Thais and Phaedria in Terence’s Eunuchus

face of a prisoner

In Terence’s Eunuchus, Thais is much more conscious of the connection between verbal constructs and mundane reality than is Phaedria. As a courtesan, Thais relied on verbal skills in her brutally competitive and dangerous business. Thais was also capable of engaging in physical violence. For example, when the soldier threatens to assault her house to regain his slave girl, Thais declares:

Let him come! If he lays a finger on her, I’ll gouge out his eyes on the spot. I can put up with his stupidity and boastful words so long as they are just words. But if they turn into actions, he’ll get a thrashing.^

Phaedria, in contrast, seems half-lost in some idyllic land of love, created verbally and separate from the material world. He counsels Thais:

When you’re with that soldier, be absent from him. Day and night love me, miss me, dream of me, look for me, think of me, hope for me, delight in me, be entirely with me. In short, be my heart as I am yours.^

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