Review of Menander, The Bad-Tempered Man (Dyskolos), Edited with a Translation and Commentary by Stanley Ireland.

Warminster: Aris and Phillips Ltd., 1995. Pp. iv + 185.
ISBN: 085668 610 7 (cloth) £35 (US$49.95);
085668 225 X (limp) £11.95 (US$19.95).

by John R. Porter
University of Saskatchewan

In teaching ancient drama I have always found Dyscolus something of a hard sell: its themes and characters, the composition of its individual scenes, and its limited attempts at high comedy all suffer, in one respect or another, by comparison to those of Samia, Perikeiromene, Epitrepontes, or even Aspis. In all likelihood this new commentary, which is at once learned, insightful, and extremely readable, will not materially alter this state of affairs, but it will certainly encourage a fresh appreciation of what the play has to offer.

First a general description: a 27-page introduction, a text with facing translation and 8-page critical apparatus, a 67-page commentary, and a useful bibliography and index.

The introduction is generally excellent and reveals Ireland's strength as a sensitive reader of Menander. Both lucid and succinct, it offers a masterful introduction to Menander's life and career, the fourth-century comic stage (see, however, the reservations expressed below), the style, ethos, and dramatic techniques of Menander's plays, various literary influences, the play itself (with particular attention to structural elements and the question of unity), and sources for the text. Ireland's virtues as a commentator soon become evident: a discerning and sympathetic appreciation of Menander's characters and the generally congenial world they inhabit, combined with a sure command of the poet's other works and the fragmentary remains of fourth-century comedy.

Ireland has relatively little to say, however, about the sociological and ideological themes that have concerned more recent studies of Menander. (For example, Lowe's excellent 1987 BICS piece is cited [p. 14], but only for its discussion of off-stage space; G. Hoffmann's 'L éspace théâtral et social du Dyscolos de Ménandre' [Métis 1 (1986) 269-290] and the studies by Konstan [below] do not appear at all.) Nor are the mock tragic overtones of Cnemon's fate explored so fully as they might be. (In particular, the references to tyche on pp. 9, 19-23, and ad 44, 190-91, 427, 545, and 571-72 would benefit by some consideration of late Euripides: as things stand, the relationship between tyche and Pan in determining the course of events is left curiously unresolved.)

Also regrettable is the lack of discussion of the misanthrope in later literature (although the section on Cnemon's antecedents on pp. 14-15 is excellent, as are the frequent comparisons passim to Euclio in Plautus' Aulularia). References to D. Konstan's 'A Dramatic History of Misanthropes' (Comparative Drama 17 [1983] 97-123) and 'The Dramatic Fortunes of a Miser: Ideology and Form in Plautus and Molière' (most readily available, in revised form, as Chapter 11 of Greek Comedy and Ideology [New York 1995]) would be useful. There is also some confusion in the ordering of Ireland's discussion: section 7 ('The Rediscovery of Menander') seems to join naturally with section 15 ('The Text of Dyskolos'), while section 9 ('The Setting of the Play') might be more effectively presented if it incorporated the material in sections 3 ('The Theatre in Menander's Day') and 4 ('The Actors').

A comparison of Ireland's text with those of Sandbach and Arnott reveals a tendency to favour Arnott, particularly in matters of orthography, punctuation, and (with the notable exception of the problematic final scene) the attribution of lines. Like Arnott, Ireland favours restoration of lacunose passages exempli gratia - a reasonable practice for an editor who must also proffer a readable English translation. (Instances where Ireland diverges from both Sandbach and Arnott -- apart from conjectural restorations -- include lines 114, 396, 769, 836-40, 909, 920, and 959.) The critical apparatus is useful but, in places, selective. In his Preface Ireland states that his concern is less with textual matters than with questions of interpretation, yet he displays a clear familiarity with textual issues. What is less clear is whether his reporting of the papyrus readings is based on autopsy or on earlier editions: there is often little agreement between Ireland, Sandbach, and Arnott regarding what is or is not legible in the Bodmer papyrus. (For the record, the list of minor sources on p. 24 should now include the rather scrappy P.Oxy. 4018 and 4019.)

In accordance with the spirit of the Aris and Phillips series, the commentary focuses on matters of literary interpretation and dramatic technique readily accessible to readers of Ireland's English translation. Difficulties in the text other than line attribution are dealt with only rarely: students struggling with Menander's Greek will find little help beyond the implicit clues offered by Ireland's English rendition. This strategy will be of concern to those who might wish to use the text in a second or third year Greek class but is justified by the series format. Editors in this series have always risked falling between two stools should they attempt to please the philologists while offering a text that accommodates a Greekless audience. The danger of such an approach is that, in the end, the commentator's efforts become so diluted as to please neither camp, while any opportunity for an original contribution to our understanding of the work is largely squandered.

