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A New and Complete Translation

Essay 100

1 Leave a comment on paragraph 1 0 [†] 15 April 1768[100.1]

2 Leave a comment on paragraph 2 0 As we have observed, in the fifth act Demea wants to teach Micio a lesson.[100.2] He pretends to be fun-loving in order to make the others commit real excesses and follies; he plays the spendthrift, but with his brother’s purse, not his own; and he would like to ruin him in a single blow, just to have the vicious pleasure of being able to say at the end: “Now look what your generosity has gotten you!” As long as the honest Micio only has to pay out of his pocket, we can be somewhat amused by the malicious fun. But then the traitor gets the idea of pairing up our good old confirmed bachelor with a decrepit old biddy. Just the thought makes us laugh at first, but when we finally see that it is serious, that Micio is really getting caught in a noose that he could have avoided with a single serious turn – in truth, we hardly know anymore who piques us more, Demea, or Micio.[*][100.3]

3 Leave a comment on paragraph 3 0 DEMEA: Yes indeed, this is my will. From now on, these good people belong to our family; we must help them, join with them in every way.

4 Leave a comment on paragraph 4 0 AESCHINUS: Please, father.

5 Leave a comment on paragraph 5 0 MICIO: I am not at all opposed to that.

6 Leave a comment on paragraph 6 0 DEMEA: There is no better thing for us to do. – First of all, she is his wife’s mother –

7 Leave a comment on paragraph 7 0 MICIO: Yes, so what?

8 Leave a comment on paragraph 8 0 DEMEA: She’s honest, respectable –

9 Leave a comment on paragraph 9 0 MICIO: So I hear.

10 Leave a comment on paragraph 10 0 DEMEA: She’s also getting on in years.

11 Leave a comment on paragraph 11 0 MICIO: That’s true.

12 Leave a comment on paragraph 12 0 DEMEA: She’s long past the age where she can have any more children. And there’s nobody looking after her, she’s completely alone.

13 Leave a comment on paragraph 13 0 MICIO: What is he getting at?

14 Leave a comment on paragraph 14 0 DEMEA: The right thing for you to do, brother, is marry her. And you (to Aeschinus) must get him to do it.

15 Leave a comment on paragraph 15 0 MICIO: Me? Marry her?

16 Leave a comment on paragraph 16 0 DEMEA: You!

17 Leave a comment on paragraph 17 0 MICIO: Me?

18 Leave a comment on paragraph 18 0 DEMEA: You! As I said, you!

19 Leave a comment on paragraph 19 0 MICIO: You are out of your mind.

20 Leave a comment on paragraph 20 0 DEMEA to Aeschinus: Now show what you can do. He must!

21 Leave a comment on paragraph 21 0 AESCHINUS: Father –

22 Leave a comment on paragraph 22 0 MICIO: What? – And you, you ass, are with him on this?

23 Leave a comment on paragraph 23 0 DEMEA: It’s no use protesting. It can’t be otherwise.

24 Leave a comment on paragraph 24 0 MICIO: You’re nuts.

25 Leave a comment on paragraph 25 0 AESCHINUS: Let yourself be persuaded, father.

26 Leave a comment on paragraph 26 0 MICIO: Have you gone mad? Get out of here!

27 Leave a comment on paragraph 27 0 AESCHINUS: Come on, make your son happy!

28 Leave a comment on paragraph 28 0 MICIO: Have you completely lost your mind? Me, marry at sixty-five? And marry a decrepit old woman to boot? You’re expecting that of me?

29 Leave a comment on paragraph 29 0 AESCHINUS: Do it, I promised them.

30 Leave a comment on paragraph 30 0 MICIO: You promised them, did you? – Promise what you want on your own behalf, young man.

31 Leave a comment on paragraph 31 0 DEMEA: Well! And if he were asking you for something even more important?

32 Leave a comment on paragraph 32 0 MICIO: As if there could be something more important than this?

33 Leave a comment on paragraph 33 0 DEMEA: So agree with him, then.

34 Leave a comment on paragraph 34 0 AESCHINUS: Don’t oppose us!

35 Leave a comment on paragraph 35 0 DEMEA: Come on, promise!

36 Leave a comment on paragraph 36 0 MICIO: How long can this go on?

37 Leave a comment on paragraph 37 0 AESCHINUS: Until you say yes.

38 Leave a comment on paragraph 38 0 MICIO: But this means you’re forcing me!

39 Leave a comment on paragraph 39 0 DEMEA: Do this one thing, good Micio.

40 Leave a comment on paragraph 40 0 MICIO: Well, then – even though I find this very unjust and disagreeable, and even though it goes against both my reason and my way of life – since you both insist on it so much, so be it!

