• (343 - 292 BC) Greek exponent of the New Comedy,whose witty and sophisticated plays had a major influence on the developmentof the modern comic tradition. Menander's plays gave a reduced roleto the chorus and avoided serious treatment of heroic, religious,or political themes. His realism prompted one critic to ask:
    O Menander and life, which of you imitated the other?
    Menander's plays are populated by conniving slaves, wily courtesans,domineering fathers, rebellious children, and other lively and bawdyurban characters. His complex plots often involve mistaken identitiesand problematic love affairs. These characteristics of his work influencedthe Roman writers Plautus and Terence, and, throughthem, Molière, Congreve, Wilde, and other writers of the comedyof manners.

    Menander's popularity earned him invitations to royal courtsin Egypt and Macedonia but he chose to remain in Athens, where heis thought to have drowned while swimming in the harbour.