The grandfather of Euclio, an Athenian miser, entrusted a pot of gold to his household deity after burying the pot in the hearth. The god, angered in turn at Euclio’s grandfather, his father, and Euclio himself, has kept the secret of the treasure from all, until finally the daughter of Euclio, Phaedria, has endeared herself to the god. In an effort to help the young woman, the deity shows Euclio where the gold is hidden, so that the miser, by using the money as a dowry, might marry his daughter to Lyconides, the young man who has seduced her.
Euclio, miserly and distrustful by nature, is thrown into a feverish excitement by the discovery of the gold. He fears that someone will learn of its existence and either steal it or trick him out of it. After carefully hiding the gold in his house once more, he is afraid that even his old female slave, Staphyla, might learn of its whereabouts. Staphyla becomes worried about her master’s strange behavior and about the fact that her young mistress is pregnant.
Meanwhile, Megadorus, a wealthy neighbor and uncle of Lyconides, plans to marry Euclio’s daughter himself, and he enlists the aid of his sister Eunomia in his suit. Megadorus declares that he is so pleased with Phaedria’s character that he will marry her without a dowry, which is contrary to the Athenian custom.
Seeing Euclio in the street, Megadorus goes to ask the old miser for his daughter’s hand in marriage. Euclio, distrustful because of his newfound gold, thinks that Megadorus is in reality plotting to take the gold from him, but Megadorus assures him that all he wants is to marry Phaedria, with or without a dowry; he even offers to pay the expenses of the wedding. On these terms Euclio agrees to marry his daughter to Megadorus. After Megadorus leaves, however, Euclio cannot convince himself that the prospective bridegroom is not after the pot of gold.
Euclio informs Staphyla of the proposed marriage, which is to take place that same day. Staphyla knows that after Phaedria is married she will no longer be able to conceal her pregnancy, but she has little time to worry. Soon a caterer, bringing cooks, entertainers, and food, arrives at Euclio’s house to prepare the wedding feast. Megadorus has hired the caterer as he has promised.
Returning from the marketplace with incense and flowers to place on the altar of his household god, Euclio is horrified to see all the strangers bustling about his house, for he...
(The entire section is 1011 words.)