41 Leave a comment on paragraph 41 0 “No,” says the critic, “that is too much![100.4] The Poet’s conduct here is justly liable to censure: the only consideration that can be urged in his defence is, that he meant to shew the inconveniences arising from too unbounded a good-nature. But Micio has all along been represented so agreeable, and possessed of so much judgment, good sense, and knowledge of the world, that this last piece of extravagance must shock probability, and offend the delicacy of the spectator. Thus, as already noted: the poet is to be censured, he is by all means to be censured!”[100.5]

42 Leave a comment on paragraph 42 0 But which poet? Terence, or Menander? Or both? – Colman, the recent English translator of Terence, wants to shove the majority of the blame onto Menander, believing he can prove by way of one of Donatus’s comments that Terence very much tempered the absurdity of his original, at least in this scene.[100.6] Donatus says: “Apud Menandrum senex de nuptiis non gravatur. Ergo Terentius ἐνρητικως.”[100.7]

43 Leave a comment on paragraph 43 0 “It is surprising,” Colman declares, “that none of the criticks [sic] on this passage have taken notice of this observation of Donatus, especially as our loss of Menander makes it rather curious. It is plain that Terence in the plan of this last act followed Menander: and in the present circumstance though he has adopted the absurdity of marrying Micio to the old lady, yet we learn from Donatus that he rather improved on his original by making Micio express a repugnance to such a match, which it seems he did not in the play of Menander.”[100.8]

44 Leave a comment on paragraph 44 0 It is possible that, for once, a Roman poet could have done something better than a Greek one. But the fact that it is possible does not incline me to want to believe it.

45 Leave a comment on paragraph 45 0 Colman also claims that Donatus’s words “Apud Menandrum senex de nuptiis non gravatur” mean “in Menander’s play the old man does not protest against the marriage.” But how, when they do not mean that? When they would better be translated: “in Menander’s play they do not fall so hard upon the old man about the marriage?” “Nuptias gravari” would indeed certainly mean the former, but would “de nuptiis gravari” as well? In the first figure of speech “gravari” is used, so to speak, as a deponent verb;[100.9] in the second, however, it is really much more a passive verb, and as such not only tolerates my interpretation, but perhaps cannot tolerate any other but mine.[100.10]

46 Leave a comment on paragraph 46 0 If this were so: how would things then stand with Terence? He would not have improved his original but rather made it worse; he would not have tempered all the absurdity over Micio’s betrothal through the refusal, but would himself have invented it. “Terentius ἐνρητικως”![100.11] It’s just that creative efforts by imitators fall so short!


47 Leave a comment on paragraph 47 0 [*] Act 5, Sc. 8 [Terence, Adelphi/The Brothers 2: 356–60]

48 Leave a comment on paragraph 48 0 DE:      Ego vero iubeo et hac re et aliis omnibus

49 Leave a comment on paragraph 49 0 quam maxume unam facere nos hanc familiam,

50 Leave a comment on paragraph 50 0 colere, adiuvare, adiungere.

51 Leave a comment on paragraph 51 0 AES:                                                    ita quaeso, pater.

52 Leave a comment on paragraph 52 0 MIC:   haud aliter censeo.

53 Leave a comment on paragraph 53 0 DEM:                                      immo hercle ita nobis decet.

54 Leave a comment on paragraph 54 0 primum huius uxorist mater.

55 Leave a comment on paragraph 55 0 MIC:                                                   est. quid postea?

56 Leave a comment on paragraph 56 0 DEM:  proba et modesta.

57 Leave a comment on paragraph 57 0 MIC:                                       ita aiunt.

58 Leave a comment on paragraph 58 0 DEM:                                                  natu grandior.

59 Leave a comment on paragraph 59 0 MIC:   scio.

60 Leave a comment on paragraph 60 0 DEM:              parere iamdiu haec per annos non potest,

61 Leave a comment on paragraph 61 0 nec qui eam respiciat quisquamst. solast.

62 Leave a comment on paragraph 62 0 MIC:                                                                           quam hic rem agit?

63 Leave a comment on paragraph 63 0 DEM:  hanc te aequomst ducere, et te operam ut fiat dare.

64 Leave a comment on paragraph 64 0 MIC:   me ducere autem?

65 Leave a comment on paragraph 65 0 DEM:                          te.

66 Leave a comment on paragraph 66 0 MIC:                                       me?

67 Leave a comment on paragraph 67 0 DEM:                                                  te. inquam.

68 Leave a comment on paragraph 68 0 MIC:                                                                           ineptis.

