MenanderAfter the Macedonian conquest, Greek comedy moved away from the daring personal and political satire of Aristophanes. Lacking complete political independance, writers of this New Comedy found themselves moving towards safer more mundane subject matter. They found their inspiration in the daily life of Athens. Their characters were drawn from the cooks, merchants, farmers and slaves of the city. According to ancient report, the most gifted of these new writers was Menander.

Menander, the child of a distinguished family, wrote more than 100 plays during a career that spanned about thirty-three years. He was known for the delicacy and truthfulness of his characterizations, and his poetic style was often mentioned in the same breath as Homer's. Although he won first prize at only eight festivals, he did much to move comedy towards a more realistic representation of human life.

Menander's characters spoke in the contemporary dialect and concerned themselves not with the great myths of the past, but rather with the everyday affairs of the people of Athens. His plots revolved around young boys in love with young girls, parents concerned with the misbehavior of their children, unwanted pregnancies, long-lost relatives, and all sorts of sexual misadventures. His first play, The Self Tormentor, was written at the age of twenty. And he won his first victory with a play entitled Anger in 316 B.C.

Menander's plays held a place in the standard literature of western Europe for over 800 years. At some point, however, his manuscripts were lost or destroyed, and what we now know of the poet is based primarily on ancient reports, a few manuscripts which have been recovered in the last hundred years, and adaptations by the Roman playwrights Plautus and Terence. There is only one complete play--Dyskolos (The Grouch)--which was not rediscovered until 1957. A few long fragments have survived as well from such plays as The Arbitration, The Girl from Samos, The Shorn Girl, and The Hero.

Menander's Plays  |  Biographies/Studies


Menander's Plays


Related Sites

Menander & His Comedies

Greek Theatre Index

Related Playwrights




Other Playwrights

Aphra Behn

Anton Chekhov


Henrik Ibsen

William Shakespeare

Tennessee Williams

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