The quarrel of lovers is the renewal of love
-by Terence in the Andria (Comedy)
Terence, Latin in full Publius Terentius Afer, (born c. 195 BC, Carthage, North Africa [now in Tunisia]—died 159? BC, in Greece or at sea), after Plautus the greatest Roman comic dramatist, the author of six verse comedies that were long regarded as models of pure Latin. Terence’s plays form the basis of the modern comedy of manners.
Terence was taken to Rome as a slave by Terentius Lucanus, an otherwise unknown Roman senator who was impressed by his ability and gave him a liberal education and, subsequently, his freedom.
Striving for a refined but conventional realism, Terence eliminated or reduced such unrealistic devices as the actor’s direct address to the audience. He preserved the atmosphere of his models with a nice appreciation of how much Greekness would be tolerated in Rome, omitting the unintelligible and clarifying the difficult. His language is a purer version of contemporary colloquial Latin, at times shaded subtly to emphasize a character’s individual speech patterns. Because they are more realistic, his characters lack some of the vitality and panache of Plautus’ adaptations (Phormio here is a notable exception); but they are often developed in depth and with subtle psychology. Individual scenes retain their power today, especially those presenting brilliant narratives (e.g., Chaerea’s report of his rape of the girl in the Eunuchus), civilized emotion (e.g., Micio’s forgiveness of Aeschinus in the Adelphi, Bacchis’ renunciation of Pamphilus in the Hecyra), or clever theatrical strokes (e.g., the double disclosure of Chremes’ bigamy in the Phormio).
The influence of Terence on Roman education and on the later European theatre was very great. His language was accepted as a norm of pure Latin, and his work was studied and discussed throughout antiquity.
*Recommended English translations:
Betty Radice, The Brothers and Other Plays(1965),
Phormio and Other Plays (1967), both “Penguin Classics,” combined in one volume (1976)
The Complete Comedies of Terence: Modern Verse Translations(1974), translated by Palmer Bovie, Constance Carrier, and Douglass Parker and edited by Palmer Bovie. Frank O. Copley’s translations were published as Roman Drama: The Plays of Plautus and Terence (1985).