Menander's Epitrepontes ("Arbitration") dramatizes the conflict and resolution between two neighboring households in Athens. The Greek title refers to men engaging in arbitration to resolve one part of the conflict, alluding specifically to the extended scene in Act 2 of the play where characters pursue a comic version of legal arbitration to determine who rightfully owns property found alongside a baby recovered on one of the estates. At this point in the play, no character knows the identity of the baby, but the gradual discovery of the identities of the baby's parents will lead to the resolution of multiple strands of conflict along the way. The startling yet bumbling path to these discoveries constitutes one of the most illustrious examples of a distinct and incalculably influential type of drama, Greek "New Comedy" by its unrivaled progenitor, Menander.
Menander, as the playwright most identified with the “New Comedy” revolution, ranks among the most influential but least read of playwrights. For newer students of Greek, moreover, his language is easily the most accessible of the five ancient Greek playwrights for whom complete scripts survive (the others being Aeschylus, Sophocles, Euripides and Aristophanes). While there are editions of the two most complete scripts of Menander (Dyskolos and Samia) for the non-specialist, the Epitrepontes has emerged as an especially compelling play in spite of only half or so of the script having been recovered.
These factors alone suggested the potential value of an intermediate reader of Menander’s Epitrepontes, but the project quickly swelled to something more ambitious. Scripts are just that, scripts. Whether for a play, a movie, or some other performance, a script is a prompt and resource for that performance. Vocabulary and notes are helpful for reading the script, but it would take more to make this reader full support for Menander’s play.
Hence what you see here has more than the usual components of an intermediate Greek reader, all possible only with the unique capabilities of the DCC series:
- The Greek text follows that of the Oxford Classical Text of F. H. Sandbach, Menandri Reliquiae Selectae (rev. 1990) 94-130, 347-50.
- Vocabulary: The vocabulary section includes only words in the script that are not in the DCC Greek Core. These are not full vocabulary entries, but the forms and glosses relevant to the use of the word in the script. The goal is to facilitate reading and comprehension, so entries are given for words in the order in which they appear in the script.
- Notes: The notes have two goals:
- They explain briefly grammatical constructions and idioms that are less likely to be familiar to intermediate readers of Greek, as well as occasional places where the script is deficient or poses problems that perplex even expert scholars. Where relevant, references are included to the corresponding sections of the DCC digital version of Thomas Dwight Goodell’s A School Grammar of Attic Greek and to the Cambridge Grammar of Classical Greek (CGCG).
- Because scripts of Greek plays, and even to varying degrees most translations of them, lack stage directions and information about stage action, some notes provide inferences about the stage action based on the Greek. The goal is to facilitate not just reading the script but continually working to visualize the full play in action.
- Translation: The translation is included also to facilitate understanding the play, not just the script. The translation of the script is an attempt to convey the thrust of the line in the Greek script as viable English when performed live, along with the information that a director or actor would today typically expect of a play script. It is thus not a “literal” translation (translations that match the Greek more precisely word-by-word are available elsewhere). The translation is in fact the script used in a live performance in April 2021 at LSU’s Greek Theater under the direction of Marie Plunkett.
For more about Menander and this play, visit the Introduction.
Wilfred Major, April 15, 2022
Cover image: Detail from a terracotta calyx-krater (mixing bowl), ca. 400–390 B.C., attributed to the Dolon Painter. Metropolitan Museum, New York, accession number 24.97.104. Scene from a phlyax play, a type of farce favored in Southern Italy.