The Brothers Menaechmus

The Brothers Menaechmus Literary Elements


Roman comedy



Setting and Context

The action takes place on a street in Epidamnus during the span of a day.

Narrator and Point of View

Because this is a play, everything is first-person limited.

Tone and Mood

Tone: bemused, silly, light, comic

Mood: playful, gently confusing

Protagonist and Antagonist

The protagonists are the two Menaechmus brothers and there is not an official antagonist, though to each brother characters like Brush, Wife, Father, and Doctor seem antagonistic.

Major Conflict

Will Menaechmus I and Menaechmus II meet again? Will they be known for themselves rather than a mistaken identity?


The play reaches its climax when the two brothers are reunited.


In the prologue the narrator claims that the two brothers were so alike that even their mother could not tell them apart. This foreshadows the confusion created by the two boys and also how they will be mistaken for one another.


"Well! He's certainly not unlike me, now that I take stock of myself" (Menaechmus II, 100); this is an understatement because they are identical twins


1. "where the eagle steals Ganymede" (64): the besotted Zeus turns into an eagle and carries Ganymede up into the heaven, where he's made cupbearer to the gods
2. "Venus gets away with Adonis" (64): Venus falls in love with the handsome Adonis and tries to pursue him
3. "Now come boldly away from the lion's den" (64): the biblical story of Daniel and the lions' den
4. Samian ware: a type of Roman pottery; bright red; impressed with designs
5. "Why he's talking like a perfect Nestor now..." (94) Nestor is the wise king of Pylos; he is known for being wise but boastful
6. Apollo: god of music, poetry, and healing
7. Tithonus, son of Cycnus: lover of Eos, a prince of Troy
8. Hecuba: wife of King Priam of Troy


The imagery is humorous and repetitive, showing two men who look exactly the same being constantly approached and mistaken for the other and resulting in the men's comic frustration.


One paradoxical idea appears when the Wife calls her father to help her get a divorce from her husband, Menaechmus. Paradoxically, instead of helping her get a divorce, the father accuses her of being the reason why Menaechmus is looking for other women, claiming that because she acts in such a demanding manner, she pushes her husband away from her.


The experiences of the brothers with Erotium, Brush, Messenio, and others are paralleled with each other to show how obviously alike they look and how confusing their comments and actions are to others


1."The bonds of food and drink are very elastic, you know: the more you stretch them, the tighter they hold you" (Brush, 61)
2. "oh, confounded old / age is a curse on the back" (Father, 88)
3. "And you had the funeral of the dinner when I wasn't there?" (Brush, 77)

Use of Dramatic Devices

1. There are monologues and asides
2. There are stage directions
3. There is the classic Greek prologue
4. There are metaphors, similes, symbols, use of irony, etc.
5. There are entries and exits for the characters so that, perhaps, the actor can play multiple characters