Last Reviewed on June 19, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 307
The three central, interrelated themes of The Brothers are moderation, the filial relationship, and love. Let us look at each in turn.
The eponymous brothers, Micio and Demea, epitomize two completely different types. The play begins with a monologue from Micio defending a life—and an upbringing—of leisure, luxury, generosity, and permissiveness. Throughout the course of the play we see, through the antics of his adoptive son Aeschinus, the results of such a life. The play ends with a monologue from Demea who cautions his friends and relatives to be moderate and to guard against excess. The play is full of dualities: two brothers, two sons (one raised by each brother), countryside vs city, the life of a bachelor vs the life of a married man, etc. The dualities also map onto austerity and moderation versus luxury and excess.
This is certainly not the first play by Terence to offer a commentary on the filial relationship. The Self-Tormentor also explores this relationship. We see, in The Brothers, two very different father-son relationships: that between Demea and Ctesipho and that between Micio and Aeschinus. The play explores these two and seems to shift between favoring one method of upbringing over the other: the strict paterfamilias Demea versus the relaxed Aristotelian moderate man Micio. In the end, Demea seems vindicated.
Finally, the theme of love is explored via various relationships. The first, and perhaps purest, example is the love that Micio feels for his adoptive son, as expressed in the opening monologue. There's also the love that Ctesipho feels for the music girl and the love that Demea feels for his son Ctesipho. In all cases, love is shown to make those who love blind and oblivious. However the message is far from univocal: love blinds, to be sure, but it also offers a salvation of a kind.
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