Excerpt from The Parasite as Portrayed by Plautus: A Study of Menaechmi, Miles Gloriosus, Captivi, Stichus, Curculio, Persa, Bacchides, Asinaria
In the entire scope of Latin comedy there is perhaps no character more interesting and entertaining than that of the so-called parasite. In nearly all the plays of Plautus and Ter ence where this part of the action of the'play is not assigned to slaves, the parasite supplies not only the broadly comic ele ment, but the wit of the dialogue, and the fertility of expedi ent which makes the interest of the drama. Moreover, we must not get the notion that this character is introduced merely to amuse us by his successful roguery, or by his propensity to gor mandize. On the other hand, in witty repartee, and often in practical wisdom, he is represented as far superior to the pa tron to whom he is attached. It is by no means easy to explain satisfactorily this anomalous position between the parasite and his benefactor. To some extent it is because the Athenian citi zens, from whom Plautus is supposed to have drawn, held them selves somewhat above the common practical business of life in short, they considered that they paid someone else to do their thinking for them in such matters. The witty parasite cc cupied a position in those households somewhat akin to the king's jester in later times-allowed to use a freedom which would not have been suffered from those of higher rank. In the Athens depicted by Menander and in the Rome of Plautus and Ter ence, when life was altogether more in public, and When men of any moderate position seldom dined alone, this character, though'
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