English edition of Terence’s most successful play it might seem unfortunate that two editions of the Eunuchus should be published in England in successive years—that by John Barsby (Cambridge University Press, 1999) and the present edition by A.J. Brothers. But, in fact, the two editions aim at different readerships: Barsby’s work is intended for those who wish to study the play through the medium of Latin, while Brothers’s edition is for those who have ‘small Latin’ or none. The pattern of Brothers’s (hereafter B.) The Eunuch is the same as that of his 1988 edition of The Self-Tormenter in the same series: an Introduction, consisting of seven sections and a bibliography (pp. 1-49), is followed by a Latin text and English translation on facing pages (49-155), and a commentary (157-209); there is a brief index (211-13). The importance of the English translation is indicated by the fact that the lemmata in the commentary are primarily in English; the relatively few lemmata in Latin are printed in bold italic, and ‘are intended primarily for readers using the Latin texts’.

Of the seven sections of the Introduction I-IV (Greek New Comedy, Comedy at Rome, The Life and Works of Terence, Terence and his Critics) and, mutatis mutandis, section VII (The Text) are printed with only minimal changes from B.’s 1988 edition of The Self-Tormenter. The most important alteration from what B. wrote in 1988, when he spoke only of the money-grabbing hetaira (courtesan), is to distinguish between the unscrupulous and the kindly type of courtesan (see p.4 with nn. 14 and 15); that distinction is of particular importance for the assessment of the character of Thais in the Eunuchus. Sections V ( The Eunuch and its Relationship to Menander) and VI ( The Eunuch as a Roman Comedy) are new. The reader is reminded that the matters discussed in these sections must be read in conjunction with the more detailed comment which is made at the appropriate points in the commentary, but the main points at issue, many of them matters of hot and continuing argument among scholars, are conveniently set out here. In his discussion of these matters B., not surprisingly, tends to sit on the fence, as on the question whether there was a divine prologue in Menander’s Eunouchos, or to resort to rubrics such as it is now generally agreed’. But in his attempt to answer what stood in Menander’s play where Terence’s play has scenes involving the parasitus colax and miles gloriosus (who, Terence tells us ( Eun. 30-2), were introduced from Menander’s Kolax) B. rightly insists that the appearance of a fourth (or at IV vii a fifth) speaking part must indicate Terentian addition to, or alteration of, the Greek original. But the ‘three-actor rule’ is to be used as a tool, not as a cure-all. By employing it a strong case can be made that the maid Dorias is entirely a Terentian addition, but B.’s assumption that it is the parasite Gnatho who must be eliminated from the final scene (1049-94: see B. p. 23 with n. 118 and Barsby pp. 281-2) is by no means certain. Yet, though some details in B.’s analysis may be open to question, he is right in emphasising as integral to the plot of Menander’s Eunouchos three strands: the ‘liaison-plot’ of Phaedria and Thais (to give them their Terentian names—we know (see B. n. 131) that in Menander the equivalent characters had different names), the ‘marriage-plot’ of Chaerea and Pamphila, and the strand that depicts the revenge that the maid Pythias takes on Parmeno for engineering Chaerea’s rape of Pamphila.

Section VI of the Introduction reviews in turn the actions of each of the major characters. In the cases of Phaedria, Chaerea, Thais and Parmeno B. detects in each the existence of opposing traits: Phaedria is a love-sick swain, but a resolute and helpful brother, Chaerea ‘from one point of view, a happy, likeable rascal’, but also an inexcusable rapist, Thais a combination of rapacious courtesan and bona meretrix, Parmeno a mixture of a cunning and a bungling slave. How far Terence intended his contemporaries (or, at least, the more discriminating among them) to be conscious of such internal contradictions in his characters is uncertain. Until about thirty years ago the generally held view was that Terence operated with stock characters who spoke a uniform and undifferentiated Latin. It is now accepted that there is a degree of differentiation at least between the language of different types of character, and much modern criticism of Terence’s plays seems to assume that his characters are, in some sense, real persons. That assumption may go too far, and what Sandbach says in the Gomme-Sandbach Commentary on Menander may come nearer the truth: ‘they [Menander’s characters] give the illusion [reviewer’s italics] of being real people’. I suspect that the immense success of Terence’s Eunuchus was due less to the subtleties of its characters than to the fact that it rattled along with plenty of entertaining incidents, not least the splendidly mock-heroic siege scene and the final unexpected scene of accommodation between the impecunious Phaedria and the dull-witted but affluent Thraso.

