FATHERS, SONS, DUTY AND DECEIT
THEMATIC SIMILARITIES IN TERENCE AND SHAKESPEARE
PART I: TERENCE
y way of introducing the more literary focus of the later parts of this essay on Terence and Shakespeare, let us contextualize Terentian theatre with respect to the socio-political climate of the second century before Christ in Rome. In so doing let us first give a cursory account of the new Athenian mentality existing in the time of Menander, from whose last works Terence adapted most of the material for both of the plays considered in this essay: the Self-Tormentor and the Brothers. These two plays confront a controversial theme in both Athenian and Roman society, namely the relationships between fathers and sons.
It is perhaps best to begin by discussing some conventions of fifth- century Athens, since this period not only shaped social and philosophical thought in Menander's day (the late fourth century before Christ), but in fact laid the foundations of Greco-Roman civilization, which has essentially dominated Western culture since. Although concepts of humanitas/1 first emerged in fifth-century Athens, the celebrated democracy was not as altogether liberal with respect to the freedoms allotted young men (and women of all ages) as we might witness in later cultures.
Let us first consider the posture of boys and young men in the Athenian community./2 For the most part, we refer to the wealthy and educated citizen of Athens, who had the leisure and prestige required for true public service. Percy Gardner writes:
Greek men, during all the best and brightest periods of their history, lived very much in public. Their private houses were . . . small and mean; it was on their temples, their chief agoras, and their theatres that they bestowed their chief care, and in these they passed their time in social intercourse./3Considering, therefore that devotion in the public sector superseded luxury and extravagance in the private sector, we may rightly suspect that these were the ideals which they strove to instill in their youths, both in Ionic and Doric communities. At Athens education was the private duty of parents, at Sparta it was the duty of the state./4
Through a brief account of their traditional educational practices, we might best come to terms with the proper demeanor of the Athenian youth. Education began at home, at an early age, but this was not so much an education of letters as moral instruction./5 Afterward, the boy was sent to school, around the age of six, where not only his moral instruction continued, but also instruction in reading and music. A boy of wealthy parents was always accompanied to school by a paidagogos, who carried his utensils and monitored his behavior./6 He was also trained in gymnastics (meaning all forms of physical exercise, which were carried out in the nude), for we remember that the Latin maxim, mens sana in corpore sano, found its origins in Greece.
Respect for the state, and the elders who governed that state, must have been a central tenet of the youth's education. Rarely would the child have found the opportunity to display precocious talents for creative, individualistic mental expression in a society that carefully dictated the rules of an established educational system. In the fifth century, Parmenides had debated about the nature of the cosmos, Heraclitus had explored the idea of reality and soon Anaxagoras was postulating the theory of the atom. Yet Athenians were suspicious of such new and unpublic thoughts, thoughts which did not contribute to the glorification of the polis. We must remember that Athens had recently engaged in deadly wars with Persia; an Athenian empire was emerging. Pericles had led the state to an uneasy thirty-year peace at the end of the First Peloponnesian War, and Sparta remained an imminent threat. Consequently, a child would have grown up ever conscious of the fact that hostile neighbors on all sides imperiled his polis.
The atmosphere of the Sophistic schools, which emerged just about the time of the thirty-year peace in the mid-fifth century, encouraged students to question, sometimes quite arrogantly, established ideals. Individual thinkers were flexing their intellectual muscles, training in dialectic, and shrewdly questioning the abilities of others, especially the common citizen's ability to exercise wise judgment in a democratic government. A challenging demeanor within the citizenry was both unseemly and threatening to the unity of the state. Quite understandably, therefore, the Greeks "expected and valued above all things in boys . . . modesty of demeanor and a respectful carriage." "Forwardness" was much disapproved./7
One could arrive at many hypotheses as to why the Sophistic philosophy emerged when it did. Perhaps the challenges of empire led some to explore that human nature which spawned imperialistic tendencies. Perhaps the natural arrogance of citizens in a powerful empire led many to seek greater prestige through individual ability. Or perhaps certain individuals, Socrates in particular, were concerned with shaping a citizenry better qualified to face the threat of hostile neighbors; changing times warranted new methods of social organization, and the complacent old-school of social instruction propounded by the likes of Protagoras being no longer considered adequate. Whatever the cause, the near-exclusive interest in a moral, publicly supportive education gradually gave way to a more intellectual education in rhetoric, philosophy, mathematics and science.
