Authors: Menander

  • Last updated on December 10, 2021

Greek playwright

Author Works


Orge, 321 B.C.E. (Anger, 1921)

Samia, 321-316 B.C.E. (The Girl from Samos, 1909)

Dyskolos, 317 B.C.E. (The Bad-Tempered Man, 1921; also known as The Grouch)

Perikeiromenē, 314-310 B.C.E. (The Girl Who Was Shorn, 1909)

Aspis, C. 314 B.C.E. (The Shield, 1921)

Epitrepontes, after 304 B.C.E. (The Arbitration, 1909)

Comedies, pb. 1921

The Plays of Menander, pb. 1971


With the work of Menander (muh-NAN-dur), born in Athens in 342 b.c.e., Greek New Comedy came into being. New Comedy involved plays in which such devices as the chorus and intervention by the gods were replaced by themes of commonplace Athenian life, treated with subtle humor. Through his influence on such Romans as Plautus and Terence (who was even called “Half-Menander,”) Menander determined the form of later comedies of manners. From Homer he took his “call of the blood” theme (the recognition of lost relatives), but his thematic treatments of a good woman sinned against and of a man reformed by a woman’s love were of his own devising.{$I[AN]9810000503}{$I[A]Menander}{$I[geo]GREECE;Menander}{$I[tim]0342 b.c.e.;Menander}

Menander was the son of wealthy Athenians, Diopeithes and Hegesistrate. The tyrant Demetrius of Phalerum was his classmate while he studied with Theophrastus, the successor to Aristotle in the Peripatetic school and the author of thirty vivid character sketches (The Flatterer, The Grumbler, and others). Because of his wealth, Menander could choose his own career. He decided to follow his playwright uncle Alexis. His first play, Anger, was written in 321 b.c.e., but he failed in the annual drama contests until 316 b.c.e. During his lifetime he wrote more than one hundred dramas, with the titles of eighty recorded, but he won the wreath only eight times. It has been charged that his most successful competitor, Philemon, though greatly inferior, had influence with the judges.

Though Menander was invited by Ptolemy Soter to Alexandria and was urged to visit Macedonia, he remained in Athens until his death by drowning in the Bay of Phalerum in 291 b.c.e. He was buried beside Euripides. After his death Menander was considered the best representative not only of New Comedy but also of Greek comedy as a whole. For a long time, his work was considered wholly lost, but discoveries of papyrus in Alexandria and Cairo have allowed Gilbert Murray and others to reconstruct his plays of intrigue.

Further Reading:Allinson, Francis G. Introduction to Menander: The Principal Fragments. Translated by Francis G. Allinson. 1921. Reprint. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 1970. This brief but extremely scholarly essay includes a clear description of Menander’s historical placement, concise comments about the playwright’s use of prologue, plot, and character, and a statement about his Greek style.Dover, K. J., ed. Ancient Greek Literature. New York: Oxford University Press, 1997. A concise and accurate treatment of the subject. For a full understanding of Menander’s place in Greek literature, it would be helpful to read the entire book, although Menander is specifically treated in the chapter headed “Comedy.”Goldberg, Sander M. The Making of Menander’s Comedy. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1980. An outstanding scholarly discussion of Menander’s work. Explains clearly his relation to Old and Middle Comedy, delineates the problems of scholarship, and then proceeds to a lucid analysis of each of the surviving works.Katsouris, Andreas G. Menander Bibliography. Thessalonike, Greece: University Studio Press, 1995. A bibliography listing the works on and by Menander. Indexes.Pickard-Cambridge, Arthur W. The Dramatic Festivals of Athens. Rev. ed. New York: Oxford University Press, 1988. The authoritative account of the production of Greek drama, ranging from the descriptions of the various festivals themselves to detailed explanations of acting style, costuming, and music, even including an analysis of the composition and character of the audience. Well illustrated.Reinhold, Meyer. Classical Drama: Greek and Roman. Woodbury, N.Y.: Barron’s Educational Series, 1965. In outline form, an excellent guide to its subject. Chapters 5 through 11–dealing with Euripides; Old, Middle, and New Comedy; and Menander’s Roman successors–are particularly recommended. Contains plot summaries, with hypothetical suggestions as to missing elements, of four of Menander’s plays. Includes glossary and bibliography.Sandbach, F. H. The Comic Theatre of Greece and Rome. New York: W. W. Norton, 1977. An excellent study of comedy from Aristophanes to Terence, with an illuminating discussion of Menander’s themes, in the light of the newly discovered texts. Includes glossary and bibliography.Sutton, Dana Ferrin. Ancient Comedy: The War of the Generations. New York: Twayne, 1993. A literary critical approach to Menander that also includes discussions of the plays of Aristophanes, Plautus, and Terence.Walton, J. Michael, and Peter D. Arnott. Menander and the Making of Comedy. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 1996. This introduction to the comedy of Menander considers each of the plays as performance pieces. Includes bibliography and index.Wiles, David. The Masks of Menander: Sign and Meaning in Greek and Roman Performance. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1991. Similar to the Frost work, this focuses on the stage history of New Comedy.Zagagi, Netta. The Comedy of Menander: Convention, Variation, and Originality. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1995. An excellent work providing a historical and critical framework for the understanding of Menander’s surviving comedies.
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