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MENANDER

This biography was originally published in A New General Biographical Dictionary. Hugh James Rose. London, 1857. p. 89.

MENANDER, the most celebrated of the Greek comic poets, was born at Athens B.C. 341. His father's name was Diopithes; and his master in philosophy was Theophrastus, according to the testimony of Pamphila. He is considered as the introducer of the New Comedy, which refined upon the grossness and licence of the old, and banished living and real characters from the stage. The title of the poet of nature was certainly his due, according to the exclamation of Aristophanes the grammarian, "O Menander and Nature, which of you copied from the workmanship of the other?" Quintilian gives him the fullest praise for his strength and consistency in the display of the characters of his dramas; and Ovid dwells upon the same merit, in enumerating this poet among those whose fame would be immortal. Julius Caesar, in calling the elegant Terence "dimidiatus Menander," and at the same time lamenting his deficiency in the vis comica, implies that the Greek dramatist possessed the latter quality, together with the excellences so much admired by the Roman. Menander composed 108 comedies, of which eight only gained the theatrical prize. Hence arose the well-known line of Martial: "Rara coronato plausere theatra Menandro." It is said that the mortification he felt at his rival Philemon being preferred to him, was the cause of his throwing himself into the harbour of the Piræus, where he was drowned B.C. 289, or 290, in the fifty-first, or fifty-second year of his age.

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