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Last Updated on June 19, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 265

The Eunuch is a play by Terence, a Roman playwright who lived during the second century BC. The Eunuch is a play that deals with a common theme for Roman comedy: a cunning slave and a young love that transcends social class. The Athenian youth, Phaedria, loves a courtesan, Thais....

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The Eunuch is a play by Terence, a Roman playwright who lived during the second century BC. The Eunuch is a play that deals with a common theme for Roman comedy: a cunning slave and a young love that transcends social class. The Athenian youth, Phaedria, loves a courtesan, Thais. Thais explains that she rejects his advances because of a plan she has underway to reclaim a slave of her mother’s who was purchased by one Thraso, whom she now tries to entrap. Phaedria goes away to the country to give Thais time to execute her plan, but sends him two of her salves: a female and a eunuch. Phaedria’s brother, Charea, is enamored of the female slave, and so asks to be sent to Thais in place of the eunuch. While there, he rapes her and runs away, ashamed. The female slave’s brother then finds out, and it is revealed that Phaedria’s brother impersonated the eunuch. Thais comes back from the country, and, when Thais’ servant taunts Phaedria’s slave by saying that Chaerea will be tortured for raping the slave girl. The slave tells their father, and he eventually agrees to let his older son wed the courtesan, when he is gladdened by the realization that this son Charea’s love interest, the slave woman, is in fact a free citizen, separated at infancy from her brother. As a final twist, and at the suggestion of his slave, Thais and Phaedria agree to continue to string Thraso along with Thais’ charms, as a means to extort money from him.

Summary

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Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 1006

Phaedria, a young Athenian of good family, is disturbed because he was excluded from the house of Thais, a courtesan. He is also perturbed because of the love he feels for the woman. Phaedria’s slave, anxious to help his master, advises that Phaedria retire to the country for a time and try to forget her. Parmeno, the slave, really believes the woman is wicked and that his master will be better off without her. As master and slave stand before Thais’s house, which is next to Phaedria’s father’s residence, the courtesan herself comes out to explain why she refuses to admit the young man. She explains that Thraso, a warrior, purchased a slave who formerly belonged to her mother. Thais believes that the slave, a young woman, is actually a free citizen of Athens. In order to get a good name in Athens, to which city she recently came, Thais hopes to learn the woman’s identity and restore her to her family. Thais has to humor the captain in order to get possession of the slave.

Phaedria believes Thais and promises to go away into the country for two days, so that she can work on the captain with her charms and get possession of the young slave woman. Before he leaves, Phaedria gives Parmeno orders to go into his father’s house and get the two slaves whom he purchased for Thais. One of the slaves is an Ethiopian woman, the other is a eunuch. Thais wants a eunuch because royalty prefers them.

On his way to get the slaves for Thais, Parmeno meets Phaedria’s younger brother, Chaerea, who saw the slave woman Thais wants and falls in love with her. Chaerea persuades Parmeno to introduce him into Thais’s household in place of the eunuch, and the exchange is made. In the meantime Thraso’s parasite brings the slave woman to Thais’s house as a present to the courtesan from the warrior. He also bids Thais meet his master for dinner.

Thais and some of her maids go to Thraso’s house as he requests. While they are gone, Chaerea, in the person of the eunuch, is entrusted with the care of Pamphila, the slave woman. He sends her to be bathed by other slaves. When she returns, he is so overcome by her charms that he rapes her. Ashamed at what he has done, he flees.

While Thais is gone, Pamphila’s brother, Chremes, comes to the house at the request of Thais. Told that she is not at home, he goes in search of her at Thraso’s residence. Thraso, thinking Chremes a rival for Thais’s affections, behaves boorishly. Disgusted, Thais takes her leave, after telling Chremes to meet her shortly thereafter at her own house.

Phaedria, in the meantime, leaves for the country, but, overcome by his affection for Thais, he turns back. Arriving at his father’s house, he is met by one of Thais’s maids, who tells him that the eunuch raped Pamphila. Phaedria, swearing that such things cannot happen, finds the eunuch, who is dressed in Phaedria’s brother’s clothing. The maid, upon seeing the eunuch, realizes that the guilty man is not the eunuch but Phaedria’s brother. The brother, meanwhile, goes off to a dinner with some friends. He is both sorry and glad for his deed; most of all, he wants to marry the slave.

Thais returns, distressed and angry when she hears what has happened. Her anger is cut short by the arrival of Chremes, who thinks that Pamphila is his sister, stolen in infancy. To make sure, he goes off to get the nurse who was in charge of his sister. Before he leaves, however, he chases off Thraso, who arrives with a band of servants to reclaim the slave he gave to Thais.

Chaerea returns and confesses his actions to Thais. When she accuses him of doing the deed to spite her, a courtesan, he demurs, swearing that he raped the slave because he loved her overmuch. He still claims that he wants to marry her. Chremes returns with the nurse, who quickly identifies Pamphila as Chremes’s long-lost sister, a free citizen of the city, a member of a good family, and a fine wife for Chaerea, if the lad can get his father’s consent.

While they are conferring, Thais’s maid resolves to have her own revenge on Parmeno, Phaedria’s slave. She tells Parmeno that Chaerea was seized and that he is about to be mutilated, as is the customary treatment of rapists in ancient Athens. Parmeno runs to Laches, the father of Phaedria and Chaerea, to get the older man’s help.

When Laches learns the true facts, he is quite willing to permit a marriage between his younger son and the woman he dishonored. More than that, the father becomes reconciled to his older son’s love for the courtesan, since she proved herself in her efforts to restore the slave to freedom and her proper position in life. He agrees to look after the courtesan’s welfare and to permit his older son to live with her. This plan makes Phaedria and Thais very happy, for they truly love each other.

When Thraso returns for one last attempt to regain the favor of the courtesan, Phaedria threatens to kill him if he appears in that street again. Thraso’s parasite suggests to Phaedria and Thais that they keep the braggart for entertainment. The parasite points out that Thraso is very foolish, has a lot of money, and can be kept dangling a long time by the courtesan without ever receiving any of her favors. Phaedria, seeing the humor of the situation, agrees to the terms. The warrior, not realizing he is to be made a fool, is so happy with the arrangement that he promises to behave himself and to be more generous than ever with the parasite who got him into the silly situation.

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