Who was Menander? A Greek playwright

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Menander, in a fresco painting


Menander is the only playwright from the Hellenistic period whose plays survive. Actually only one play, the Dyskolos, survives, and a lot of fragments. Even the Dyskolos was unknown until about thirty years ago. That’s when archaeologists found a copy of it on some old papyri in Egypt.

A little bit of Menander, written on papyrus from Egypt

A little bit of Menander, written on papyrus from Egypt

Like Aristophanes, Menander wrote comedies (funny plays). Most of Menander’s plays were like sit-coms or chick flicks today: boy meets girl, then there’s some kind of problem (usually their parents don’t want them to marry), and then in the end something happens so that they do get married. Menander is the first person we know of who wrote this kind of story. Later writers like Shakespeare used Menander’s plots, and so do modern TV writers.

Learn by doing: what TV shows use a plot like this?
A Roman who translated Menander’s work: Plautus

Bibliography and further reading about Menander:

Greek Theatre, by Stewart Ross (1999). Easy reading.

Greek and Roman Theater, by Don Nardo. For teenagers.

Plays and Fragments (Penguin Classics) by Menander. Translated by Norma Miller. The plays themselves.

Menander and the Making of Comedy, by J. Michael Walton and Peter D. Arnott (1996). Both authors are theater people more than classicists, so their study of Menander is very interested in how to produce his plays.

The Comedy of Menander: Convention, Variation, and Originality, by Netta Zagagi (1995).

A Roman who translated Menander’s work: Plautus
Hellenistic Greece
Ancient Greece
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By | 2017-07-10T03:21:25+00:00 July 10th, 2017|Greeks, Literature|0 Comments
Cite this page: Carr, K.E. Who was Menander? A Greek playwright. Quatr.us Study Guides, July 10, 2017. Web. December 13, 2017.

About the Author:

Karen Carr

Karen Carr is Associate Professor Emerita, Department of History, Portland State University. She holds a doctorate in Classical Art and Archaeology from the University of Michigan. Follow her on Instagram, Pinterest, or Twitter, or buy her book, Vandals to Visigoths.

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