The Brothers Menaechmus

The Brothers Menaechmus Symbols, Allegory and Motifs

Symbol: Bread

When Peniculus appears on stage, he is on his way to meet Menaechmus, a person whom he admires and a person who is admired by many others. The reason why Menaechmus is a popular person is because he feeds everyone "bread’’ and thus the people who receive the bread are always willing to come back for more. The bread in this context does not only refer to actual bread, but rather it refers to the way Menaechmus treats those around him and the way he talks to them. The bread is thus used here as a symbol for the way Menaechmus manipulates people, making them like him and listen to him.

Motif: Getting "purified"

One of the common motifs in the play is the fact that the characters urge one another to get purified when they act in a strange or disturbing way. The idea behind this is that by purifying himself, a man could regain his lost mind once more and become a sane person.

Motif: The Wife as "uncontrollable"

Another common motif presented in the play is the idea that Menaechmus’s wife is uncontrollable and violent. When she appears on stage, she is presented almost as a rabid dog, someone who has no control over her actions. She is compared time and time again with various wild animals just to highlight how she does not behave in a normal way. This way of comparing her becomes thus a common motif in the play.

Motif: Eating

Eating is a popular activity in the text, as suggested by numerous characters. First Brush salivates over how he expects to get a wonderful meal from Menaechmus I, then Menaechmus I asks Erotium if she can prepare a feast for himself and Brush. She complies, and Menaechmus II actually gets to eat it. Eating is associated with leisure and ease, and it has a rather decadent quality. Eating isn't merely desired or done by these characters to stay alive or get the right nutrients; rather, it is something almost sensual, something excessive and tied to the perceived and literal vices of the city.

Symbol: Hellebore

The contemporary audience for the play would have been very aware of the larger significance of the Doctor saying he was planning on treating Menaechmus's crazy behavior with hellebore, for that flower was a potent treatment for innumerable afflictions, and, in some cases, was even used as a poison. Most famously, it was associated with the curing of Pylos's daughters of Dionysian-induced madness.