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Terence, this is stupid stuff

Terence, this is stupid stuff


by A.E. Housman

King Mithridates

Symbol Analysis

For Terence, Mithridates represents the true "wise man" (47). Rather than pretending that everything is great, he sees the world for what it is. He knows danger and sadness is all around, and he gets ready for it. He's careful to "train for ill" (48) because he knows how much bad stuff is out there.

  • Line 59: When we first meet Mithridates, he's just a "king […] in the East." This kind of vague allusion to his story helps to give it a fairy-tale feeling. This marks kind of a big shift in the poem, and for a while we're swept off into a once-upon-a-time world without really knowing why we're going there.
  • Line 76: Things pretty much work out for King Mithridates. Instead of getting knocked off before his time by a plot like his scheming guests had planned, he lives to a ripe old age. Terence brings him up in this section as a symbol of wisdom and an example of the good effects of preparation.

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