This danger Ireland has admirably avoided. On the other hand, his focus on the English translation limits the range and nuance of his particular comments: one finds little discussion, e.g., of the metrical texture of specific passages or of diction and style. What discussion is offered is excellent but must, of necessity, be general. (See, e.g., the treatment of Gorgias' initial confrontation with Sostratus in Ireland's comments ad 269-314 and 271-83: the reader is offered several interesting insights into the characterisation of Gorgias but must puzzle out the specifics for him/herself, as in the unexplained reference to 'an instance of grammatical illogicality in the Greek' at the conclusion of 271-83; cf. the reference ad 107 to 'some convoluted phrasing'. The failure to account for PAI at 500 obscures an important argument for the presence of Getas in this scene. I am not certain that 'be on night-shift' at 858 clearly conveys the bawdy nuances of PANNUXIOUMEN, nor does the note ad loc. remark upon this relatively rare instance of vulgarity in the play. At 947 the English reader is given an excellent sense of the elevated style and diction of the passage but no indication of what echoes might have occurred to Menander's audience.) The result is an edition that will be of great use to Greekless readers but that will need to be supplemented in the typical language class.

Ireland's approach to the play is quite conservative, concentrating mainly on: 1) characterisation and the interplay between the different characters; 2) dramatic devices and techniques. The attempt to recreate the mind-sets of the characters is rather old-fashioned and in places is carried to excess (e.g., at 269-314 Gorgias' pomposity suggests 'that while he has a well-developed sense of right and wrong ... he has never needed to put such feelings into words'); at times it seems simply misguided (e.g., the repeated criticism of Sostratus' tendency to exploit others). There are advantages to this approach, however, since it allows Ireland to explore the complex relationship between plot and character. Ireland immerses his audience in the world of the play, consistently providing interesting insights into the logic of particular exchanges and of the various decisions taken by the characters as the play proceeds.

Because the focus is on characterisation, broader thematic issues receive somewhat less attention: there are useful observations passim on the audience's changing views of Cnemon, the different explanations of his misanthropy, and the theme of AUTARKEIA (see ad 6-7, 190-91, 218, 327, 381-92, 442-55, 597, 604, 670-71, 708-47, introductory note for Act V, 830, 880), but little attempt at a general synthesis. (Cf. above on the role of tyche in the play.) The discussions of Menander's dramaturgy are very good as well: there are useful observations throughout on stock characters, the managing of entrances and exits, bridges, mirror scenes, red herrings, the treatment of time in the play, etc., nicely illustrated by citations of comparative material from other works. (Particularly nice is the discussion ad 880 on the shift in tone and dramatic mode that occurs there.) The outstanding virtue of the commentary, however, is the way Ireland consistently leads the reader to appreciate individual passages in terms both of what occurs elsewhere in the play and of the general practice of Menander and the other comic playwrights.

The translation is fluid and generally true to the spirit of the Greek. Ireland has a talent for the well-turned phrase that nicely captures the sense of the original, but he does not attempt a strictly literal rendering. (Again he has the Greekless reader in mind, to the point that in places the specifically Greek context is effaced: e.g., at 94 and passim NH\ *DI/' becomes 'By God'; in the note ad 297 SUKOFA/NTHS is rendered 'blackmailer'. Yet at line 59 hetaira is merely transliterated, with an explanatory note in the commentary.)

On the whole, however, the translation seems geared toward a reading audience: those interested in producing the play will probably turn elsewhere for a stageable version. The accompanying stage directions are serviceable but limited (e.g., at 81 Ireland notes that Pyrrhias 'rushes on from the left at breakneck speed' but gives little idea of his movements thereafter or how the scene might be effectively presented; if line 592 is given to Cnemon, TOU/TW| indicates that he is carrying the broken rope and perhaps using it to threaten Simiche). Nor are practical issues always addressed. (E.g., how readily could the actor who is to play Cnemon exit along the right eisodos as Chaireas at 135, only to appear via the left eisodos at 145?[1] Need Chaireas exit to the right? Does Cnemon, who is agitated [148] and therefore probably walking at a brisk pace, not in fact appear until 151-52 [in which case 144 -- U(PA/GW, BE/LTISTE -- is comically shouted offstage, while Sostratus' description at 145-52 serves to increase the audience's suspense]? Or is this play designed for a raised stage, where such lightning transitions might be more practical?) The commentary itself deals directly with staging relatively rarely: see, e.g., ad 257, 364-65, 381-92, 459, 522- 23, 690, 821, 893, 905-10, 959.

