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Bad-Tempered Man


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AT: The Malcontent; The Grouch; The Grumbler; The Man Who Didn't Like People; The Misanthrope; Feast of Pan; Old Cantankerous A: Menander Pf: 316 bc, Athens Tr: 1960 G: Greek com. in verse S: Before a shrine between two farmsteads, Phyle in Attica, 4th c. bc C: 10m, 5f, extrasCnemon, the ‘bad-tempered man’, lives alone on his farm with his daughter and an old female slave. He dislikes and distrusts everyone, and is estranged from his immediate neighbour, his stepson Gorgias. Pan causes a young man from town, Sostratos, to fall in love with Cnemon's lovely and virtuous daughter Myrrhine. Despite initial misgivings, Gorgias supports Sostratos in his wooing of Myrrhine. Sostratos' mother and sister now arrive, preparing to hold a banquet at the shrine, much to Cnemon's annoyance. When Cnemon falls down his well and has to be rescued by Sostratos and Gorgias, he undergoes a sudden change, regretting his former misanthropy and entrusting Myrrhine to the care of Gorgias. Gorgias arranges for Myrrhine to marry Sostratos, who in turn begs his father to allow Sostratos' sister to wed Gorgias. After some comic business, in which Cnemon shows something of his former surly self, the play ends with festivities to celebrate the joint betrothals.

AT: The Malcontent; The Grouch; The Grumbler; The Man Who Didn't Like People; The Misanthrope; Feast of Pan; Old Cantankerous A: Menander Pf: 316 bc, Athens Tr: 1960 G: Greek com. in verse S: Before a shrine between two farmsteads, Phyle in Attica, 4th c. bc C: 10m, 5f, extras

The Bad-Tempered Man is the most complete surviving ‘New Comedy’ from ancient Greece, whose manuscript was not rediscovered until 1959. New Comedy differs from the Old Comedy of Aristophanes in its greater realism and concentration on domestic events. It also usually turns on what is now regarded as the staple of comedy, the progress towards a happy ending by lovers who, initially thwarted in their yearnings, are finally brought together. In form, the New Comedy abandoned the prominence of the chorus in favour of choral interludes. Here, it is significant that the title character does not make an appearance until Act 3. Like his distant descendant in Molière's Misanthrope, Cnemon is not wholly to be despised: he argues persuasively that, if everyone kept to themselves, as he does, then there would be no courts of law or wars. Such subtlety of characterization was one of the qualities praised by the ancients and led to Menander's serving as a model for Roman comedy.

Subjects: Literary Studies (Plays and Playwrights).


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