By the end of the fifth century, the Athenian state suffered defeat in the Second Peloponnesian War, and the empire fell into dissolution. Many blamed Athens' weaknesses upon the public discord sown by the Sophists. The comic playwright Aristophanes attacked what he considered lapses in the moral rectitude of Athenian youths. Consider the portraits of traditional Philosophy and radical Sophistry in his play, the Clouds. The former boasts a marvelous physique, a small tongue and a discreet phallus, while the latter possesses a scrawny frame, a pallid complexion, an enormous tongue and a preposterously large phallus. Gardner relates that geometry and arithmetic, "hitherto considered immoral," became important subjects for study, while rhetoric superseded literature. He writes, "The natural result appeared in the spread of knowledge, the growth of science and the wide diffusion of the art of carefully expressing thought in words, while the political decline and social corruption of the Greek race went on steadily, and inspiration died out of poetry and art."/8
We may conclude, therefore, that a generation gap materialized in Athenian culture, where educated young men grew to disregard the values of their forefathers. While the intellectual climate of Athens perhaps spawned this new disrespect for traditional values, the theatre, an enormously important aspect of Greek culture, addressed the change. We have already mentioned Aristophanes, the only dramatist in the period of Old Comedy (comedy up to circa 390 B.C.) whose work survives in totum. He very pointedly and sarcastically confronted society's moral lapses, at the same time making overt allusions to locally known persons and events which can give us an idea of heated public issues in contemporary Athens.
Over the next sixty years comedy entered a different phase, known to us as Middle Comedy. Unfortunately little is known about Middle Comedy as no complete plays are extant from this period. However, we might conjecture that comedy became increasingly less local, more universal and, at the same time, more realistic./9 Reflecting the Sophistic challenge to human beliefs and institutions, comedy must have begun to lampoon human nature in general, and for our purposes here, especially relationships among the family. Whether for glorification or jest, the state had become a lesser concern of educated Athenians; progressive thinkers considered the family as a sovereign institution rather than an institution whose primary function was to groom youths for public service.
This is not to say that a private reverence for family did not exist. Athenians practiced ancestor-worship with great solemnity. Jevons describes the rather superstitious feelings that engendered this institution:
The Athenian dreaded the mere possibility of the discontinuance of that family worship which was necessary for the spiritual welfare of his deceased ancestors, and of himself after death./10
Since the rite of ancestor-worship was passed on from father to son, it was not uncommon for childless men to adopt a son to carry on the family line, and the worship of ancestors. Society endowed sons with a great deal of private responsibility in order to promote public well-being. Ancestor-worship helped to perpetuate the individual's continued devotion to the cherished institution of the state, for worshipping one's father must have encouraged a great deal of reverence for the society from which he came. In Athens, when skeptics ceased to revere the traditional state, so too did they cease to revere the traditional family.
Many critics of the Sophists, Aristophanes among them, thought that these belligerent new thinkers were purely self-centered, far more concerned with their own reputations than the well-being of the state. Certainly, Socrates and his illustrious philosophical descendants, Plato and Aristotle, survive as perhaps the most famous individuals of Ancient Greece. Alexander, Aristotle's own pupil, realized greater personal achievements than anyone in previous history. Greeks were witnessing the triumphs of individualism.
Middle Comedy began to focus more upon ordinary persons in everyday situations, reflecting thereby the new intellectual concerns. Neither Plato nor Alexander follows these patterns, to be sure. Yet when a formerly democratic society is made to witness the exceptional successes of one individual, it stands to reason that society becomes more conscious of a hierarchical order for all its members. Individuals begin to see themselves in relation to other individuals, whether emperors or slaves. Reality tells us that certain individuals (conquerors, masters, fathers and husbands) will be on top, in control of others. Subservient members of the community (subjects, slaves, children and wives) are expected to dutifully obey and respect their authorities. Power imposes order.
