This play is one of the few classical comedies which have survived down the ages intact. The Roman play is a translation and adaptation of the Greek play ALAZON (date approximately 287 B.C., based on the relationship of the soldier to Seleucis, i.e. recruiting soldiers for him). It is supposed that Plautus composed the MILES GLORIOSUS about 206 B.C., based on an allusion to the imprisonment of Naevius. There are two Arguments of the play (i.e., summaries of the plot) given before the cast of characters and the beginning of the play itself. Curiously, one of the characters also gives a summary of the plot early in the play, challenging those who wished to leave to do so. The stories of nearly ALL plays by the Greeks and, later, the Romans were well-known to the audiences. This kind of introduction allows the audience to be primarily interested in, excited by, moved by, or amused by HOW the material is handled, rather than by wondering WHAT is going to happen--rather like reading a classic play or story one already knows the plot of, and yet it is different in the hands of everyone who tells or presents it (every production of a movie or play varies this way, too).
This play begins in Ephesus, where the terribly conceited and full-of-himself warrior has kidnapped from Athens a free-born young courtesan, whose lover is out of town on state business. When the young man''s servant sails to tell him about this happening, the servant himself is captured by pirates and enslaved to this same warrior.
He writes to his master, who then comes to Ephesus to stay with his father''s old friend, a free-thinking bachelor, who happens to live next door to the warrior. The servant opens up the wall so that there is a passage between the houses, and the young lovers can see each other. One of the other servants sees them through a skylight while chasing a pet monkey. The servants quarrel and the guard is persuaded it is her twin sister who has come with the mother in hopes of getting the girl back. Meanwhile, the father''s friend pretends to marry a beautiful but evil young courtesan. She pretends to be desperately in love with the braggart soldier, saying she''s divorced her husband for love of him (and gets to keep the house as part of her dowry); so he sends the girl he kidnapped off to Athens, giving her the slave who was stolen from the young man, as well as many jewels and clothes and things that he had bought for her while she was with him. He thinks he is to have the rich and beautiful young divorcee next door--but when he goes in to meet her, he meets the neighbor and his slaves instead, They beat him up as punishment for adultery, and then send him packing--a sadder, but wiser, man.