69 Leave a comment on paragraph 69 0 DEM:                                                                                      si tu sis homo,

70 Leave a comment on paragraph 70 0 hic faciat.

71 Leave a comment on paragraph 71 0 AES: mi pater!

72 Leave a comment on paragraph 72 0 MIC:               quid tu autem huic, asine, auscultas?

73 Leave a comment on paragraph 73 0 DEM:                                                                          nil agis.

74 Leave a comment on paragraph 74 0 fieri aliter non potest.

75 Leave a comment on paragraph 75 0 MIC:                                       deliras.

76 Leave a comment on paragraph 76 0 AES:                                                    sine te exorem, mi pater.

77 Leave a comment on paragraph 77 0 MIC:   insanis, aufer!

78 Leave a comment on paragraph 78 0 DEM:                          age, da veniam filio.

79 Leave a comment on paragraph 79 0 MIC:                                                               satin sanus es?

80 Leave a comment on paragraph 80 0 ego novos maritus anno demum quinto et sexagensumo

81 Leave a comment on paragraph 81 0 fiam atque anum decrepitam ducam? idne estis auctores mihi?

82 Leave a comment on paragraph 82 0 AES:    fac. promisi ego illis.

83 Leave a comment on paragraph 83 0 MIC:                                       promisti autem? de te largitor, puer.

84 Leave a comment on paragraph 84 0 DEM:  age, quid si quid te maius oret?

85 Leave a comment on paragraph 85 0 MIC:                                                   quasi non hoc sit maxumum.

86 Leave a comment on paragraph 86 0 DEM: da veniam.

87 Leave a comment on paragraph 87 0 AEC:               ne gravare.

88 Leave a comment on paragraph 88 0 DEM:                                      fac, promitte.

89 Leave a comment on paragraph 89 0 MIC:                                                               non omittitis?

90 Leave a comment on paragraph 90 0 AES:    non, nisi te exorem.

91 Leave a comment on paragraph 91 0 MIC:                                       vis est haec quidem.

92 Leave a comment on paragraph 92 0 DEM:                                                                          age prolixe, Micio.

93 Leave a comment on paragraph 93 0 MIC:   etsi hoc mihi pravom, ineptum absurdum atque alienum a vita mea

94 Leave a comment on paragraph 94 0 videtur, si vos tanto opere istuc voltis, fiat.

  • 95 Leave a comment on paragraph 95 0
  • [100.1] Actually published Easter (March) 1769.
  • [100.2] Lessing continues from [99] his discussion (begun in [96]) of the differences between Romanus’s comedy Die Brüder [The Brothers] and Terence’s Adelphi [The Brothers]. Terence’s play has two pairs of brothers: Micio and Demea (Philidor and Lysimon in Die Brüder), and Demea’s sons Aeschinus and Ctesipho (Leander and Lycast in Die Brüder). Romanus changes the younger set to cousins. See [70.6] for the origins of Die Bruder, and [70.7] for the plot of Terence’s play.
  • [100.3] Tr. note: here we translate Lessing’s German rendering of the Latin (which he provides in his footnote); for an English translation directly from the original, see Terence Adelphi/The Brothers 2: 357–61.
  • [100.4] The critic: Samuel Patrick (1684–1748), an English schoolmaster, classical scholar, and lexicographer. The lines that follow are quoted in the 1765 edition of Terence by George Colman (the Elder); see Terence and Colman Comedies of Terence 415. Our English is taken from that source. Colman’s quotation of Patrick is not entirely faithful. See Patrick, Terence’s Comedies 2: 113–15.
  • [100.5] Lessing adds this sentence for rhetorical flourish.
  • [100.6] George Colman (the Elder).
  • [100.7] “In Menander’s play, the old man is not upset about the marriage. Thus Terence invented it himself.”
  • [100.8] Our English here is taken from Lessing’s source; see Terence and Colman, The Comedies of Terence 415.
  • [100.9] In classical Greek and Latin, a deponent verb has a passive or middle voice form but an active meaning. Gravo (active) means “to burden” or “vex,” but gravor (passive/middle) is often used as if it were a deponent verb, in which case it would mean “to be/feel burdened.” Lessing is debating is whether Donatus is using a middle verb, gravor, or the passive of gravo, and thus whether the old man (Micio) is the subject or object of the sentence.
  • [100.10] Although “de nuptiis gravari” is indeed nonstandard usage in classical Latin, Lessing’s interpretation of Donatus is somewhat fanciful.
  • [100.11] “Terence invented it himself!”
  • [†] Text in blue indicates passages ommitted by Zimmern in her 1890 translation.
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Source: http://mcpress.media-commons.org/hamburg/essay-100/