Comedy results when less powerful individuals, through their own craft and cunning, disrupt the social order. We are amused by the simple triumph of the servant who outwits the master, the lusty son who outstrips the domineering patriarch, the wife who proves more noble than the husband. We are essentially delighted by the triumph of the underdog; in spite of the odds, an individual manages to "beat the system." New Comedy exploits this delightful element. We laugh at the weaknesses of the privileged, the vanity of their struggles to dominate, their purely human foibles. Since Greeks came to view the family as a universal, non-political institution, its stock characters could be lampooned. However, disruptions of the social order cease to be comic when they exceed domestic limits. In the most innocuous sense, one might view the family as a mere facetious organization of imperfect humans. In the most daring sense, the family might represent a microcosm of society. Later, with reference to Shakespeare, I shall postulate that the disruption of this order is tragic when the displaced individual is the supreme political authority, namely a monarch. When this happens, all subsequent disruptions of order also prove tragic./11
We will now depart from things Greek, traversing the period of Hellenization, and arrive at the Roman Republic of the late third, early second century before Christ. A situation very similar to fifth century Athens appears. Rome is struggling to found an empire, facing opposition from Carthage, their own Spartanesque thorn-in-the-side, while waging lesser wars against Macedonia in the east. Although the political structure of the Roman state is far more complex than that of Athens, we still see strong vestiges of democracy in the Republican form of government. People have something of a voice in choosing their consuls and magistrates, and a nationalistic spirit is running high. The populace is united against enemies both at home in Italy and abroad; the uneasy Italian Federation and the Carthaginian threat after the First Punic War could correspond respectively to the Delphic League and the Spartan menace during the thirty-year peace (or perhaps, for the latter, even recently- defeated Persia). Rome has colonies in Spain which lie perilously vulnerable to Carthaginian aggression. And while cries of "Delenda Carthago est" echo in the Senate, parents are encouraged to bear sons, providing future soldiers and citizens who will fortify the state against certain and imminent dangers. It might be risky to force too many comparisons upon Athens and Rome. For all its similarities, Rome was in many ways far different from Athens, politically, socially, economically and ideologically. We shall touch upon each of these points, though focusing mainly upon the first two, since these will give us a better idea of how plays in the style of New Comedy, known as palliata,/12 came to Rome,
Although a Republican form of government is still democratic, giving citizens some voice in the elections of certain leaders, it is far from the pure democracy of the Athenian state. Rome had a powerful Senate which gradually fell under the control of patrician and plebian aristocrats, who arguably wielded as much national power as the entire Roman citizenry. For centuries, since the founding of the Republic in 509 B.C., wealthy patrician families had vied for power with the up-and-coming plebian class. At length (around the mid-third century), plebian families were able to ensconce themselves in the Senate, which had hitherto been a patrician institution; yet instead of striving to win more power for the plebian masses, these new elite families formed a political alliance of sorts with the old patrician families, resulting in a veritable oligarchy at Rome. This new aristocracy, as it is often called, frequently exploited their senatorial powers. An empire was developing, vast amounts of wealth were pouring into the city, and both at home and abroad senators were making efforts to place their kinfolk in governorships, magistracies and consulships.
Naturally, senators struggled with one another to promote the welfare and prestige of their own families. Indeed, family for the Romans was far more important as a private institution than the chiefly public-serving institution of Ancient Athens. Male children worshipfully revered their male ancestors, not unlike the custom at Athens./13 Families even had their own penates, or household deities, and likenesses of male ancestors were commonly placed upon the mantels of Roman homes. Yet one fundamental difference between the Roman and Athenian domestic organization was the presence of perhaps the most sacred convention in the Ancient Roman World, the patria potestas. A child was in potestas (under the father's absolute legal authority) until the father died, or unless he was legally released by emancipatio./14 Though many of the laws supporting patria potestas were relaxed by the time of the Empire, nevertheless the government was always reluctant to interfere with this "most Roman" institution.
Now let us return for a moment to the historical events of the late third century. I have already mentioned the uneasy peace that existed with Carthage after the First Punic War (264-241 B.C.). Furthermore, Rome had engaged in various other struggles throughout the Italian peninsula, as well as the Eastern Mediterranean. Although unintended, the city was fast developing an empire. Greek civilization had always influenced the Romans, but now Greeks were pouring into Rome either as captured slaves or as persons seeking opportunity in the powerful young state. In fact, there were numerous Greek communities on the Italian peninsula, so that Romans could hardly avoid contact with their cultural predecessors. The trend was destined to continue.
