Love and scandal are the best sweeteners of tea. —Henry Fielding

04 September 2012

More from the Romans

Some random quotations from the six plays of Terence (which I've been reading this week):

From the Andria:
SIMO: Boys who are having an affair always take it hard when they're made to marry.
DAVOS: So they say.

From the Hecyra:
PHILOTIS: What's that you're saying? A boy went to bed with a girl, when he'd had plenty to drink, and managed to keep his hands off her? That's not a plausible story.

From the Hecyra:
PHIDIPPUS: I knew he had a mistress long before you did, Myrrina. But I've never judged that to be a fault in a boy; it comes naturally to them. The day will certainly soon come, though, when he even hates himself for it.

From the Heauton Timorumenos:
CHREMES: I'm a man; I don't regard any man's affairs as not concerning me.

From the Heauton Timorumenos:
SYRUS: The highest legalism is often the lowest cunning.

From the Phormio:
DEMIPHO: A man returning from abroad should always expect his son to have behaved badly, or his wife to have died.

From the Phormio:
CHREMES: Old age itself is an illness.

From the Phormio:
NAUSISTRATA: I wish I'd been born a man; I'd have shown him –
(It is clear to me that this sentence was repeated nearly word for word by Shakespeare in Much Ado about Nothing.)
From the Adelphoe:
MICIO: Is there a tart hereabouts that he hasn't had an affair with?

From the Adelphoe:
SYRUS: It was your fault!
SANNIUS: What should I have done?
SYRUS: You ought to have been obliging to the young man.
SANNIUS: How could I have been more obliging? I only made my face his punch-bag, didn't I?

From the Adelphoe:
HEGIO: As slaves go, he's not bad. And he's competent.

From the Adelphoe:
SYRUS: Can't you say you were giving them some help?
CTESIPHO: When I wasn't? It can't be done.
SYRUS: ... Yes it can.

Reading Terence was fun. These plays were read by nearly all the important playwrights in the fifteenth, sixteenth, and seventeenth centuries, and this becomes apparent while reading the texts. I saw Shakespearean flourishes over and over as I read; John Ford uses Terentian names in his plays; Molière explicitly adapted these dramas; and any reading of Ben Jonson must also credit Terence as his obvious predecessor.

It is one thing to know this from theatre history books but quite another thing altogether to really sit with an author like this and get to know his work.

Also: ancient attitudes about rape are fascinating. Half of these plays involves a young man who has raped a young lady. In each case no one seems really to mind that he has raped her. Ancient Rome. So interesting.