10 The Brothers – Act I



Demea, Brother, aged Athenian.

Micio, Brother, aged Athenian.

Hegio, an aged Athenian, kinsman of Sostrata.

Æschinus, son of Demea, adopted by Micio.

Ctesipho, another son of Demea.

Sannio, a Procurer.

Geta, servant of Sostrata.

Parmeno, servant of Micio.

Syrus, servant of Micio.

Dromo, servant of Micio.

Pamphila, a young woman beloved by Æschinus.

Sostrata, a widow, mother of Pamphila.

Canthara, a Nurse.

A Music-girl.

Scene.—Athens; before the houses of Micio and Sostrata.


Micio and Demea are two brothers of dissimilar tempers. Demea is married, and lives a country life, while his brother remains single, and resides in Athens. Demea has two sons, the elder of whom, Æschinus, has been adopted by Micio. Being allowed by his indulgent uncle to gratify his inclinations without restraint, Æschinus has debauched Pamphila, the daughter of a widow named Sostrata. Having, however, promised to marry the young woman, he has been pardoned for the offense, and it has been kept strictly secret. Ctesipho, who lives in the country with his father under great restraint, on visiting the city, falls in love with a certain Music-girl, who belongs to the Procurer Sannio. To screen his brother, Æschinus takes the responsibility of the affair on himself, and succeeds in carrying off the girl for him. Demea, upon hearing of this, censures Micio for his ill-timed indulgence, the bad effects of which are thus exemplified in Æschinus; and at the same time lauds the steady conduct and frugality of Ctesipho, who has been brought up under his own supervision. Shortly after this, Sostrata hears the story about the Music-girl, at the very time that her daughter Pamphila is in labor. She naturally supposes that Æschinus has deserted her daughter for another, and hastens to acquaint Hegio, her kinsman, with the fact. Meantime Demea learns that Ctesipho has taken part in carrying off the Music-girl, whereon Syrus invents a story, and screens Ctesipho for the moment. Demea is next informed by Hegio of the conduct of Æschinus toward Pamphila. Wishing to find his brother, he is purposely sent on a fruitless errand by Syrus, on which he wanders all over the city to no purpose. Micio having now been informed by Hegio, and knowing that the intentions of Æschinus toward Pamphila are not changed, accompanies him to the house of Sostrata, whom he consoles by his promise that Æschinus shall marry her daughter. Demea then returns from his search, and, rushing into Micio’s house, finds his son Ctesipho there carousing; on which he exclaims vehemently against Micio, who uses his best endeavors to soothe him, and finally with success. He now determines to become kind and considerate for the future. At his request, Pamphila is brought to Micio’s house; and the nuptials are celebrated. Micio, at the earnest request of Demea and Æschinus, marries Sostrata; Hegio has a competency allowed him; and Syrus and his wife Phrygia are made free. The Play concludes with a serious warning from Demea, who advises his relatives not to squander their means in riotous living; but, on the contrary, to bear admonition and to submit to restraint in a spirit of moderation and thankfulness.


Performed at the Funeral Games of Æmilius Paulus, which were celebrated by Q. Fabius Maximus and P. Cornelius Africanus. L. Atilius Prænestinus and Minutius Prothimus performed it. Flaccus, the freedman of Claudius, composed the music for Sarranian flutes. Taken from the Greek of Menander, L. Anicius and M. Cornelius being Consuls.



As Demea has two sons, young men, he gives Æschinus to his brother Micio to be adopted by him; but he retains Ctesipho: him, captivated with the charms of a Music-girl, and under a harsh and strict father, his brother Æschinus screens; the scandal of the affair and the amour he takes upon himself; at last, he carries the Music-girl away from the Procurer. This same Æschinus has previously debauched a poor woman, a citizen of Athens, and has given his word that she shall be his wife. Demea upbraids him, and is greatly vexed; afterward, however, when the truth is discovered, Æschinus marries the girl who has been debauched; and, his harsh father Demea now softened, Ctesipho retains the Music-girl.


