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Written byMenander
ChorusWorshippers of Pan
  • Pan
  • Sostratos
  • Kallippides
  • Sostratos' Mother
  • Chaireas
  • Pyrrhias
  • Getas
  • Knemon
  • Myrrhine
  • Girl
  • Gorgias
  • Daos
  • Simiche
  • Sikon
  • Gorgias' mother
  • Donax, a slave
  • Other slaves, female relatives, friends of Sostratos' mother
Date premieredc. 317–316 BCE
Place premieredLenaia Festival, Athens
Original languageAncient Greek
GenreNew Comedy
SettingA country road in Phyle outside Athens near several farmsteads and a shrine of Pan.

Dyskolos (Greek: Δύσκολος, pronounced [dýskolos], translated as The Grouch, The Misanthrope, The Curmudgeon, The Bad-tempered Man or Old Cantankerous) is an Ancient Greek comedy by Menander, the only one of his plays, and of the whole New Comedy, that has survived in (almost) complete form.[1] It was first presented at the Lenaian festival in 317–316 BCE, where it won Menander the first-place prize.

It was long known only through fragmentary quotations; but a papyrus manuscript of the nearly complete Dyskolos, dating to the 3rd century, was recovered in Egypt in 1952 and forms part of the Bodmer Papyri and Oxyrhynchus Papyri. The play was published in 1958 by Victor Martin.[2]


Menander with masks depicting New Comedy characters: youth, false maiden, and the old man, Princeton University Art Museum

The play begins with Pan, the god who acts as the driving force behind the play's main actions. Setting the scene, he tells the audience about the farm belonging to Knemon, "the grouch" of the play, a bad-tempered and irritable old man, living with his daughter, Girl, and his servant, Simiche. He tells about the old man's past, and about Knemon's wife, who had a son with and was widowed by her first husband. She had given birth to their daughter and, not long after, she left Knemon because he treated her poorly. She went to live with her son, Gorgias, leaving Knemon with their daughter and Simiche. Pan, who feels a fondness for Girl, makes Sostratos fall in love with Girl at first sight of her.

The play continues with Sostratos telling Chaireas about how he saw and fell in love with Girl. He had sent Pyrrhias to talk with Knemon, who hits him in the head with a farming tool and chases him away for being on his property. Sostratos instructs Daos to get Getas and explain what has happened, but instead Daos tells Gorgias about Sostratos as he is weary of Sostratos' intentions.

Gorgias meets Sostratos, warning him to stay away and not mistreat his sister because of their class differences. Sostratos convinces Gorgias that he is in love with his sister and will do anything necessary to marry her. It is divulged that Knemon will only allow his daughter to marry someone exactly like him, presenting a problem for Sostratos. To help make his case, Sostratos puts on a rough, sheepskin coat and goes to work in the fields under Gorgias guidance.

Knemon's servant cries out that her master has fallen in a well to fetch a bucket she mistakenly dropped down there earlier. Gorgias jumps in to save Knemon while Sostratos comforts and admires Girl as she cries about her father's misfortune. Sostratos pulls the rope up to bring Knemon and Gorgias out of the well. After being faced with the possibility of death, Knemon tells Gorgias to find Girl a husband, as he knows that no one will please him enough to find one for her himself. Gorgias betroths his sister to Sostratos and introduces him to Knemon, who is indifferent about the marriage.

Sostratos excitedly tells his father, Kallippides, about the marriage to Gorgias' sister. He also suggests a marriage between his own sister and Gorgias. While Kallippides was content with Sostratos marrying Girl, he is not readily accepting of his daughter marrying Gorgias, to have two "beggars" in the family. Sostratos convinces him that money is an "unstable business" and it could be taken from him at any moment. Kallippides agrees with Sostratos that his money "belongs to luck" and it is better to have "a visible friend than invisible wealth which you keep buried away;" he, in turn, supports both marriages.

During the weddings, Sikon and Getas go to Knemon's house to torment him when he wakes from his rest. They tease and trick him into joining the rest of the wedding party celebrations.

