The Mechenemi

The Mechenemi

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The Menaechmi: Use the new to learn from the old, comedy that is

Through time and generations, comedy has appealed to its spectators in different ways. Each generation as you can say has different appeal and through times the interest changes. As the style of comedy changes so does the matters of which they pursue or address. As Old comedy developed and matured, it started to change shape by its writers and poets through language. Its standard focus on topics also became different and with the cumulative changes happening through time new, comedy was developed. Moreover, In Plautus' The Menaechmi written as New Comedy, and its focus on different issues in the roman society, much different from old comedy, it offers many insights of comedy which becomes very successful at getting the message across.
At this point we all know that even though much of its focus is no longer practiced today, old comedy is the origin of comedy. Old comedy has taken the most outrageous projects and presents plausible solutions to contemporary issues. It also has mostly focused, on slapstick action, scatological and sexual jokes, and tragedy. Furthermore, its most common focus would be political and social spoof along with literary distortion. In The Menaechmi, besides their inner relational drama, the characters have managed to send across the interaction and standards of the Roman society. In this book, interestingly enough, Plautus writes the characters with Greek names and green scenery. Nevertheless, the manners and taste were noticeably Roman giving it a taste of old comedy as well.
In this book we can see than in roman times, the men had the free will. Even though married, they would have their mistress on the side and also have their servants be the "watchdog" for them if the actual wife suspected anything. In the beginning of the story, the twin brother is shown to be the depression of his jealous wife. He leaves his house, criticizing his wife. While leaving the house, he takes the wife's mantel and with his servant, he gives the mantle to Erotium who is a prostitute. He then, tells her that he can get the mantel fixed and demands that dinner for himself and his servant. Moreover, without disagreement, Erotium agrees. This scenario shows, that in roman society women did not have much say in their lives and they were always at the call of men and serving what the men pleased whether it made the woman happy or not.

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This play also addresses the concept of trust between owners, servants and the immediate world surrounding them. At one point, when the twin from Syracus arrives with his slave to Epidamnus, the master gives his purse to the slave for security who has been constantly warning him against the sneakiness of people in Epidamnus. This depicts that masters and slaves had relations of more than ownership. The relationship was more of a friendship and there is some trust between the two. Also, by the slave's worries, the statement shows that, cities were full of treason and theft and trickery.
Another very absurd and funny scene is when Syracus returns with the mantel in search of Messenio who left the inn. His twin brother's wife sees him and assuming that he is her husband, demands the he apologizes and confess to her. In this era, men confessing shame to women is comedic absurd and the exaggeration that is played here by the wife is very funny and counteracts with the way things are really run in the roman society.
There are also some aspects of visual comedy as the relatives mistook one of the twins as their own and treated him with the same way they would treat the other. This is awkward, since it roman times, women had little rights of speech and forceful ordering and the men really called the shots.
On the other hand, in New Comedy topics and issues were mostly centralized on family matters such as complications in love and relationships with no regard or interest of the polis which was vital to old comedy. Even though, in Plautus' story The Menaechmi, the story plot centrally focuses on family matters, relationships, love, lust and close relations, it does happen to touch some base on factors and in a small scale on social commentary as in Old Comedy.
In Meaechmi, the plot and characters quickly become acquainted with each other. At first they are confused. Then they are upset then they become confused again. Among themselves they build a hierarchical system of who has a higher voice. At one point in the story, they think that one of the twins has gone mad. As the father comes back with the doctor, the real husband of the depressed wife returns. He gets extremely mad when his father-in-law and wife bother him and imply that he has gone crazy. His anger convinces the doctor of his insanity, and he gathers a few slaves to bind them and take him to an asylum. The doctor had the right to overpower the judgment of the husband.
Moreover, the story of love and relationship comes into a big factor in this story. In the end, the two brothers meet eye to eye in amazement and confusion of seeing each other. Nevertheless, after some clarification and explanations they quickly recognize each other. They hug and they happy master finally sets his slave free. With so much joy, the next day , Messenio pronounces an auction of the husband's good with everything to go to the block , even the wife, if there is a buyer. These statements show that, the love of the brothers and the relationship that they have missed on having but have discovered is much greater than anyone elses. One of the brothers actually doesn't mind selling his wife. This also shows that the wife is not really a asset in a relationship but more of a "servant" with "legal" rights.
Plautus' The Menaechmi, not only offers a great taste of new comedy, but to some minor skill, by studying the interactions of the characters we can find out the social commentary the play offers on some scale of Old comedy. Moreover, despite the in law arguments and the interactions and conflicts between the characters we can tell how the roman society has worked in the past based on love, relationship and interactions between men, women and slaves. The Menaechmi is a true "Greek" interpretation of a roman way of life which really depicts the roman society.
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