Menander: Extract from "Perikeiromene" (The Girl with the Cut Hair) |
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Ancient Greece

Menander: Extract from “Perikeiromene” (The Girl with the Cut Hair)


Menander (342-292 B.C.) was the leading writer of Athenian New Comedy, a genre which replaced the world of Aristophanes’ Old Comedy with a more romantic one, in which love entanglements, abandoned or kidnapped children, and recognition through trinkets play an important part. New Comedy also established character types such as the bragging soldier, the quick-witted slave, and the angry father, which have been central to comedy in the modern world. Howver complicated Menander’s plots may be, the situations and the the characters still appear natural. Menander’s plays were lost in the Seventh and Eighth Centuries A.D., but much of his work, including substantial fragments of this play, came to light in the Twentieth Century on newly-discovered papyri.

Lines 486-525.

Polemon, a young mercenary soldier, has quarrelled with his girl-friend Glycera as a result of a misunderstanding. He has already cut off her hair with his sword, and she has left him. Now, as he plans to regain her by violent means, their mutual friend Pataecus tries to persuade him to take a more diplomatic line.

The text of this extract is taken from “A Greek Anthology”, Joint Association of Classical Teachers, Cambridge University Press, 2002.

PATAECUS: If what happened such as you describe was something like this and (you had lost) your wedded wife.

POLEMON: (It is) such as you say, Pataecus.

PA: It is a bit different.

PO: I have been regarding her as my wedded wife.

PA: Don’t shout!
And who is the giver?

PO: Who (gave her) to me? She herself.

PA: Absolutely fine!
You pleased her, perhaps, but now no longer. And with you not treating her in a decent manner, she has gone away.

PO: What do you mean? Not in a decent manner? Saying this of all things, you have distressed me particularly.

PA: You love (her).
I know this for certain. So that what you are now doing is crazy. And where are you now rushing to? Or are you intending to seize someone? She is responsible for herself. Persuasion is (the one course) left to the badly discontented lover.

PO: Is he not wronging me, the man who has been corrupted her in my absence?

PA: He is wronging you, so that you can bring a charge against (him), if ever you came to an argument. But if you kidnap (her) by force, you will incur justice. For wrongdoing is not a matter for (private) vengeance but a formal complaint.

PO: Not even now!

PA: Not even now!

PO: I don’t know what I am to say, except, by Demeter, I shall hang myself. Glycera has left me, Glycera has left me, Pataecus. But, if indeed it seems good to you to do so – for you were intimate (with her) and have often chatted with her before now – go in and talk (with her), be my ambassador, I beseech you.

PA: It seems good to me to do this, you see.

PO: No doubt, you are able to make a case, Pataecus?

PA: Fairly well!

PO: But, indeed, Pataecus, it is necessary.
It is the very way of saving the (whole) business. For if I ever yet did (her) wrong in any way at all – if I do not continue to love and to cherish (her) – if you would come and see her finery –

PA: That’s fine!

PO: Come and see (it), Pataecus, in the name of the gods! You will feel (all) the more sorry for me.

PA: O Poseidon!

PO: Come here!
And what dresses! And how (wonderful) she appears when she puts any one of them on! For perhaps you haven’t seen (her).

PA. Indeed I have.

PO: For that spendour was surely worth a look. But why am I now bringing this into the discussion? Am I stark-staring mad, chatting about other things?

PA: (Not at all), by Zeus!

PO: Don’t you think? But it is necessary, Pataecus, that you come and see (it). Step this way!


The lovers are eventually reconciled.

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