A synopsis of the play by Terence

This document was originally published in Minute History of the Drama. Alice Buchanan Fort and Herbert S. Kates. New York: Grosset & Dunlap, 1935. p. 17.

ADELPHI was first performed in 160 B.C. at the funeral of Æmilius Paulus.

THE farmer, Demea, has two sons. One of them Aeschinus, he gives to his bachelor brother, Micio, who lives the life of a man-about-town in the nearby city. The other son, Ctesipho, he keeps on the farm and brings up very strictly into a young manhood that is supposed to be a model of right living. Aeschinus, on the other hand, under the care of his lax and pleasure-loving uncle, has acquired a reputation for wildness. In following his pleasure, he has betrayed an Athenian girl of good but impoverished family. Being kindhearted by nature and really somewhat in love with the girl, he has agreed to marry her but has not confessed his predicament to his uncle.

Meanwhile, Ctesipho, who because of his strict upbringing is all the wilder when he gets away from his father's supervision, has been captivated by the charms of a Music Girl. Aeschinus aids and abets his country brother in this affair even to letting it be thought that he is the one involved. Finally he even carries off the Music Girl from her master, the Procurer, and brings her to his uncle's house where his brother may enjoy her society with less risk of discovery.

This might all have been very well had not the mother of the betrayed girl heard of it. Thinking that Aeschinus means to go back on his promise to her daughter, she gets her kinsmen to report the whole affair to Demea. The countryman, who has come to town to look for Ctesipho, decides that he will go to his brother's house. There he will likely find Ctesipho and at the same time will upbraid Micio for the way he is allowing Aeschinus to treat his erstwhile sweetheart. It is only through most amusing subterfuges of Syrus, Micio's trusted slave, that Demea is prevented from entering the house and discovering Ctesipho with his Music Girl.

In the end, of course, Aeschinus is permitted to marry, as he has promised. Demea, convinced that honey catches more flies than molasses, becomes as agreeable as his brother, Micio. On the theory that all work and no play is doubtless a mistake, he permits Ctesipho to take his Music Girl out to the farm. And, most unbelievably, Micio is persuaded to give up his carefree bachelor life and marry the mother of Aeschinus' wife. As usual in such comedies, Syrus, the trusted slave, contrives to be given his freedom together with the wherewithal to set himself up.

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