Since the Poet has found that his writings are carped at by unfair critics, and that his adversaries represent in a bad light the Play that we are about to perform, he shall give information about himself; you shall be the judges whether this ought to be esteemed to his praise or to his discredit. The Synapothnescontes is a Comedy of Diphilus; Plautus made it into a Play called the “Commorientes.” In the Greek, there is a young man, who, at the early part of the Play, carries off a Courtesan from a Procurer; that part Plautus has entirely left out. This portion he has adopted in the Adelphi, and has transferred it, translated word for word. This new Play we are about to perform; determine then whether you think a theft has been committed, or a passage has been restored to notice which has been passed over in neglect. For as to what these malevolent persons say, that men of noble rank assist him, and are always writing in conjunction with him—that which they deem to be a heavy crimination, he takes to be the highest praise; since he pleases those who please you all and the public; the aid of whom in war, in peace, in private business, each one has availed himself of, on his own occasion, without any haughtiness on their part. Now then, do not expect the plot of the Play; the old men who come first will disclose it in part; a part in the representation they will make known. Do you cause your impartial attention to increase the industry of the Poet in writing.


Scene I.

Enter Micio, calling to a servant within.

Mic. Storax! Æschinus has not returned home from the entertainment last night, nor any of the servants who went to fetch him. (To himself.) Really, they say it with reason, if you are absent any where, or if you stay abroad at any time, ’twere better for that to happen which your wife says against you, and which in her passion she imagines in her mind, than the things which fond parents fancy. A wife, if you stay long abroad, either imagines that you are in love or are beloved, or that you are drinking and indulging your inclination, and that you only are taking your pleasure, while she herself is miserable. As for myself, in consequence of my son not having returned home, what do I imagine? In what ways am I not disturbed? For fear lest he may either have taken cold, or have fallen down somewhere, or have broken some limb. Oh dear! that any man should take it into his head, or find out what is dearer to him than he is to himself! And yet he is not my son, but my brother’s. He is quite different in disposition. I, from my very youth upward, have lived a comfortable town life, and taken my ease; and, what they esteem a piece of luck, I have never had a wife. He, on the contrary to all this, has spent his life in the country, and has always lived laboriously and penuriously. He married a wife, and has two sons. This one, the elder of them, I have adopted. I have brought him up from an infant, and considered and loved him as my own. In him I centre my delight; this object alone is dear to me. On the other hand, I take all due care that he may hold me equally dear. I give—I overlook; I do not judge it necessary to exert my authority in every thing; in fine, the things that youth prompts to, and that others do unknown to their fathers, I have used my son not to conceal from me. For he, who, as the practice is, will dare to tell a lie to or to deceive his father, will still more dare to do so to others. I think it better to restrain children through a sense of shame and liberal treatment, than through fear. On these points my brother does not agree with me, nor do they please him. He often comes to me exclaiming, “What are you about, Micio? Why do you ruin for us this youth? Why does he intrigue? Why does he drink? Why do you supply him with the means for these goings on? You indulge him with too much dress; you are very inconsiderate.” He himself is too strict, beyond what is just and reasonable; and he is very much mistaken, in my opinion, at all events, who thinks that an authority is more firm or more lasting which is established by force, than that which is founded on affection. Such is my mode of reasoning;

and thus do I persuade myself. He, who, compelled by harsh treatment, does his duty, so long as he thinks it will be known, is on his guard: if he hopes that it will be concealed, he again returns to his natural bent. He whom you have secured by kindness, acts from inclination; he is anxious to return like for like; present and absent, he will be the same. This is the duty of a parent, to accustom a son to do what is right rather of his own choice, than through fear of another. In this the father differs from the master: he who can not do this, let him confess that he does not know how to govern children. But is not this the very man of whom I was speaking? Surely it is he. I don’t know why it is I see him out of spirits; I suppose he’ll now be scolding as usual. Demea, I am glad to see you well.

Scene II.

Enter Demea.

Dem. Oh,—opportunely met; you are the very man I was looking for.

Mic. Why are you out of spirits?

Dem. Do you ask me, when we have such a son as Æschinus, why I’m out of spirits?

Mic. (aside.) Did I not say it would be so? (To Demea.) What has he been doing?