In 218 B.C., Hannibal led a Carthaginian attack against the Roman colony at Sarguntum in Spain, and soon crossed the Ebro river to commence the Second Punic, or Hannibalic War. Philip V of Macedonia, a final legacy of Alexander's Empire, instigated the First Macedonian War in Greece by advancing upon Roman territories there. Rome had never faced such peril, and public apprehension crested. Hannibal threatened the very gates of the city by waging war on the Italian peninsula. Desperate for leadership that might preclude a Carthaginian victory, the people chose certain demagogues as consuls and generals. None of the popular choices proved successful, and at the Battle of Cannae Rome suffered its greatest defeat in history. Bryans and Hendy argue that "political errors at Rome" caused the defeat. Because the people had ceased to respect the better counsel of the Senate, succumbing to a "spirit of demagogism," poor leaders were elected. The Senate itself had fallen into moderate dissolution as a result of internal quarrels (probably arising from factional disputes among leading families). At length, the Senate, "the only stable element in the state," prevailed and with "prudent determination" they brought an end to its own disputes and saw to the appointment of capable leaders who eventually conquered all of Rome's current enemies./15 One of the more powerful aristocratic families at Rome during this time were the Scipios. Among them many capable generals arose. In Spain, Publius and Gnaeus Scipio realized the only successes against the Carthaginians since the beginning of the Hannibalic war, at a time when the one-eyed African leader was marauding the Italian countryside. Scipio Africanus (so named after his victory on the southern continent) was elected the new general in Spain at the age of twenty-seven. He achieved remarkable successes in the west, then by popular consent turned his attentions to Carthage proper, where he routed Hannibal's troops at Zama in 202 B.C., thereby bringing an end to the Second Punic War. He was so popular at home that, like Julius Caesar one hundred and fifty years later, the Senate began to eye him with increasing suspicion, though not before he had done much to fortify the reputation of the Scipios for years to come./16 At length the conqueror of Hannibal was exiled, largely as a result of the caustic attacks of Cato, who feared the Hellenized demagogue and destroyed his reputation as a Roman by "complaining in the senate that Scipio was wasting enormous sums and loitering about the palaestras and theatres like the master of a festival rather than an army commander."/17
Much of our knowledge about the personal life of Scipio Africanus comes to us through a biography written by the Greek historian, Polybius, who, like Terence, was a slave to the Romans and who came into contact with the Scipios through his acquaintance with the adopted son of Publius Scipio, the Roman general killed in Spain shortly after victories against the Carthaginians. Because Publius Scipio was childless, he adopted a son of Aemilianus Paullus.
We have observed how the demise of Scipio Africanus resulted from suspicion among the Senate, engendered by the conservative Cato, who condemned him for being both too lauded as an individual and too Hellenized for a Roman. The famous commander had had a long love-affair with Greek culture. It was rumored that he even corresponded in Greek with Philip V. Undoubtedly, he was responsible for importing many Greek ideas into Rome. Compounded with the influence of colonists and captives from the Aegean area, as well as certain elements of their culture long since adopted by Rome, Scipio Africanus' socio- political machinations did much to supplant many traditional ideologies of the Roman patria with Hellenistic ideologies. Perhaps the most insidious of these, according to Cato, were certain humanistic ideals, which led to changes in the social structure, giving rights to women and children hitherto unseen in the Republic.
The atmosphere in Rome was ripe around the close of the third century and the beginning of the second for plays in the style of the New Comedy. Plautus adapted some of Menander's plays to the delight of the public. Why should Greek theatre not be approved by a state whose most illustrious leader himself adored Hellenic culture? By 166 B.C., the year of Terence's first production, the atmosphere was even riper. Rome had finally stifled the Macedonian threat with the ultimate defeat of Philip V two years earlier. The Carthaginians would remain quiet for the next seventeen years, and Rome was clearly the most powerful state in the known world. National paranoia had ceased, citizens now had the leisure to reflect upon their successes, and the conservative rantings of old Cato were probably a popular subject of ridicule among the influential and educated young aristocrats of the Scipionic circle. Individuals could once again take a greater interest in themselves; just as Alexander had glorified the individual, so too had Scipio Africanus. Furthermore, the Roman conqueror had shown clemency, humanitas, to his enemies, so this novel idea was probably quite fashionable among his progeny. Theatre might now re- evaluate some of the old, perhaps more obsolete conventions of the state, especially the less humanistic institution of the pater familias.
It is unnecessary to recapitulate the popular facts about Terence's life, though I will, for a moment, touch upon the disputes surrounding his authorship of the comedies. Terence's patron (if we dare call him such), Scipio Aemilianus, was the nephew of Scipio Africanus, and the pupil of the uncle's biographer, Polybius. Scipio Africanus, the conqueror of Carthage, displayed a rare and suspicious clemency to his conquered foe. There is strong evidence that Terence was Carthaginian-born. Could it be that Scipio Aemilianus and his Hellenized friends wrote the plays themselves, as has been thought, and passed them off as the work of a Carthaginian ex-slave in a gesture of support for their dishonored hero?
