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India, Greece and Rome 1757–2007 (BICS Supplement 108)

Epitrrepontes, or ’The Arbitration’, which Menander produced around 300 BC, tackles the modern-sounding subject of a broken marriage. Charisios has left his young wife Pamphile over a suspected infidelity and moved in with his neighbour to drown his sorrows in wine and women, specifically, a spirited harp-girl called Habrotonon. The irate father-in-law will not tolerate this waste of a good dowry and demands of his daughter that she divorce. Bravely she holds out against her father’s tirades and remains loyal to her husband. A complex and masterly dramatic sequence ensures that by the end ’all’s well that ends well’ - and Menander has struck a blow for equality of the sexes, for understanding over arrogance and pride. A large portion of the Epitrepontes was recovered from oblivion in 1905. Since then new papyrus finds have continued to fill the gaps. This edition makes available to the reader all known papyri of the play, including the most recent. The commentary aims to explain the printed text, to place Menander’s language in the context of Athenian dramatic art and rhetoric, and to appreciate his subtle insights into the psychology of his characters, from the huffy father-in-law Smikrines to the ’little people’ of the comedy, the slaves, each with their private agenda.

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