Phormio Summary

Summary (Critical Survey of Literature for Students)

Demipho and Chremes, two wealthy Athenian brothers, leave the city on journeys and entrust the welfare of their two sons to Geta, a slave belonging to Demipho. For a time, the two young men, Antipho and Phaedria, who are both of exemplary habits, give the slave little trouble. When both fall in love, however, before their fathers return, Geta’s troubles begin. His sympathy for Antipho and Phaedria causes him to help both of them, but he realizes only too well that both fathers will be angry when they learn what has happened.

Phaedria, the son of Chremes, has fallen in love with a lovely young harp player owned by a trader named Dorio, who refuses to part with the girl for less than thirty minae. Unable to raise the money, Phaedria is at his wits’ end. His cousin Antipho has fallen in love with a young Athenian girl of a good but penniless family.

Antipho has already married the girl, even though he knows that his father, who is something of a miser, will be furious to learn that his son has married a girl who brings no dower. Geta, in an effort to smooth out the problem, has contacted a parasitical lawyer named Phormio, who brings suit against Antipho under an Athenian law that makes it mandatory for an unprovided-for girl to be married to her nearest relative. Antipho does not contest the suit, and so he has the excuse that he was forced by the court to marry the young woman.

Shortly after the wedding, the two older men return. As soon as he learns what had happened, Demipho orders his son to give up his wife, whereupon Antipho and Geta again call on Phormio for assistance. Phormio warns the old man that he will be unable to avoid keeping the girl, even though Demipho claims that the girl is not actually a relative. Phormio contends that the girl is indeed a relative, the daughter of Demipho’s kinsman, Stilpo, who has lived in Lemnos. Demipho declares he never had a relative by that name.

During this time, Phaedria is trying desperately to raise the thirty minae to purchase his beloved harpist from Dorio, who has given him three days to find the money. Then Phaedria learns from a slave that a sea captain, about to sail, wants to purchase the girl and that Dorio, anxious to make a sale, has promised to sell the girl to him. Phaedria appeals to Dorio, but he promises only to hold off the sale of the slave girl until the following morning.

After seeing Phormio, Demipho goes to his brother Chremes and talks over the situation with him. They finally agree that the only answer to the problem of Antipho’s wife is to send...

(The entire section is 1056 words.)