The Brothers Summary
by Terence

Start Your Free Trial

The Brothers Summary

The Brothers revolves around the lives led by two brothers, Micio and Demea; two brothers who are, more or less, polar opposites of each other. Demea lives in the countryside whereas Micio lives in Athens; Demea has two children whereas Micio is a bachelor; Demea lives a life of strict austerity whereas Micio lives a life of relaxed indulgence. Things get complicated because Micio adopts Demea's older son, Aeschinus. The younger son, Ctesipho, stays with his father in the countryside.

Download The Brothers Study Guide

Subscribe Now

From the beginning of the play onward, Aeschinus continues to test his gentle adoptive father's patience: he rapes a virgin and then abandons her even though she is pregnant, he roughs up a pimp, and steals a music-girl (whom his younger brother falls in love with). In spite of all this, Micio continues to support him, emotionally and materially. Demea comes to Athens and attempts to tell his brother that he is spoiling Aeschnius but Micio tells him that, even though Aeschinus may be Demea's biological son, it is he, Micio, who has brought him up and Demea should not interfere in his upbringing.

The central conflict is a conflict about the right manner in which to raise a child. One of the central themes that runs through all of this is also the nature of paternal love and the ways in which love both saves us and ruins us. His love for Aeschinus ultimately costs Micio everything: all his money and even his home. In the end he even loses the freedom of his bachelor life as he marries the widow Sostrata (the mother of the woman whom Aeschinus raped and later married) at Aeschinus's behest. The play ends with multiple marriages: Aeschinus to Pamphila and Micio to Sostrata. Even Demea softens his earlier stance and allows Ctesipho to be with the music girl he'd fallen in love with. The final message comes from Demea who, even though he is no longer as strict as he used to be, cautions his friends and relatives and urges them to exercise moderation.

Summary

(Critical Survey of Literature for Students)

Micio is an aging, easygoing Athenian bachelor whose strict and hardworking brother Demea permits him to adopt and rear Aeschinus, one of Demea’s two sons. Unlike his brother, Micio is a permissive parent, choosing to let pass many of Aeschinus’s small extravagances on the assumption that children are more likely to remain bound to their duty by ties of kindness than by those of fear.

Micio comes to wonder if his policy is the better. One day, shortly after Aeschinus tells him he is tired of the Athenian courtesans and wants to marry, Demea comes to Micio and informs him angrily that Aeschinus broke into a strange house, beat its master, and carried off a woman with whom he is infatuated. It is a shameful thing, Demea says, especially since Aeschinus has such a fine example of continence and industry in his brother Ctesipho, who dutifully spends his time working for Demea in the country. It is also shameful that Aeschinus was reared the way he was, Demea observes, with Micio letting the youth go to the bad by failing to restrain his excesses.

After quarreling about their methods for rearing children, the two men part. Demea agrees not to interfere, and Micio, although confused and grieved by Aeschinus’s apparent change of heart and failure to inform him of the escapade, determines to stand by his adopted son.

As it turns out, however, Demea’s report of Aeschinus is correct only in outline. The house into which the young man broke belongs to Sannio, a pimp and slave dealer, and the woman carried off is a slave with whom, ironically, the model son Ctesipho fell in love but cannot afford to buy. Demea’s restraint is more than Ctesipho can bear, and because he is afraid to indulge himself before his father, he chooses to do so behind his back. Aeschinus agrees to procure the woman for his brother but keeps his motives secret in order to protect his brother from Demea’s wrath.

Sannio, furious at the treatment he received, hounds Aeschinus for the return of the slave. Sannio is soon to leave on a...

(The entire section is 1,357 words.)