Characters Discussed

(Great Characters in Literature)


Phormio (FOHR-mee-oh), a crafty and cynical young Athenian lawyer, a self-styled parasite who resolves to straighten out the romantic difficulties of two young cousins, Antipho and Phaedria, whose fathers are abroad. With Phormio’s connivance, Antipho marries Phanium, a penniless young woman of good family. When the fathers, Demipho and Chremes, return, they bribe Phormio to marry Phanium and thus free Antipho from his imprudent union. Phormio betrays the uncles and gives part of the money to Phaedria to buy Pamphilia, a slave with whom he has fallen in love. The uncles discover that Antipho’s wife is actually Chremes’ daughter by a secret marriage to a woman of Lemnos. They now approve the match and demand their money back from Phormio. When they insist, Phormio tells Chremes’ wife Nausistrata of the earlier marriage. She upbraids Chremes, tells Phormio to keep the money, and invites him to supper. Antipho and Phaedria are left happy with the women they love.


Geta (GEE-tuh), Demipho’s shrewd servant, Phormio’s accomplice in helping the young men and defrauding their fathers.


Demipho (DEH-mif-foh), Antipho’s father and Chremes’ brother. Pompous, class-conscious, and somewhat miserly, old Demipho wishes to revoke his son’s marriage because it offers no dowry....

(The entire section is 445 words.)

Phormio Bibliography

(Great Characters in Literature)

Barsby, John. “The Stage Action of Terence, Phormio.” Classical Quarterly 43, no. 1 (1993): 329-335. Discusses how a production of Phormio was set up. Helpful for those concerned with dramatic technique.

Duff, J. Wight. A Literary History of Rome: From the Origins to the Close of the Golden Age. 3d ed. New York: Barnes & Noble Books, 1960. Gives a plot line and places Phormio in the context of Terence’s other plays. Discusses other playwrights’ influence on Phormio and examines the chronology of Terence’s plays in relation to the prologues. Claims that discrepancies exist in play presentation that could confuse interpretation of prologues.

Flickinger, R. C. “A Study of Terence’s Prologues.” Philological Quarterly 9 (1940): 81-93. Examines the prologues and explains that Terence used them as a defense of his works; in Phormio, for example, Terence refers to himself as “the old playwright” and says his aim in writing this play is “to answer, not provoke.” Flickinger claims the study of prologues is important in understanding Terence.

Norwood, Gilbert. The Art of Terence. Oxford, England: Basil Blackwell, 1923. Discusses Phormio critically and gives the plot line of the play. Compares Phormio with other works by Terence. Discusses the influences of other playwrights on Phormio and how the playwright’s life influenced his writing of this work.

Rose, H. J. A Handbook of Latin Literature from the Earliest Times to the Death of St. Augustine. 3d ed. London: Methuen, 1967. Covers Terence’s major works in chronological order. Summarizes play, then discusses literary criticism of it. Claims that Phormio is one of Terence’s better plays.