Study Guide

The Menaechmi

by Plautus

The Menaechmi Summary

Summary (Critical Survey of Literature for Students)

When the two Menaechmi are seven years old, one, later to become Menaechmus of Epidamnum, accompanies his merchant father from their home in Syracuse to Tarentum. There, fascinated by the confused activity, the boy wanders away, becomes lost, and is finally picked up by another merchant who takes him to the merchant’s own home in Epidamnum and adopts him. The boy’s family is so grief-stricken at his loss that his name is given to the remaining son. This boy, Menaechmus Sosicles, grows up, and when he comes of age and inherits his father’s property, he goes out on a quest for his brother.

Menaechmus of Epidamnum by this time has inherited his foster father’s wealth, married a somewhat shrewish woman, and acquired a mistress. On the day Menaechmus Sosicles arrives in Epidamnum on his undirected search, Menaechmus of Epidamnum quarrels with his suspicious wife and parts from her, secretly bearing one of her robes as a gift to Erotium, his mistress. Delivering the robe, he instructs Erotium to prepare an elaborate meal for their evening’s entertainment; then he leaves to attend to some business at the Forum.

Shortly afterward, Menaechmus Sosicles happens to arrive before Erotium’s house and, much to his dismay, is addressed familiarly, first by one of her servants and then by Erotium herself. Confusion follows, but Menaechmus Sosicles finally decides that this is merely Erotium’s way of trying to seduce him; so he gives his servant Messenio his wallet for safekeeping and accompanies the courtesan into the house.

When he comes out later, having consumed the food that Menaechmus of Epidamnum ordered for himself and his parasite, Erotium gives him the robe so that he can have it altered for her. As he walks away, intent on selling the robe for his own gain, he is accosted by...

(The entire section is 746 words.)