A synopsis of the play by Plautus

This document was originally published in Minute History of the Drama. Alice B. Fort & Herbert S. Kates. New York: Grosset & Dunlap, 1935. p. 23.

There seems to be no record of the time and circumstances of the production of this play during the time of Plautus. Its earliest revival ocurred under the direction of Ercole I, Duke of Ferrara, early in the Middle Ages, probably between 1486 and 1550.

Roman actors from Bas-Relief in Farnese PalaceMOSCHUS, a merchant of Syracuse, had twin sons who were like as two peas. When the boys were seven years old, Moschus took one of them, Menaechmus, with him on a business trip to Tarentum. There the boy became separated from his father and lost in the crowd. He was found later and adopted by a wealthy merchant of Epidamnus. In this city he grew to manhood and married a rich wife.

Meanwhile, so great was the grief of parents and grandparents for the lost boy that the remaining twin whose name was Sosicles was renamed Menaechmus. When the latter reached young manhood he set out with his slave, Messenio, to cover the known world in search of his twin. At the opening of the action, Menaechmus Sosicles and Messenio have just arrived at Epidamnus after six years of wandering.

Just prior to their appearance on the street where Menaechmus of Epidamnus lives, the latter has as usual been quarreling with his wife. To spite her he has stolen a rich mantle of hers to give to the courtesan, Erotium. He requests this lady to prepare a feast for himself and his Parasite, Peniculus, while they go to the market place to transact some business.

When she sees Menaechmus Sosicles, Erotium insists that he come in and eat the feast she has prepared. When he leaves she gives him the mantle along with a gold bracelet and requests that he have them repaired. Meanwhile, the wife of Menaechmus of Epidamnus discovers the loss of the mantle and makes such a scene that her husband attempts to recover the mantle from Erotium. That lady believes that her patron is trying to put something over on her and retires into her house in a rage leaving Menaechmus dinnerless without.

About this time the wife spies the visiting Menaechmus with her mantle and starts berating him loudly. When he disclaims all knowledge of her she calls her father and some servants to take him in custody, believing he has gone suddenly mad. This impression increases when, with the help of Messenio, Menaechmus spiritly resists.

Finally the twin brothers are brought face to face but it never seems to occur to Menaechmus Sosicles that here is the twin he has been seeking. It is left for Messenio to unravel the tangle and thus win the gift of freedom. The comedy closes with plans for an auction of all the property of Menaechmus of Epidamnus, including his wife, that he may return with his brother to Syracuse.

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