Plot: Two brothers, Aeschinus and Ctesipho, are split to be raised separately, but remain good friends. Ctesipho is raised by his poor hardworking father Demea on their farm, while Aeschinus is fostered to his rich uncle Micio in the city. The two fathers have very different philosophies of fatherhood : Micio allows Aeschinus a free hand in all his adventures, and pays the bills for his excesses to win his love; while Demea tries to force sobriety and responsibility onto Ctesipho.
Then one night, Aeschinus breaks into a slave-owner’s house to abduct a girl, and bring her back to his house. Next door, another girl he seduced and has promised marriage is about to give birth to their child. Has Micio’s laxity raised a wild and uncontrollable boy, or is there more to Aeschinus’ actions than first appears?
The last play in the Penguin edition of Terence’s Comedies (014044324X)
My thoughts: A more mature story than his earlier plays, but still lifted from an earlier Greek play, The Brothers is really more about the two older brothers Demea and Micio, and the manner with which they view their role as fathers.
A shorter play than the others makes for more sudden entrances and exits by the players, giving it the feel of a more modern comedy. The conniving slave is not the centre of attention, and although Demea may seem miserly and authoritarian to many of the characters, his apparent Scrooge-like transformation towards the end contains a humorous and gentle sting for his easygoing brother Micio.
Demea’s final speech hits the right note:
Demea: “I wanted to show you, Micio, that what our boys thought was your good nature and charm didn’t come from a way of living which was sincere or from anything right or good, but from your weakness, indulgence and extravagance. Now Aeschinus, if you and your brother dislike my ways because I won’t humour you in all your wishes, right or wrong, I wash my hands of you – you can spend and squander and do whatever you like. On the other hand, being young, you are short-sighted, over-eager and heedless, and you may like a word of advice or reproof from me on occasion, as well as my support at the proper time, well I’m here at your service.” page 386.
But I also can’t begrudge Micio’s sheer love for his adopted son either
Micio : “My son, I have heard the whole story; I understand for I love you, so all you do touches my heart.” page 371
Personal rating: 7/10
Also in that year: Judas Maccabeus, leader of the Jewish revolt, dies fighting the Seleucids.
The reads in between: Hercule Poirot digs for the truth in the archaeological Murder in Mesopotamia. Christie often accompanied her husband on his digs so had some local colour to add to this murder mystery. I correctly suspected the secondary villain and guessed the murderer, but more by choosing the most unlikely suspect that true deduction.
Also read Brandon Sanderson’s The Final Empire (#1 in the Mistborn series) – deserves the high praise it gets on Goodreads – sort of a cross between Lord of the Rings, Mission Impossible and Spiderman – that should peak your curiosity. Not only is it the first in a series but each of Sanderson’s series are loosely connected in a much bigger universe and he plans to have 30-40 books across the worlds, beside his work on finishing Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time series. A busy lad!
Next : How Rome became great : Polybius’ Histories, or, The Rise of the Roman Empire