From: Grolier Multimedia Encyclopaedia 1998
The Roman playwright Terence, the anglicized name of Publius TERENTIUS Afer, c.185-c.159 BC, was born in Carthage and came to Rome as the young slave of a senator who gave him a good education and set him free. Scipio Africanus Minor became his patron, encouraging him to adapt Greek plays of the so-called New Comedy--especially the plays of Menander--for the Roman stage.
Between 166 and 160 BC, Terence had six plays produced, some of them with great success: Andria (The Girl from Andros), Heautontimorumenos (The Self-Torturer), Eunuchus (The Eunuch), Phormio (the name of the principal character, an ingratiating parasite), Adelphi (The Brothers), and Hecyra (The Mother-in-Law). The character portrayal, gentle humor, warmth of feeling, and elegance of Terence's dialogue all reflect the exquisite good manners and high culture of upper-class society in postclassical Athens and 2nd-century BC Rome. More refined but less original than Rome's other preeminent comic dramatist, Plautus, with whom he is often compared, Terence nevertheless excelled at suspenseful plots and familiarized his Roman audiences with the stock characters that have become part of the staple fare of Western romantic comedy.
From: Encarta 1998 Encyclopaedia
Terence (190?-159 BC), Roman playwright, whose plays were forerunners of the modern comedy of manners. Terence was born in Carthage and taken to Rome as the slave of senator Publius TERENTIUS Lucanus, who educated him and later freed him. After gaining his freedom, he assumed the name Publius Terentius Afer, after his patron. His first play was the Andria, produced in 166 BC. With its immediate success, Terence, who had an engaging personality, soon became a favorite in Roman literary circles. He is said to have been an intimate friend of Roman general Scipio Africanus the Younger, who associated with statesmen and men of letters concerned with improving the Latin language. Terence's six comedies, produced between 166 and 160 BC, are all based upon original Greek dramas. Of these, The Woman of Andros, The Self-Tormentor, The Eunuch, and The Brothers are based on comedies by Greek playwright Menander, and Phormio and The Mother-in-Law are modeled on originals by Greek playwright Apollodorus of Carystus. In 160 BC Terence traveled to Greece to search for additional plays by Menander, and he died the following year while on his homeward journey.
Terence's plays are light, witty dramas satirizing life among the wealthy and sophisticated classes of society. Unlike the comedies of his predecessor Plautus, the satires of Terence contain little song and dance. They also lack the broad farce of Plautus's works, and their humor -- rather than being derived from puns and wordplay, exaggerated characterization, and laughable situations -- arises out of subtle handling of both plot and character. Terence employed trickery less often in his works than did Plautus, and he placed a greater emphasis on mistaken identity recognition. With the exception of the Hecyra, all Terence's plays have double plots, with two love affairs being interwoven and the happy solution of one usually dependent upon the outcome of the other. The works of Terence had a great influence on the comedy of the Renaissance (14th. century to 17th. century), on 17th-century French dramatist Moliere, and through Molihre on English playwrights of the 17th. and 18th. centuries.
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