The Man Who Wrote 120 Plays! (Post No.4132)

Compiled by London Swaminathan


Date: 5 August 2017


Time uploaded in London- 15-38


Post No. 4132

Pictures shown here are taken from various sources such as Facebook friends, Books, Google and newspapers; thanks.


Menander 100 Plays

Menander was a Greek comic dramatist. Though he was known only by reputation, some fragments of his plays were discovered in 1957 in Egyptian papyrus. he lived between 342 BCE and 291 BCE. His comedies with their wit and ingenuity of plot often cornering domestic intrigue, were adapted by Roman comic dramatists Plautus and Terence.


Menander was born in Athens. into a wealthy family. Scholars think that his father was a general and prominent politician. Menander probably got his enthusiasm for the theatre from his uncle Alexis, who was a friend of several playwrights.


Not much is known about Menander’s life, and very little of his writing has survived. He is remembered because other writers, particularly the Roman writers Terence and Plautus, based many of their plays on his. For centuries after his death Menander was the most popular of ancient Greek writers.


Drama had been an important part of Greek society for hundreds of years before Menander was born. Regular competitions were held to find the best play., and almost everybody attended drama festivals to see the entrants. The earliest dramas were tragedies. Later, comedy became more popular and writers such as Aristophanes wrote plays in a style known as Old Attic Comedy (attic came from the region Attica in Greece). Menander became the leading representative of a more sophisticated style known as New Attic Comedy.


Although he wrote over 100 plays, Menander won drama prizes only eight times! His comedy was much more subtle and clever than audiences were used to and was not popular with the ordinary public. Though the work of later imitators, however Menander became the inspiration for a style of European drama called comedy of manners, which has been popular since the 17th century.



Only one of Menander’s plays survives in a complete form: ‘The Bad Tempered Man’, performed about 317 BCE. Fragments of other plays have been found. Their titles include ‘Anger’, ‘Afraid of Noises’, ‘The Unpopular Man’ and ‘The Girl with her Hair Cut Short’.



Sophocles 120 Plays

Sophocles was one of the great playwrights of ancient Greece. He developed the art of tragic drama from the work of the first tragic playwright Aeschylus. Sophocles was born into a wealthy family at Colonus, near the city of Athens. He was well educated and mixed with some of the most powerful figures of his day.


Drama was an important part of ancient Athenian society. Plays were treated  as a kind of public political and religious discussion. Playwrights addressed important issues of the day by presenting stories from mythology that contained problems or dilemmas similar to the ones being faced by the city.


During Sophocles’ life time Athens fought a long and bitter war, called the Peloponnesian War, with its archival, the City of Sparta. Many of Sophocles plays reflect the patriotic mood of the Athenian people and later, their desire for peace. His play Antigone, which is about moral dilemmas faced by people in a war, so impressed the Athenians that they elected him to be a general in the army.


in 486 BCE Sophocles entered the most important Athenian drama competition of the year for the first time. Aeschylus, by then a well-established and respected figure, regularly won the competition, but amazingly the unknown Sophocles beat him to first place. The result caused great excitement in Athens. Sophocles over 120 plays in his life time and went to win the first prize 24 times. When he won for the first time he was only 27 years old. He is credited with having developed tragedy by introducing a third actor and scene painting and ranked with Aeschylus and Euripides as one of the three great tragedians. He lived at the time when Pericles ruled the City of Athens, a period of great prosperity.


In his tragedies, heroic determination leads directly to violence unless, as in Philoctetes and Oedipus at Colonus, it contains an element of resignation. Among his other works are a lost treatise on the chorus, and a large surviving fragment of one of his satyr-dramas, Ichneutai

Only seven of his plays survived to the present day.

Born 496 BCE

Died 406 BCE

Age at Death 90


450 BCE- Ajax

442 – Antigone

430 – Oedipus the King

420 – Women of Trachis

413 – Electra

409 – Philocteles


Published after he died

401 BCE – Oedipus at Colonus


Following anecdotes are from my old posts:

Sophocles (406 BCE) wrote tragedies to the end of his long life. On account of this zeal for writing he seemed to be neglecting his business affairs so his sons summoned him to court that a jury may pronounce him as incompetent to manage his estate on the ground of senility. Then the old man is said to have recited to his judges a play which he has just finished and had in his hands, the Oedipus at Colonous and to have asked whether the poem seemed the work of a man

In his dotage (old and weak period).  After his recitation he was freed by the vote of the jurors.



Words are more powerful than Swords!- Euripides


The power of pen is excellently illustrated by an incident in the war between the ancient Greeks and Romans. A group of Athenians were seized and held captive at Syracuse. To help pass the time they enacted many scenes from the plays of Euripides (480 BCE) . Their captors were so favourably impressed by the beauty of the verses that instead of treating their prisoners cruelly as was their custom, they persuaded them to continue their play acting and held them as their as honorary guests.


Upon their return to Athens, the former captives went to the home of Euripides and informed him of the effect of his plays upon the supposedly heartless men of Syracuse. So great was their gratitude toward the great dramatist they treated him as though he had actually rescued them in combat on the field of the battle.




Leave a comment

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: