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Dyskolos ( , translated as The Grouch, The Misanthrope, or Old Cantankerous) is an Ancient Greek comedy by Menander, the only one of his plays, or of the whole New Comedy, that has survived in all but complete form. It was first presented at the Lenaian festival in 317-16 BC, where it won Menander first prize. Long known through fragmentary quotations, a papyrus manuscript of the complete Dyskolos dating to the third century was recovered and published in 1957. The papyrus had been purchased by the Swissmarker bibliophile Martin Bodmermarker, and studied by Professor Victor Martin of the University of Genevamarker.

Plot

The play is set in motion by the mischievous Pan, who speaks the prologue and whose personality dominates the play. Pan makes young Sostratos fall in love with a peasant girl he has glimpsed. Sostratos sends his servant to see the girl's father. This ends in violence, as the father is Knemon, a misanthropic farmer who becomes enraged at anyone who ventures onto his land or tries to converse with him. His wife and stepson have left him; only his daughter (who has no name) and an old servant woman live with him.

Sostratos meets Knemon’s stepson, Gorgias, and enlists his assistance in getting Knemon to allow Sostratos to wed his daughter. According to Gorgias, Knemon has vowed that he will permit only a man like himself to marry his daughter. Therefore, Sostratos dons a rough sheepskin coat so as not to appear a gentleman of leisure, and sets to work nearby as a laborer.

A cry goes up that Knemon has accidentally fallen down his own well. Gorgias jumps in to rescue him. Sostratos, although entirely preoccupied with admiring the beautiful daughter, pulls the rope to haul the misanthrope out, nearly killing the old man by his inattention. Having nearly drowned and believing himself about to die, Knemon sees the error of his ways and grants all his property to Gorgias, telling him also to take his daughter and find a husband for her. Gorgias introduces Sostratos to Knemon, who gives his indifferent approval.

The jubilant Sostratos tells his own father, Kallippides, of the wedding plan and suggests a second marriage between Gorgias and Sostratos' sister. Kallippides balks for a moment at taking two paupers into the family but is immediately persuaded when Sostratos reminds him that immortality comes through generosity, not through the hoarding of wealth. At the celebration that follows, the recovering Knemon awakes from his sleep as cantankerous as ever, but is crowned with a wreath of flowers and admonished as the play ends in dancing and song.

Notes

  1. "out of a total of about 969 verses there are only about 9 verses missing—in two places in the fourth act; but about 30 verses in the first and second acts are incomplete; and approximately 200 require some emendation", remarks Penelope J. Photiades, in "Pan's Prologue to the 'Dyskolos' of Menander" Greece & Rome, Second Series, 5.2 (October 1958:108-122) p. 108.


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