Dem. What has he been doing? He, who is ashamed of nothing, and fears no one, nor thinks that any law can control him. But I pass by what has been previously done: what a thing he has just perpetrated!

Mic. Why, what is it?

Dem. He has broken open a door, and forced his way into another person’s house, beaten to death the master himself, and all the household, and carried off a wench whom he had a fancy for. All people are exclaiming that it was a most disgraceful proceeding. How many, Micio, told me of this as I was coming here? It is in every body’s mouth. In fine, if an example must be cited, does he not see his brother giving his attention to business, and living frugally and soberly in the country? No action of his is like this. When I say this to him, Micio, I say it to you. You allow him to be corrupted.

Mic. Never is there any thing more unreasonable than a man who wants experience, who thinks nothing right except what he himself has done.

Dem. What is the meaning of that?

Mic. Because, Demea, you misjudge these matters. It is no heinous crime, believe me, for a young man to intrigue or to drink; it is not; nor yet for him to break open a door. If neither I nor you did so, it was poverty that did not allow us to do so. Do you now claim that as a merit to yourself, which you then did from necessity? That is unfair; for if we had had the means to do so, we should have done the same. And, if you were a man, you would now suffer that other son of yours to act thus now, while his age will excuse it, rather than, when he has got you, after long wishing it, out of the way, he should still do so, at a future day, and at an age more unsuited.

Dem. O Jupiter! You, sir, are driving me to distraction. Is it not a heinous thing for a young man to do these things?

Mic. Oh! do listen to me, and do not everlastingly din me upon this subject. You gave me your son to adopt; he became mine; if he offends in any thing, Demea, he offends against me: in that case I shall bear the greater part of the inconvenience. Does he feast, does he drink, does he smell 205of perfumes,—it is at my cost. Does he intrigue, money shall be found by me, so long as it suits me; when it shall be no longer convenient, probably he’ll be shut out of doors. Has he broken open a door—it shall be replaced; has he torn any one’s clothes—they shall be mended. Thanks to the Gods, I both have means for doing this, and these things are not as yet an annoyance. In fine, either desist, or else find some arbitrator between us: I will show that in this matter you are the most to blame.

Dem. Ah me! Learn to be a father from those who are really so.

Mic. You are his father by nature, I by my anxiety.

Dem. You, feel any anxiety?

Mic. Oh dear,—if you persist, I’ll leave you.

Dem. Is it thus you act?

Mic. Am I so often to hear about the same thing?

Dem. I have some concern for my son.

Mic. I have some concern for him too; but, Demea, let us each be concerned for his own share—you for the one, and I for the other. For, to concern yourself about both is almost the same thing as to demand him back again, whom you intrusted to me.

Dem. Alas, Micio!

Mic. So it seems to me.

Dem. What am I to say to this? If it pleases you, henceforth—let him spend, squander, and destroy; it’s nothing to me. If I sayone word after this——

Mic. Again angry, Demea?

Dem. Won’t you believe me? Do I demand him back whom I have intrusted? I am concerned for him; I am not a stranger in blood; if I do interpose—well, well, I have done. You desire me to concern myself for one of 206them,—I do concern myself; and I give thanks to the Gods, he is just as I would have him; that fellow of yours will find it out at a future day: I don’t wish to say any thing more harsh against him.


Scene III.

Micio alone.

Mic. These things are not nothing at all, nor yet all just as he says; still they do give me some uneasiness; but I was unwilling to show him that I took them amiss, for he is such a man; when I would pacify him, I steadily oppose and resist himand in spite of it he hardly puts up with it like other men; but if I were to inflame, or even to humor his anger, I should certainly be as mad as himself. And yet Æschinus has done me some injustice in this affair. What courtesan has he not intrigued with? Or to which of them has he not made some present? At last, he recently told me that he wished to take a wife, I suppose he was just then tired of them all. I was in hopes that the warmth of youth had now subsided; I was delighted. But look now, he is at it again; however, I am determined to know it, whatever it is, and to go meet the fellow, if he is at the Forum.



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Development of Theatre 1: Classical - Neoclassical Forms by Teresa Focarile and Monica Brown is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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