Remember that Cato the elder had criticized Scipio Africanus for being too Hellenized, for showing too much clemency, i.e. humanitas, to the arch-enemy, Carthage, and for frequenting the theatre. Furthermore, Cato had called for a renewal of the old Roman traditions, respect for the pater familias surely among them. What more poignant glory could the Scipionic circle have offered than to architect a number of delightful comedies to the credit of one of the conquered enemy, comedies which ridicule stern patres familiae, while glorifying their lenient Hellenized counterparts? Terence's plays turn Cato's ideal upside-down. Indeed, even slaves appear better than fathers. But, more than likely, the same author wrote each of the comedies, Terence himself, who would have been a marvelous find for the Scipionic circle.
Both the Self-Tormentor and the Brothers exploit possibilities for comedic wit in the disruption of family order. In each of these plays we see the stern Roman father and his more humanized counterpart raising sons who conduct themselves to the veneration of the latter, and to the denigration of the former. In the first play Terence derides a father whose own behavior contradicts the humanistic counsel he offers to his neighbor. In the second he derides both the complacent strict father, and the even more complacent liberal father.
The Self-Tormentor opens upon a self-assured Chremes, who seeks to counsel his agonized neighbor, Menedemus. He speaks wisely, in words that might be part of a humanist's manifesto: "Homo sum: humani nil a me alienum puto" (77). The concern he bears Memedemus stems from the fact that his neighbor works far too hard for a man of his age. We learn that Menedemus is the self-tormentor, punishing himself for taking too harsh a stand with his son, Clinia. Menedemus had exemplified the traditional father, both Roman and Athenian. He felt that his son's incontinent affections for an Athenian mistress warranted a father's reproach. Yet, when Clinia finally heeds the urgings of his father, forsaking both home and mistress for foreign military service, Menedemus regrets his absence.
We see Athenian elements more in the father's reproaches to his son's romantic affairs, and certain elements in the son's responses which bear greater relevancy to second-century Rome. In Athens, a son did not have the right to choose a bride, or even frequent the society of a woman, especially one who, because of social class or any other reason, might not meet with the father's approval./18 In Rome, even during the Empire, a son in patria potestate had to have the consent of the pater familias. Yet a more "humanistic law of marriage" came about around the time of Terence in which the act was more dependent upon the "free will of man and woman."/19 Both sons in the Self- Tormentor, Clinia and Clitipho, exercise a modern Roman liberality in their sexual pursuits. Good fortune befalls the self-tormentor in the end when Sostrata discovers that Antiphila is her daughter, and thus an Athenian-born girl of credible character. He can both satisfy his son's love by consenting to the marriage, and preclude any more youthful incontinence in his son by marrying him to a respectable girl.
Therefore Menedemus illustrates a father who has seen the error of his traditional ways. Imagine what this would have meant to Roman audiences (and Greek audiences, when they witnessed similar themes in Menander). Tradition is wrong. Our greater happiness lies in humanitarian action, especially with respect to the way in which we treat our own family members. Paternal traditions subordinate love to authority. We win our children's true affections and devotions when we treat them with leniency, clemency and generosity, in short humanitas.
A more intriguing element in the plot surrounds Chremes, for he is the father whom Terence forces from a position of complacent authority. In a Terentian framework, complacency warrants derision; Chremes himself acknowledges this near the end of the play: "derides merito" (915). Even though he utters excellent humanistic counsel, Chremes proves to be an officious hypocrite who has forgotten the Socratic maxim, "Nosce te ipsum." This quality irks Menedemus from the beginning: "Chremes, tantumne ab re tuast oti tibi/ aliena ut cures ea quae nil ad te attinent?" (75-76). From their earliest exchange, however, we cannot be sure that Chremes is not, in fact, the wise and noble humanist. He insists that reason should and will conduct his and Menedemus' behaviors: "vel me monere hoc vel percontari puta:/ rectumst, ego ut faciam; non est, te ut deterram" (78-79).
