MENANDER (?344/3-292/1 B.C.) of Athens was the leading playright of the 'New Comedy', a type of drama which has influenced the modern 'Comedy of Manners' and (indirectly at least writers as disparate as Oscar Wilde and P.G. Wodehouse. Menander wrote more than 100 plays, but did not become a star until after his death. Many of his comedies were adapted by Roman dramatists. By the middle ages, however, his works were lost, apart from quotations like 'He whom the gods love dies while still a youngster.' Then at the end of the nineteenth century, papyrus texts, preserved from antiquity by the dry heat of Egypt, began to be discovered. These have yielded so far one play virtually complete (Dyskolos), large continuous portions of four more (Aspis, Epitrepontes, Perikeiromene, Samia), and sizable chunks of many others. Menander remains a paradox: artificial plots based on unlikely but conventional coincidences, enlivened by individualised characters, realistic situations and at times deeply moving dialogue. 'Menander and life, which of you imitated the other?'
Volume III. This volume completes the Loeb Classical Library's new edition of the leading writer of New Comedy. W. Geoffrey Arnott, an internationally recognized Menander expert, provides a Greek text based on careful study of recently discovered papyri, a skilful translation, and full explanatory notes. So influential in antiquity -- his plays were adapted for the Roman stage by Plautus and Terence -- Menander's comic art can now be fully known and enjoyed. It is a comedy that focuses on the hazards of love and trials of family life. Volume III begins with Samia (The Woman from Samos), which has come down to us nearly complete. Here too are the very substantial extant portions of Sikyonioi (The Sicyonians) and Phasma (The Apparition) as well as Synaristosai (Women Lunching Together), on which Plautus' Cistellaria was based. The volume also includes a selection of papyrus fragments attributed to Menander. The surviving portions of ten Menander plays are in the second volume of Arnott's widely praised edition. Among these are the recently published fragments of Misoumenos (The Man She Hated), which sympathetically presents the flawed relationship of a soldier and a captive girl; and the surviving half of Perikeiromene (The Girl with Her Hair Cut Short), a comedy of mistaken identity and lovers' quarrel. Volume I contains six of Menander's plays, including the only complete one extant, Dyskolos (The Peevish Fellow), which won first prize in Athens in 317 B.C., and Dis Expaton (Twice a Swindler), the original of Plautus' Two Bacchises.