Last Updated on March 14, 2022, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 296
The themes of The Menaechmi include deception, loyalty, and family.
Family is a major theme in "The Menaechmi" because the story centers on a pair of twins. One brother was lost during a journey, while the other stayed home with his mother. The lost boy—the original Menaechmus—was adopted by a wealthy merchant and raised as his son. The second twin—renamed Menaechmus for his lost brother—grows up and decides that he has to find his brother. By the time he arrives in Epidamnus, the second Menaechmus is almost broke and is counseled by his slave, Messenio, to quit the search. He refuses, however, because he is focused on finding his lost family.
Loyalty is another theme that ties into the theme of family. The brothers are truly only loyal to each other; Messenio is loyal to his master, even after he believes he's rescinded his promise to free him. Loyalty helps reunite the brothers. The second Menaechmus doesn't give up the search even when it almost bankrupts him. The first Menaechmus decides to return to Syracuse with his brother at the end of the play, selling everything he owns—including, possibly, his wife. Messenio gives his master wise counsel throughout the play and reunites the brothers in the end.
Deception is another major theme in the play. Everyone mistakes one brother for the other; this is exacerbated by the two brothers being deceptive. For example, the first Menaechmus is cheating on his wife with Erotium and steals his wife's cloak to give to the consort. The second Menaechmus plays along with Erotium and pretends to be her lover so that he can have a place to rest in town. Without these deceptions, the cases of mistaken identity might not have been so intense.