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Summary

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

(Critical Survey of Literature for Students)

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...

(The entire section is 1,271 words.)