Character descriptions[edit]

The characters within the play each display a stage of philanthropy. At the first level, an excess of friendliness, is represented in some of the more minor characters within the play. The second and, arguably, best level, friendliness or philanthropy, is exhibited by Gorgias and Sostratos. While Sostratos has a pleasant character and is the perfect host, Gorgias illustrates the moral basis of the virtue. Gorgias runs the risk of becoming cynical, like Knemon, if his economic situation would remain as hard as it is. Through each of these stages, Menander offers the audience a picture of man's transformation within the play. Below are the characters which serve as vessels to depict this idea:

controls elements of the play, acting as a driving force by putting the play in motion. He is the god of garden fertility and the countryside, where the play takes place.
an Athenian man who is hunting in the forest. He falls in love with Girl due to Pan's interference.
Sostratos' father, a wealthy Athenian man.
Sostratos' Mother
not named in the play.
best described as a "parasite" or "the gofer" for Sostratos.
a slave for Sostratos and his family. He resides mainly in the family's townhouse.
a slave of Sostratos and his family. He resides mainly in the family's countryhouse.
"the grouch" of which the play is named. He is Girl's father and Gorgias' stepfather.
Knemon's estranged wife and Gorgias' mother. She has gone to live with Gorgias to flee her husbands bad temper.
Knemon's daughter with whom Sostratos falls in love with.
Girl's half-brother who helps Sostratos in his plans to win over Knemon in order to marry his sister.
a slave of Gorgias.
an older woman who is a slave of Knemon.
a cook hired by Sostratos' family.

Menander writes his slave characters as intelligent, independent individuals who act based on their own wants and goals, as well as considering the fortunes of their masters. These characters impacted the story lines of other upper class characters, while not directly changing them. The play as a whole demonstrates and examines the social class system of the time and provides multiple perspectives through each character.[3]


Dyskolos is the only one of Menander's texts that has survived nearly completely intact.[4] Other plays, such as Samia, Aspis, Heros, Epitrepontes, Perikeiromene have survived in fragments.[5] Fragments of the Dyskolos currently exist in the Vatican Library in Vatican City[6] and the Bibliothèque Bodmer (Bodmer Library) in Cologny, Switzerland[7] However, the discovery of the original papyrus manuscript provides the most accurate version on the play how Menander intended it to be read.[8]

Modern performance[edit]

The first modern major performance of Dyskolos was in Sydney, Australia. On 4 July 1959, the University of Sydney Classical Society, at Wallace Theatre, Sydney University, performed Dyskolos.[9]




  1. ^ Photiades, Penelope J. (1 October 1958). "Pan's prologue to the Dyskolos of Menander". Greece & Rome. Second Series. 5. pp. 108–122. 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 (p. 108)
  2. ^ Fontaine, Michael; Scafuro, Adele C., eds. (201). The Oxford Handbook of Greek and Roman Comedy. Oxford University Press. ISBN 9780199743544 – via Google Books.
  3. ^ Menander. "Dyskolos". www.ancient-literature.com. Classical Literature. Ancient Greece. Retrieved 5 December 2017.
  4. ^ "Menander's Dyskolos". Study Guide. 18 September 2016.
  5. ^ Fontaine, Michael; Scafuro, Adele C., eds. (2014). The Oxford Handbook of Greek and Roman Comedy. Oxford University Press.
  6. ^ Wasserman, Tommy (2005). "Papyrus 72 and the Bodmer Miscellaneous Codex". New Testament Studies. 51 (1): 137–154. doi:10.1017/s0028688505000081.
  7. ^ Robinson, James M. (2014). The Story of the Bodmer Papyri: From the first monastery's library in upper Egypt to Geneva and Dublin. James Clarke & Co.
  8. ^ "Menander's Dyskolos". www.ucl.ac.uk. Study Guide. Retrieved 5 December 2017.
  9. ^ Flynn, Christopher; Sheldon, John (2010). "Menander's Dyskolos at Sydney, 1959–2009*". Antichthon. 44: 111–127. doi:10.1017/S0066477400002100 – via ProQuest Web.


  • Menander (2001). Balme, Maurice (ed.). Menander: The plays and fragments. Oxford University Press.
  • Qi Peng (2007). The Grouchy Guy [Dyskolos]. White Rook.

External links[edit]