The Brothers Menaechmus

The Brothers Menaechmus Essay Questions

  1. 1

    Explain the lines "The river rapt the kidnapper—not far from here/ . . . heading hurriedly to hell.’’

    The line appears in the prologue when the fate of one of the twins is mentioned. The person who kidnapped the twin eventually died and his death is described in the quote from above. The line may imply that the man died drowned but considering how much time passed and that the twin got married before the father died may also suggest that the father died of old age. The river mentioned here may be thus used to make reference to death in general. In many mythological stories, death is described as a guided passing. The soul is embarked on a boat and then it travels along a river until it reaches the other world. This idea existed in Ancient Rome as well and thus the river may be used to transmit the idea that the man in question died and most likely ended in an unpleasant place in the afterlife because of his actions.

  2. 2

    What does Messenio means when he says that no woman leaves undamaged after entering the city of Epidamnus?

    Considering the historical background, Messenio most likely wanted to transmit the idea that no woman remained a virgin after entering the city. It is possible that in Epidamnus it was acceptable for women and men to enter sexual relationships before marriage and thus there were no virgins. Another explanation may be that women were abused and probably raped. Either way, the word chosen in this situation, namely "damaged", transmits the idea that society no longer considered the sexually active unmarried women as being of any value. Instead, they looked at them as one may look upon a broken plate.

  3. 3

    What does Menaechmus II mean when he claims that the perfume from his purse is attracting the people in Epidamnus?

    Soon after arriving in the city of Epidamnus, Menaechmus II is welcomed by Erotium and her servant who both claim to know Menaechmus II and to have had him in their house countless times. Menaechmus II tries to convince them this is not true but since Menaechmus II looked identical to Menaechmus, they were sure the man in front of them was lying or that something happened to him. Seeing that Erotium and her servant are not giving up, Menaechmus II utters the phrase from above, harboring the idea that his purse’s smell attracts the people whom he talked with. What Menaechmus II wants to transmit is not that there is some kind of perfume in his bag, but rather that the people assumed he had money and so became attracted to his presence, hoping they would gain something from him.

  4. 4

    How are Messenio and Brush contrasted?

    Brush and Messenio are both attached to one of the twins, and rely upon that twin for his sustenance, to varying degrees. Yet that is where their similarities end, for as Eleanor Winsor Leach explains, "while the pleasure-seeking Peniculus encourages folly, Messenio preaches the dangers of the degenerate life." Both live the life they espouse, and try to get their Menaechmus to do the same. Peniculus dominates the first half of the play while Messenio dominates the second; Peniculus opens the play with the prologue and Messenio closes it. Leach continues, "the songs are inversions of one another, the first dealing with slavery in freedom, the second with freedom in slavery." Messenio, not Peniculus, is ultimately rewarded in the end.

  5. 5

    Why does Menaechmus I decide to leave his life in Epidamnus?

    It seems rather abrupt that upon being reunited with his twin brother whom he hasn't seen in decades that Menaechmus I would decide to go live with him in Syracuse, abandoning the life he's known. However, this isn't actually that crazy of a decision when we put into perspective what Menaechmus I is dealing with. He has an obnoxious wife whom he seems to find no pleasure with, a tempestuous mistress, a traitorous parasite, a meddlesome father-in-law, onerous responsibilities in the forum, and more. His brother in his mistaken guise of Menaechmus I himself dared to talk to his wife and father-in-law in ways he never would have on his own. Leach explains, "These discoveries Menaechmus had been unable to make himself. He could not, by his own free will, separate himself from the bondage of his society; indeed, he lacked the perspective to make such a separation." Now, though, he glimpses real freedom and he plans to take it.