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Last Updated on June 19, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 153

Phormio is a comedy that centers on the romantic prospects of two young men, Antipho and Phaedria, and their beloveds. One couple, Antipho and Phanium, has secretly married while his father, Demipho, is out of town. The other father opposes Phaedria's chosen girlfriend, Pamphilia, because she is a slave. Phaedria...

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Phormio is a comedy that centers on the romantic prospects of two young men, Antipho and Phaedria, and their beloveds. One couple, Antipho and Phanium, has secretly married while his father, Demipho, is out of town. The other father opposes Phaedria's chosen girlfriend, Pamphilia, because she is a slave. Phaedria must try to buy her. The plot has some unexpected developments before the lovers' plights are happily resolved.

Phormio, the title character, is an attorney and a specialist in fixing complicated situations. He apparently agrees to work for Demipho in breaking up his son's marriage, but instead he takes the fee he was paid and uses the money to help the other young lovers.

The plot further thickens when it is revealed that Chremes had a long lost daughter, and coincidentally she is none other than Phanium. Now he can gladly endorse his nephew's choice of bride and be reunited with his daughter.

Summary

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Last Updated on May 6, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 1056

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 her away with a sum of money. Chremes agrees to have his wife, Nausistrata, tell the girl that she is to be separated from her husband. While they are planning, Geta visits Phormio once again.

Phormio hatches a plan to satisfy everyone and make some money for himself. He offers to marry Antipho’s cast-off wife if he is given a large sum of money. With part of that money he expects to have a good time, and with the rest, which he is to turn over to Phaedria, that young man is to purchase his beloved harpist. Geta presents the first part of Phormio’s plan to the brothers, who readily acquiesce, even though Demipho hates to see Phormio receive payment for marrying the girl.

After the arrangements are made, Chremes is horrified to learn that the girl he is advising his brother to cast off is his own daughter by a second wife whom he had married in Lemnos. Even worse is that his Athenian wife, Nausistrata, does not know of the other marriage. Chremes takes his brother into his confidence and tells him what has happened. They both agree to let the marriage stand, and Chremes offers to add a dower to the girl.

The only difficulty, as the old men see it, is how to redeem their money from Phormio, who no longer needs to marry the girl. Phormio, having given part of the money to Phaedria, is unwilling to return that part of the money that was to have been his for his trouble.

While the old men are hunting for Phormio, he is in conversation with Antipho. Geta goes to them with the news that Antipho’s uncle is also his father-in-law and that Antipho’s troubles are at an end. Asked where he had learned this fact, Geta replies that he had overheard a conversation between Chremes and a servant. The information makes both Antipho and Phormio happy, Antipho because he will be able to keep his wife, and Phormio because he now has information to use in keeping the money he received from Chremes and Demipho.

When Chremes and Demipho confront Phormio, he refuses to give back the money, and in answer to their threats he replies that if they try to bring a suit against him he will tell Nausistrata about Chremes’s affair in Lemnos and the true identity of Antipho’s wife. During the argument the brothers lay hands on the lawyer. Phormio, infuriated by their treatment of him, calls out to Nausistrata. When she comes out of the house, Phormio tells her about Chremes’s other wife. She is somewhat mollified, however, when she realizes that the other woman is dead and that she will have something to hold over her husband’s head.

Seeing that Nausistrata has been converted to his side, Phormio tells them also that he has given thirty minae to Phaedria so that he might purchase the harpist from Dorio. Chremes begins to protest, but Nausistrata silences him with the statement that it is no worse for the son to have such a mistress than for the father to have two wives. Nausistrata, pleased at the turn of events—for her son now has his beloved and her rival is dead—asks Phormio if there is anything she can do for him. Fun-loving Phormio says that he would be vastly pleased, and her husband much exasperated, if she would ask the lawyer to dinner. Nausistrata, proud of her newly found power over her husband, agrees.

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