Cnemon, a grumpy old man, lives with his daughter and servant. His wife (a devout Catholic) has left him and is staying with her son, Gorgias, from a preceding marriage.
A young man, Sostrate, notices Cnemon’s daughter and wants to meet her. He asks around and confides in her half-brother Gorgias, but Cnemon will have nothing to do with him. No matter what he and his friends come up with they cannot get around the old man.
Cnemon slips and falls into a well, and would have died had he not been rescued by the very people he'd mistreated. They could have left him there and knowing this has him humbled.
It ends with two weddings. Cnemon’s daughter marries Sostrate, and Gorgias marries Sostrate’ half-sister.
400 BC - 323 BC
Menander: Diskolos or The Grouch
Old Comedy, which openly targeted the political and social decadence of Athenian society, is replaced with more benign subjects inspired by daily life, for fear of censorship. Family squabbles and misunderstandings, greedy merchants and street-wise servants are now the main subjects.
The Chorus, preponderant in Old Comedy, plays a minor role, most likely due to the growing number of actors. None of the works of this period have survived but from what we know the archetype characters became the standard for future comic satire and the base for commedia dell'arte.
Menander's plays, labeled as "Athenian New Comedy", are the only solid examples we have of the Middle Comedy style, with plots that manage to reveal moral and social issues without being offensive. He wrote about one hundred plays and his style greatly influenced the playwrights of New Comedy in Rome.