The Brothers
Category: Drama
Level 11.73 1:28 h
Experience the heartfelt tale of "Adelphoe" by Terence, where contrasting parenting styles and sibling bonds intertwine. Demea's strictness clashes with Micio's leniency as they raise their respective nephews. Ctesipho, afraid to reveal his love for a slave-girl musician, finds support in Aeschinus, who takes the blame for their forbidden affair. Amidst heated debates, Demea's transformative realization leads to surprising acts of generosity, culminating in a poignant speech on the true nature of virtue. Terence's play delves into the complexities of family and societal expectations, evoking a range of emotions and profound contemplation.

The Brothers


Translated by Henry Thomas Riley, B.A.

The Brothers

Persons Represented


PARMENO, other Servants, etc.

MUSIC-GIRL, and other Mutes.

Scene, Athens.


The Bard perceiving his piece cavil’d at
By partial critics, and his adversaries
Misrepresenting what we’re now to play,
Pleads his own cause: and you shall be the judges,
Whether he merits praise or condemnation.

The Synapothnescontes is a piece
By Diphilus, a comedy which Plautus,
Having translated, call’d Commorientes. 
In the beginning of the Grecian play
There is a youth, who rends a girl perforce
From a procurer: and this incident,
Untouch’d by Plautus, render’d word for word,
Has our bard interwoven with his Brothers; 
The new piece which we represent to-day.
Say then if this be theft, or honest use
Of what remain’d unoccupied. — For that
Which malice tells, that certain noble persons
Assist the Bard, and write in concert with him;
That which they deem a heavy slander, He
Esteems his greatest praise: that he can please
Those who please you, who all the people please;
Those who in war, in peace, in counsel, ever
Have render’d you the dearest services,
And ever borne their faculties so meekly.

Expect not now the story of the play:
Part the old men, who first appear, will open;
Part will in act be shown. — Be favorable;
And let your candor to the poet now
Increase his future earnestness to write!

Act the First

Scene I

Enter MICIO.

Ho, Storax! — Æschinus did not return
Last night from supper; no, nor any one
Of all the slaves who went to see for him.
— ’Tis commonly — and oh how truly! — said,
If you are absent, or delay, ’twere best
That should befall you, which your wife denounces,
Or which in anger she calls down upon you,
Than that which kindest parents fear. — Your wife,
If you delay, or thinks that you’re in love,
Or lov’d, or drink, or entertain yourself,
Taking your pleasure, while she pines at home.
— And what a world of fears possess me now!
How anxious that my son is not return’d;
Lest he take cold, or fall, or break a limb!
— Gods, that a man should suffer any one
To wind himself so close about his heart,
As to grow dearer to him than himself!

And yet he is not my son, but my brother’s,
Whose bent of mind is wholly different.
I, from youth upward even to this day,
Have led a quiet and serene town-life;
And, as some reckon fortunate, ne’er married.
He, in all points the opposite of this,
Has pass’d his days entirely in the country
With thrift and labor; married; had two sons;
The elder boy is by adoption mine;
I’ve brought him up; kept; lov’d him as my own;
Made him my joy, and all my soul holds dear,
Striving to make myself as dear to him.
I give, o’erlook, nor think it requisite
That all his deeds should be controll’d by me,
Giving him scope to act as of himself;
So that the pranks of youth, which other children
Hide from their fathers, I have us’d my son
Not to conceal from me. For whosoe’er
Hath won upon himself to play the false one,
And practice impositions on a father,
Will do the same with less remorse to others;
And ’tis, in my opinion, better far
To bind your children to you by the ties
Of gentleness and modesty, than fear.
And yet my brother don’t accord in this,
Nor do these notions nor this conduct please him.
Oft he comes open-mouth’d — “Why how now, Micio?
Why do you ruin this young lad of ours?
Why does he wench? why drink? and why do you
Allow him money to afford all this?
You let him dress too fine. ’Tis idle in you.”
— ’Tis hard in him, unjust and out of reason.
And he, I think, deceives himself indeed,
Who fancies that authority more firm
Founded on force, than what is built on friendship;
For thus I reason, thus persuade myself:
He who performs his duty driven to’t
By fear of punishment, while he believes
His actions are observ’d, so long he’s wary;
But if he hopes for secrecy, returns
To his own ways again: But he whom kindness,
Him also inclination makes your own:
He burns to make a due return, and acts,
Present or absent, evermore the same.
’Tis this then is the duty of a father,
To make a son embrace a life of virtue,
Rather from choice than terror or constraint.
Here lies the mighty difference between
A father and a master. He who knows not
How to do this, let him confess he knows not
How to rule children. — But is this the man
Whom I was speaking of? Yes, yes, ’tis he.
He seems uneasy too, I know not why,
And I suppose, as usual, comes to wrangle.

Scene II

Enter DEMEA.

MICIO. Demea, I’m glad to see you well.

Well met: the very man I came to seek.

MICIO. But you appear uneasy: What’s the matter?

