The Brothers Menaechmus

The Brothers Menaechmus Irony

Situational Irony: Justice

Menaechmus I laments the reality, and the irony, inherent in the justice system by commenting, "You may be poor and honest—as a fool you're sent away. / But if you're rich and wicked, you're a worthy protege. / The lawless man, who when he's trusted with a thing will swear / He never saw it—that's that man for whom we patrons / care" (80).

Dramatic Irony: The plot of the play

Essentially, almost the entire play features dramatic irony because the audience knows which brother is onstage before them, knows that they're both in the same town, knows that they are being mistaken for the other, and knows that all the frustration and hilarity and indignity could all be easily allayed if the brothers would just end up in the same space at the same time. This dramatic irony gives the play its ridiculous and hilarious tone, not to mention contributing to its popularity then and now.

Dramatic Irony: Menaechmus' identity

One of the best examples of the above-mentioned dramatic irony is when Erotium meets Menaechmus II, whom she thinks is Menaechmus I. She provides a completely factually accurate assessment of him yet it is still technically incorrect: "Do you think I don't know Menaechmus, son of Moschus, born at Syracuse in Sicily where Agathhocles was king, and then Phintia, and then Liparo, who left it to Hiero, who is king now?" (74).

Dramatic Irony: Menaechmus II's ignorance

This dramatic irony is made even more amusing when Menaechmus II, having enjoyed his time in Erotium's house, claims "The gods are certainly supporting and supplying and sustaining me" (79). Whether the gods are sustaining him or not, his good fortune is entirely due to his resemblance to a man who lives here. The irony is heightened even more due to the fact that Menaechmus II is in this very town to find his brother—why does he not stop to think he is being mistaken for him?