Ireland's introduction contains sections of interest to potential producers ('3. The Theatre in Menander's Day', '4. The Actors', '9. The Setting of the Play'), accompanied by useful bibliography. The one serious flaw here lies in the treatment of the archaeology of the Theatre of Dionysus, where the principal sources cited are Pickard-Cambridge's Theatre of Dionysus and Bieber (both out of date) [2] and where the question of a raised stage requires more detailed consideration. More detailed discussion of costuming, masks, and role-division would also be useful: here and elsewhere Ireland relies on the reader to consult his bibliographic references.

Like the rest of this edition, the bibliography is learned without being overburdened. The majority of the studies cited are in English, but works in Italian, Modern Greek, and (esp.) French and German also appear, providing an excellent overview of current work on Menander and New Comedy. (It would be helpful, however, if future editors in the series would include the volume numbers of journals in their citations.) I have already suggested some additions; other useful works (not all of them available to Ireland at the time of publication) include H.-G. Nesselrath, Die attische Mittlere Komödie (Berlin 1990); K. S. Rothwell, Jr., 'The Continuity of the Chorus in Fourth-Century Attic Comedy', GRBS 33 (1992) 209-25; R. Scodel, 'Tragic Sacrifice and Menandrian Cooking', in R. Scodel (ed.) Theater and Society in the Classical World (Ann Arbor 1993) 161-76 (ad Dysc. 398-99 and 489); Y. Z. Tzifopoulos, 'Proverbs in Menander's Dyskolos: The Rhetoric of Popular Wisdom', Mnemosyne 48 (1995) 169-77; E. Dickey, 'Forms of Address and Conversational Language in Aristophanes and Menander', Mnemosyne 48 (1995) 257-71.

The production values of this volume show some improvement over those of another recent edition in this series (see S. Douglas Olson's review of Sommerstein's Thesmophoriazusae in BMCR 95.2.21): the Greek font is readable (no danger, for example, of confusing nu and upsilon); line numbers for the Greek text are provided in the left margin rather than buried in the binding; the text itself (both English and Greek) is remarkably free of errors - a rarity in this day and age. (A cursory perusal of the Greek revealed few serious mistakes: failure to mark elision at 129; NEANI/SKW|= for NEANI/SKW| at 414; a missing period at the end of 753; PA/REIX]E for PA/REIK]E at 838 [also in the critical apparatus]. The critical apparatus ad 498 should read FLH/NAFOS. Errors in the English -- mainly in the bibliography -- are generally limited to punctuation and spacing. The obelus should be added to the list of textual marks at the bottom of p. 25.) The lines of the Greek text do often seem rather crammed on the page, however, with no attempt to indicate entrances, exits, or pauses in the action. And the apparatus criticus once again lies buried in the back of the book, making it unlikely that many students will consult it. Most noticeable, though, is the washed out appearance of the print, particularly that of any Greek text cited in the commentary and any text in italics: many pages of the English translation look as if they were produced on a photocopier in need of a good dose of toner, while the Greek of the apparatus criticus is in places so faint as to be almost illegible. (Luckily the text of the play itself seems to have been produced separately, using a different font.) And if that were not bad enough, the print is often smeared. The varying - and generally bad - quality control in this series must remain a mystery to anyone familiar with desktop publishing in the 90s.

These criticisms aside, however, Ireland has produced a useful edition that has much to offer anyone interested in Menander's artistry. The series format has imposed certain restrictions on his approach, but one consistently has the sense of being guided by an intelligent, sympathetic, and scholarly student of the play and its author.


[1] On such issues cf. C. W. Marshall, 'The Rule of Three Actors in Practice,' Text and Presentation 15 (1994) 53-61.

[2] See, e.g., W. W. Wurster, 'Die Architektur des griechischen Theaters,' Antike Welt 24.1 (1993) 20-42. Other relevant recent works are E. Csapo and W. J. Slater, The Context of Ancient Drama (Ann Arbor 1995), which offers a useful bibliography, and T. B. L. Webster, J. Green, and A. Seeberg, Monuments Illustrating New Comedy (Third edition; London 1995).

John R. Porter
University of Saskatchewan

(John R. Porter is one of the organizers of the 'Crossing the Stages' conference to be held in Saskatchewan in October 1997.)