DEMEA. Is it a question, when there’s Æschinus
To trouble us, what makes me so uneasy?

MICIO. I said it would be so. — What has he done?

DEMEA. What has he done? a wretch, whom neither ties
Of shame, nor fear, nor any law can bind!
For not to speak of all his former pranks,
What has he been about but even now!

MICIO. What has he done?

DEMEA. Burst open doors, and forc’d
His way into another’s house, and beat
The master and his family half dead;
And carried off a wench whom he was fond of.
The whole town cries out shame upon him, Micio.
I have been told of it a hundred times
Since my arrival. ’Tis the common talk. ——
And if we needs must draw comparisons,
Does not he see his brother thrifty, sober,
Attentive to his business in the country?
Not given to these practices; and when
I say all this to him, to you I say it.
You are his ruin, Micio.

MICIO. How unjust
Is he who wants experience! who believes
Nothing is right but what he does himself!

DEMEA. Why d’ye say that?

MICIO. Because you, Demea,
Judge wrongly of these matters. ’Tis no crime
For a young man to wench or drink. — ’Tis not,
Believe me! — nor to force doors open. — This,
If neither you nor I have done, it was
That poverty allow’d us not. And now
You claim a merit to yourself, from that
Which want constrain’d you to. It is not fair.
For had there been but wherewithal to do’t,
We likewise should have done thus. Wherefore you,
Were you a man, would let your younger son,
Now, while it suits his age, pursue his pleasures;
Rather than, when it less becomes his years,
When, after wishing long, he shall at last
Be rid of you, he should run riot then.

DEMEA. Oh Jupiter! the man will drive me mad.
Is it no crime, d’ye say, for a young man
To take these courses?

MICIO. Nay, nay; do but hear me,
Nor stun me with the self-same thing forever!
Your elder son you gave me for adoption:
He’s mine, then, Demea; and if he offends,
’Tis an offense to me, and I must bear
The burden. Does he treat? or drink? or dress?
’Tis at my cost. — Or wench? I will supply him,
While ’tis convenient to me; when ’tis not,
His mistresses perhaps will shut him out.
— Has he broke open doors? we’ll make them good.
Or torn a coat? it shall be mended. I,
Thank Heaven, have enough to do all this,
And ’tis as yet not irksome. — In a word,
Or cease, or choose some arbiter between us:
I’ll prove that you are more in fault than I.

DEMEA. Ah, learn to be a father; learn from those
Who know what ’tis to be indeed a parent!

MICIO. By nature you’re his father, I by counsel.

DEMEA. You! do you counsel any thing?

MICIO. Nay, nay;
If you persist, I’m gone.

DEMEA. Is’t thus you treat me?

MICIO. Must I still hear the same thing o’er and o’er?

DEMEA. It touches me.

MICIO. And me it touches too.
But, Demea, let us each look to our own;
Let me take care of one, and mind you t’other.
For to concern yourself with both, appears
As if you’d redemand the boy you gave.

DEMEA. Ah, Micio!

MICIO. So it seems to me.

DEMEA. Well, well;
Let him, if ’tis your pleasure, waste, destroy.
And squander; it is no concern of mine.
If henceforth I e’er say one word ——

MICIO. Again?
Angry again, good Demea?

DEMEA. You may trust me.
Do I demand him back again I gave you?
— It hurts me. I am not a stranger to him. 
— But if I once oppose — Well, well, I’ve done.
You wish I should take care of one. I do
Take special care of him; and he, thank Heav’n,
Is as I wish he should  be: which your ward,
I warrant, shall find out one time or other.
I will not say aught worse of him at present.


Scene III

MICIO alone.

Though what he says be not entirely true,
There’s something in it, and it touches me.
But I dissembled my concern with him,
Because the nature of the man is such,
To pacify, I must oppose and thwart him;
And even thus I scarce can teach him patience.
But were I to inflame, or aid his anger,
I were as great a madman as himself.
Yet Æschinus, ’tis true, has been to blame.
What wench is there he has not lov’d? to whom
He has not made some present — And but lately
(Tir’d, I suppose, and sick of wantonness)
He told me he propos’d to take a wife.
I hop’d the heyday of the blood was over,
And was rejoic’d: but his intemperance
Breaks out afresh. — Well, be it what it may,
I’ll find him out; and know it instantly,
If he is to be met with at the Forum.


Act the Second

Scene I

Enter ÆSCHINUS, SANNIO, PARMENO, the Music-Girl, and a crowd of People.

SAN. Help, help, dear countrymen, for Heaven’s sake!
Assist a miserable, harmless man!
Help the distress’d!

ÆSCH. (to the Girl). Fear nothing: stand just there!
Why d’ye look back? you’re in no danger. Never,
While I am by, shall he lay hands upon you.

SAN. Aye, but I will, in spite of all the world.

ÆSCH. Rogue as he is, he’ll scarce do any thing
To make me cudgel him again to-day.

SAN. One word, Sir Æschinus! that you may not
Pretend to ignorance of my profession;
I’m a procurer.

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