At the end of the Introduction B. disclaims a concern with metrical matters, though, in fact, he does make a number of comments on them in the commentary. Paradoxically, though it is Barsby’s edition that is basically concerned with linguistic questions, it is B. who provides a substantial apparatus criticus, while on p. 41 he lists almost eighty instances where his text differs from that of Kauer-Lindsay’s Oxford Classical Text. Though many of these variants are minor differences of punctuation or orthography, they also include a number of passages where questions of reading and interpretation are involved.

The commentary occupies just over fifty pages—compared with over two hundred pages in Barsby’s edition—but though much detail and almost all linguistic comment are necessarily thereby sacrificed, almost all questions of interpretation are fittingly dealt with. Some comments on details follow.

B. rightly continues lines 50-6 to Phaedria ( aliter OCT but wrongly prints aut fortius for neque fortius at 50. At 86-7 the imperfects eras…stabas…ibas are all translated as presents: that is correct for eras, but doubtful for the other two; see Allardice, Syntax of Terence 65, who distinguishes stabas and ibas from eras. 95. ‘please, my dearest, my darling Phaedria’ is a fair enough translation for ‘obsecro, anime mi, mi Phaedria’, but the full force of the expressions of endearment (especially of anime mi) requires detailed examination of the Latin words. 99-100. Assignment of speakers in the English translation is muddled. ‘Very well’ is spoken by Phaedria (PH.), not Parmeno (PA.), and the bracketed stage direction ‘(to Phaedria)’ should be placed two lines earlier (before ‘but please listen’). 189-224. For the problems associated with the movements here of Thais, Phaedria and Parmeno see B.’s article in CQ 19 (1969) 314-9. Though not all B.’s points have been accepted by other scholars, the repetition of Phaedria’s instructions to Parmeno at 189 and 206—on either side of what must in Menander have been the division between Acts I and II—is undeniable. If, as seems likely, there is Terentian re-working here, it is notable how much lines 191-201 contribute to the image the play gives us of Phaedria and Thais. 267 and 376. Despite B.’s professed indifference to metrical matters there are long notes on metre here. 394. Parmeno’s entrance at this point (rather than at 461) is strange. For more than sixty lines he does nothing more than eavesdrop on Thraso and Gnatho and make a few inconsequential comments on their conversation. Neither B. nor other commentators offer any adequate explanation. 482-3. B.’s suggestion that ‘talk of his battles…and scars’ may indicate that Phaedria’s rival in the Eunouchos was himself a miles gloriosus is tenuous. 499. B. accepts Paumier’s cura (for curre in the manuscripts), but without comment; for that the reader should turn to Barsby. 500ff. B. correctly states that Thais’ instructions to Pythias about Chremes must not be heard by Thraso, but his suggestion that Pythias then remains on stage during Chremes’ long monologue from 507 to 531 is implausible. By 504 (or, at latest, 506) Pythias has gone back inside Thais’ house, and at 530 opens the door to respond to his ‘heus heus, ecquis hic?’ (cf. Ad. 634). 539. B. accepts, as do most scholars now, the statement of Donatus that Antipho was invented by Terence to avoid what in Menander was a long monologue. Fraenkel’s arguments in favour of rejecting Donatus’ statement ( MH 25 (1968) 231-42) still merit mention. 584ff. and 781. B. has apposite references to Augustine C.D. 2.7 and the Duke of Plaza-Toro in Gilbert and Sullivan’s Gondoliers. 767. ‘Show him the tokens’ ( signa ostende): B. takes this as an instruction to Pythias to show the signa to Chremes; Barsby prefers ‘an instruction to Chremes to show the tokens to Thraso’. 969. ‘I’ve simply got to help Chaerea’. B. follows the reading of A ( subueniam): Barsby and OCT read, after the other manuscripts, subueniat, sc. ‘the old man’s got to help Chaerea’. Though the latter is the difficilior lectio, on this occasion B.’s choice may be right.

Finally, since the English translation in the Aris and Phillips series is an integral part of the work, it may be noted that B. has clearly chosen to follow the course favoured by Terence at Eun. 7-8 by offering a translation that is lively and readable rather than exact and dull. Readers with even ‘small Latin’ may care to compare with Terence’s Latin B.’s version of lines 59-61: ‘All these troubles—hurtful words, jealous thoughts, being at daggers drawn, patching things up, fighting like cat and dog, then living in peace again—they’re part and parcel of a love-affair.’