Of course, Chremes has the upper-hand over Menedemus at this point. His own son, Ctesipho, remains close at home, for all we know as a result of Chremes' firm but honest rearing. Again, he offers fine counsel to Menedemus: "ingenio te esse in liberos leni puto,/ et illum obsequentem se quis recte aut commode/ tractaret" (151-153). Yet Menedemus' pain, and his laborious penitence should have attracted a Roman's attention. Through them he exhibits both a conscientious humanism and a fine Roman modesty./20 Chremes, on the other hand, does not know labor; he is shocked at the very weight of a mattock. Instead, he enjoys leisure, traveling to and from Athens and feasting among his neighbors. This relaxed lifestyle should warrant our suspicions. Soon, at the end of the first scene, we get a premonition of Chremes' hypocritical lack of attention to his own affairs. Having invited a neighbor to dinner, Chremes feels compelled to knock at his door and remind him of their engagement, only to learn that his guest has long since been waiting for him at his own house.
Whether from a suspicion roused by Menedemus' sad predicament, or from a habit of spying, Chremes detains his guest a bit longer to eavesdrop on Clitipho and Clinia. Immediately we see the implementation of one of Terence's favorite dramatic themes: deceit. In the first place, Chremes automatically hides so as to overhear, at this point not even knowing who the speakers will be. Then, he decides to conceal from the apprehensive Clinia that his father is in fact eager to see him, thinking it better that the youth fear a while longer. Chremes immediately looks foolish, for why should a trusting, humanistic father suddenly feel compelled to spy on and deceive his son? Perhaps it is a momentary disgust for Clitipho that compels him. He righteously enumerates Clinia's many blessings: "quid relicuist quin habeat quae quidem in homine dicuntur bona?/ Parentis, patriam incolumem, amicos, genus, cognatos, ditias."/21 Then Chremes defends paternal harshness before his son's criticism of Menedemus:
nam parentum iniuriaeThe very next scene exposes the irony of Chremes' words. Clitipho not only rejects his father's counsel, but in fact announces that his father is a hypocrite, having enjoyed a rakish youth himself, only now to chastise the same behavior in contemporary youths. Furthermore, Clitipho frankly confesses to the audience that it is he, and not Clinia, who has pursued the love of an unrespectable girl.
unius modi sunt ferme, paulo qui est homo tolerabilis.
scortari crebro nolunt, nolunt crebro convivarier,
praebent exigue sumptum; atque haec sunt tamen ad virtutem omnia.
verum animus ubi semel se cupiditate devinxit mala,
necesset, Clitipho, consilia consequi consimilia.
scitumst periclum ex aliis facere tibi quod ex usu siet. (204-210)/22
Several deceits are at work in the play. As we have already mentioned, Chremes begins by concealing the fact that Menedemus is no longer angry with his son. The next character to initiate deceit is the slave, Syrus, who architects the whole scheme whereby Bacchus appears to be Clinia's mistress. He does this so that Clitipho can stall for time to get her money, at the same time putting her up at his father's expense. Then a contest of trickery begins between Syrus and Chremes, between slave and master, wherein Chremes, already deceived about Bacchis, connives the slave into thinking that Menedemus can be tricked out of money to pay for the girl. While Chremes bonds together in deceit with his fellow-father, the slaves and sons, those subservient characters, bond together for their own schemes. Deception becomes the name of the game, as illustrated in a master-slave exchange at lines 537- 538:
Syrus: eho quaeso laudas qui eros fallunt?Truth will out, as the saying goes, and eventually, through Menedemus' unambiguous espial, the fathers learn the facts about their sons' mistresses. Chremes, who had insisted that a father should know his son, and know when to be conciliatory or when to be firm, proves that he has known nothing at all about Clitipho. Furthermore, he realizes that his own wife deceived him years earlier, merely exposing the daughter she should have put to death on his order. Through sheer chance, this child, Antiphila, comes back into their lives. She is recognized by an amulet left with her as an infant, bringing about the device of peripateia, a favorite for ancient dramatists. Fortunes suddenly turn for the old men. While Menedemus realizes the great joy of gaining a prudent son and a worthy daughter-in-law, Chremes realizes tht he has fostered an incontinent son with a prostituting mistress, not to mention an overly clever slave and a disobedient wife. He reacts with a rage that nearly condemns him to total hypocrisy in the light of his former humanistic counsel.
Chremes: in loco ego vero laudo.
Terence does not abandon Chremes to utter dejection and ridicule. The father hatches one last scheme that finally proves successful. Pretending to disown Clitipho for bringing shame upon him, he tells his son to seek his sustenance from his good friend, Clinia, to whom he feigns having given his entire fortune as dowry. Syrus, really quite the noble slave, tries to bring the father's wrath upon himself and, when this is ineffective, he hypothesizes that Clinia is adopted, in order to placate the distressing bewilderment of his young master. At length, Chremes regains at least a spark of his former dignity when Clinia consents to abandon Bacchis for a more reputable wife of his father's choosing, in that typical Athenian gesture whereby a father might put an end to a son's youthful dissolution.
