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New Comedy Period (Ancient Greece) (14610356907).jpg
Terracotta figurine discovered at Myrina and dated to circa 300 BC, believed to represent Knemon, the titular character of Menander's Dyskolos
Written by Menander
Chorus Worshippers 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 premiered c. 317–16 BC
Place premiered Lenaia Festival, Athens
Original language Ancient Greek
Genre New Comedy
Setting A 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 317–16 BC, 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.


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

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; he is alone with his daughter and a servant woman called Simiche. Knemon's daughter has no written name and so she is referred to as Girl.

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. Sostratos scolds his father, pointing out that wealth is inherently unstable, "and everything you have is not yours but luck's." Therefore, Kallippides should not begrudge sharing wealth with others; money can't be held forever, and luck will simply assign that wealth to someone else someday, perhaps to someone less deserving. Sostratos argues out that wealth imposes upon its owner a responsibility to act nobly, and to "make rich as many people as you can by your own efforts. For this act never dies." Summarizing the play's key theme, Sostratos explains that what goes around comes around: By acting nobly now, Kallippides may himself—in a future moment of need—benefit from someone else's kindness. (The implicit argument is grounded earlier in the story, when Sostratos had benefited from Gorgias' kindness, and Knemon had benefited from Sostratos' kindness). Sostratos finally persuades Kallippides that it is far better to have "a visible friend than invisible wealth which you keep buried away."

At the celebration that follows, the recovering Knemon awakes from his sleep as cantankerous as ever, and the cook and his friend have much fun tormenting him until he agrees to go out and dance and sing with the others.

Character Descriptions[2][3][edit]

  • Pan: 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.
  • Sostratos: an Athenian man who is hunting in the forest. He falls in love with Girl due to Pan's interference.
  • Kallippides: Sostratos' father, a wealthy Athenian man
  • Sostratos' Mother: not named in the play
  • Chaireas: best described as a "parasite" or "the gofer" for Sostratos.
  • Pyrrhias: a slave for Sostratos and his family. He resides mainly in the family's townhouse.
  • Getas: a slave for Sostratos and his family. He resides mainly in the family's countryhouse.
  • Knemon: "the grouch" of which the play is named. He is Girl's father and Gorgias' stepfather.
  • Myrrhine: Knemon's estranged wife and Gorgias' mother. She has gone to live with Gorgias to flee her husbands bad temper.
  • Girl: Knemon's daughter with whom Sostratos falls in love with.
  • Gorgias: Girl's half-brother who helps Sostratos in his plans to win over Knemon in order to marry his sister.
  • Daos: a slave of Gorgias.
  • Simiche: an older woman who is a slave of Knemon
  • Sikon: a cook hired by Sostratos' family.


  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.
  2. ^ Literatures, Prof. John P. Adams, Modern and Classical Languages and. "Dyskolos". www.csun.edu. Retrieved 2017-11-05. 
  3. ^ Rosivach, Vincent J. "Menander's Dyskolos". faculty.fairfield.edu. Retrieved 2017-11-05. 


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

External links[edit]