(tr. Betty Radice, Penguin 1965)
[MENEDEMUS, haggard and shabbily dressed, is wearily trudging home carrying a heavy pronged hoe when his neighbour CHREMES comes out of his house to speak to him.]
CHREMES [in some embarrassment as MENEDEMUS takes no notice] I know it's not long since we became acquainted, in fact it all started with your buying the farm next to mine, and this is the first time we've really had much to do with each other. . . . All the same, there's something about you--or maybe it's the fact that we're neighbours, which I always think is the next best thing to being friends--which makes me feel that I ought to speak out frankly and give you some friendly advice. [He waits until MENEDEMUS looks up.] Your behaviour doesn't seem to me to be right for a man of your age and circumstances. What does it all mean, for heaven's sake? What on earth do you want? You're sixty, if not more, I imagine, and no one hereabouts has better land worth more than yours; you've plenty of slaves to work it, and yet you continue to do their work as if you'd no one at all. However early I go out in the morning, however late I come home in the evening, I always see you at work in the fields, digging or ploughing or moving something about. You never slack off for a moment or think of yourself, and it isn't as if you get any pleasure out of it, I'm sure. You may tell me you're not satisfied with the amount of work done on the place, but if you'd only apply the effort you spend on doing everything yourself to making your people get on with the job, you'd do better.
MENEDEMUS: Chremes, can you spare a moment from your own affairs to listen to someone else's--even if they don't really concern you?
CHREMES: I'm human, so any human interest is my concern. [HOMO SUM; HUMANI NIL A ME ALIENUM PUTO] Call it solicitude or curiosity on my part, whichever you like. If you're right I'll copy you, and if you're wrong I'll try to make you mend your ways.
[They go into MICIO's house. After a short interval DEMEA reappears, much smartened up and perhaps wearing some of MICIO's clothes.]
DEMEA: A plan for life may be well worked out, but a man can still learn something new from circumstances, age and experience. You find you don't know what you thought you did, and things which seemed so important before, you reject in practice. This is what has just happened to me, for I've lived a hard life up to this very moment, and now I'm giving up when my course is almost run. And why? Hard facts have shown me that a man gains most from affability and forbearance. Look at my brother and me if you want to see the truth of this. He has always led a life of leisure, sociable, easy-going, and tolerant, with never a black look for anyone and a smile for all. He's lived for himself and spent on himself, and he's won praise and affection from everyone. I'm the country bumpkin, mannerless and surly, truculent, mean and close-fisted, and when I took a wife what troubles I brought on myself! Two sons were born--more worry. While thinking of them and struggling to make all I could for them, see how I've wasted my youth and my life in money-grubbing! Now I'm old, and what's my reward for all my trouble? They don't like me. It's my brother who enjoys the benefits of father hood without having lifted a finger. They love him and avoid me. He has their confidence and their affection, the two of them are always with him and I'm left all alone. They offer prayers for his long life, but you may be sure they're counting the days for me to die. I've toiled and slaved to bring them up, but he has made them his own for next to nothing, so he has all the enjoyment while the trouble's left to me. Very well then, two can play at that game; let's see now whether I can take up his challenge and show myself capable of soft answers and winning ways! I could also do with a bit of love and appreciation from my own children. If that comes from being generous and agreeable, I can take the lead all right. The property won't stand it, but that needn't worry me--I'm old enough for it to last my time.
[SYRUS comes out of MICIO's house.]
SYRUS: Please, sir, your brother hopes you're not leaving us.
DEMEA [genially]: Who's that? Ah, Syrus, my man, good evening. How are you and how are things going?
SYRUS: All right, sir.
DEMEA: Splendid. [Aside] That's three things already which aren't like me, 'my man', 'how are you', and 'how are things going'. [Aloud] You may be a slave, but you have your finer points, and I should be glad to do you a good turn.
SYRUS [incredulous]: Thank you, sir.
DEMEA: But I mean it, Syrus, as you'll soon see.