In the Self-Tormentor both fathers are made to realize the errors of over- harshness and ignorance of their sons' affairs. We see a reversal of fortunes, where the harsh, traditional father adopts a humanistic demeanor, while the humanistic, counseling father falls foul of his own philosophy and must exercise a more traditional harshness. One wonders, therefore, if Terence really champions one philosophy, either humanism or authoritarianism, over the other. In the Brothers we see a similar turn of fortunes. While Demea's traditional sternness proves ineffective in controlling and winning the love of his incontinent son, Micio's liberal posturing catches up with him, and puts him out of a great deal of property. In this play as well undutiful sons attempt to trick their fathers through a reversal-of-mistresses ploy.
Neither father possesses the same rich satiric potential as Chremes. Both Demea and Micio make a better point for their respective causes. Indeed, although Demea has been stern and mean with Ctesipho, he has more of a right to be angry with his son and brother by the end of the play. Not only does Ctesipho keep the cithern-girl, but Micio makes it possible: Chremes at least ultimately wins his son's compliance. On the other hand we cannot help but admire the level of humanistic tolerance and unperturbed acceptance in Micio. He wins everyone's love in the end, save that of his brother. Furthermore, unlike Chremes, Micio never seems to struggle with his humanistic resolve. He bears the outrageous conduct of his son with perfect aplomb. Therefore, we see no hypocrisy in either of these fathers, although both "eat their words" in the end. Demea is hurt that no one loves him, and therefore he changes his ways with conciliatory meekness. Micio, too, must grudgingly "go the whole hog" and support all the associates of his son's indulgences, not only Ctesipho and the cithern-girl, but also a bastard grandchild, a daughter-in- law without a dowry, a crafty and intemperate slave, the mother of Pamphila, who herself must become his wife, and the poor, but honorable Hegio, guardian of Pamphila's honor. Since no one is hurt in the end, the disruption of order has been both humanizing and comic.
In this play the sons scheme against Demea, which is to be expected, and even Aeschinus is slightly dishonest with his father. Yet neither father schemes against his son to the same degree that Chremes does. For a few lines Micio lets Aeschinus squirm until the youth confesses the facts about his mistress's pregnancy. Demea schemes toward the end, passing off his new liberality in order to win appreciation, though always at his brother's expense. Yet none, not even the slaves, exercise the same degree of deceitfulness as their counterparts in the Self-Tormentor. Indeed, Micio and his son do not have to scheme; their relationship has always been one of honesty. Only Ctesipho need conceal his libertine ways from his father. In the play, Micio's slave, Syrus, carries out most of the deception against Demea. Since Demea does not even own a slave, there is no possibility for slave/ master conflict. Syrus need not deceive his own master, since Micio is liberal.
In a Terentian framework, it is not tragic for fathers to admit their wrongs. This is a part of the humanization that we witness in all characters. Humanistic tolerance always prevails over harshness, and complacency yields to a realization and rethinking of one's beliefs. Furthermore, incontinence in sons is not tragic; after all, youth is the natural time for such behavior./23 For fathers and sons, the two most powerful stock characters in a Terentian play, the only unforgivable behavior is deceit. The scheming father and son almost never fail to suffer in our estimations. The son is discovered and forced to repent, for instance, Clitipho, Aeschinus. Only a slave or perhaps a woman, those weakest members of society, can deceive with impunity. Chremes' Syrus gains his master's affections and an acquittal, Sostrata regains her daughter, and Micio's Syrus gains his freedom. Thus, for weaker members of society, deception is a legitimate act of power. Yet for the stronger members, deception generally leads to a lowering of their reputations.
1The Latin term humanitas
was first used by Cicero, who adapted it from Terence, in the
first century before Christ. My usage of the term will always
refer to the idea of treating individuals as sovereign human
beings, worthy of respect, clemency and other philanthropic
2Wealth was not an exclusive qualification for public service; after all, Athens was a democracy. Nevertheless, unostentatious wealth could not hinder one's opportunities to rise in the public acclaim. And pay for choruses for plays.
3Percy Gardner and Frank B. Jevons, A Manual of Greek Antiquities (London, 1898), p. 323; H. Blumner, The Home Life of the Ancient Greeks (New York, 1914), trans. Alice Simmern, p. 129, makes a similar observation: "The main object of the education of the youths in the best period of Greek antiquity was to train a citizen, capable in body and mind, who should be able to serve his country as well in war as in peace, in a public as in a private capacity."
4Though I note a similarity between the two dominant city-states of Ancient Greece, I shall hereafter refer only to Athenian customs, unless otherwise stated.
5Gardner, p. 304, translates Pythagoras on parents as fully concerned with the moral education of sons, "in every word and deed teaching and pointing out to him that this is just, and that unjust, this honourable and that base, this is righteous and that unrighteous, and this you must do and that you must not do. And if the boy obeys willingly, it is well; but if not, like a plank twisted and bent, they make him straight by threats and blows."
6Gardner tells us that the paidagogus was "an old and trusty slave, who was bound never to lose sight" of his young master. He carried the school materials because it was considered unseemly for the wealthy boy to do so himself.
7Gardner and Jevons, p. 305.
9By "realistic" I mean that more ordinary subjects were depicted, common individuals in everyday situations, as opposed to fantastic parodies of exceptional individuals, such as the Wasps in Aristophanes.
11Sophocles reaches the same conclusion in the Oedipus trilogy.
12The name derives from the palliata, a style of Greek dress, worn by actors in Plautian and Terentian plays adapted from Greek originals. Roman plays were called togatae, reflecting the Roman costume of the actors.
13I speak here of sons, for indeed a daughter was hardly so important in either Athens or Rome, and perhaps even less among the former. It was not uncommon for Athenian fathers to expose their daughters "in a large earthen vessel, to be taken up by any one who pleased, or even ordered it to be put to death. In case of exposure, some trinkets . . . or amulets would be fastened to it, which might sometimes be preserved, and lead to recognition later by parents," Gardner, p. 298. We see material for a popular dramatic device, the peripetaeia, both tragic and comic, in this custom. Oddly, when the male child is exposed and later recognized, Oedipus for example, the plot is tragic. Yet in a Terentian or Plautian play, a daughter exposed and later recognized enhances the comic plot. Traditionally, the Roman woman's ancestors were not so revered. The Roman son was expected to maintain the male family line. We recall that singularly greatest product of Augustan propaganda, Vergil's Aeneid, where Aeneas, bearing his father upon his back and leading his young son by the hand away from burning Troy, leaves his wife behind.
In the late Republic, women certainly attained far greater privileges than Athenian women ever had. While neither could vote, new concepts of humanitas granted the former novel liberties in the marital relationship. The Roman woman was no longer given in manu mariti (into the husband's totally domineering hand). Furthermore, divorce was an option out of an undesirable marriage. By the Empire, Fritz Schulz describes the establishment of "a purely humanistic idea of marriage as being a free and freely dissoluble union of two equal partners for life," Classical Roman Law (Oxford, 1951), p. 103. The Roman woman could circulate freely in public, whereas the Athenian woman's activities were far more restricted. Gardner tells us that "venturing out into the street was a rarity," p. 348, and that "the best bred girl was she who had seen and heard the least, and had learned but one lesson, that of modesty," p. 343. Toward the end of the fifth century, Athenian women were at least slightly protesting their "kept" status. Aristophanes' Lysistrata records this phenomenon, though rather that glorifying the women's successes, the playwright in fact lambasts this new, anti-traditional tendency.
14Fritz Schulz, pp. 151-155, describes some essential elements of patria potestas:
1. A father could kill a child - this was prescribed in the Twelve Tables.From this account we can see that certain rights of patria potestas were far more strict than anything in Athens, especially 1,3,6-8.
2. A father could expose or kill a new-born.
3. In the early Roman Republic, a child could be sold.
4. In the early Roman Republic, a father could betroth children.
5. A father could dissolve his children's marriage.
6. A father could appoint a "tutor" (protector), and an heir to his children.
7. A child could own no property, unless emancipated by the father. Even in adulthood, a son's acquisitions became the legal property of his father.
8. A child in the military could own and control his own "peculiam catrense" (private coffer), though this became the property of his father upon his discharge.
9. A child himself "in potestas" could not be legally bound in contract, therein accruing a debt. Creditors could force a father to pay a son's debts, were the son so undutiful as to oblige himself in such a way without the father's consent.
This is a chapter from the E-Book: Latin with Laughter: Terence through Time