Tag: Theophrastus

125. Characters by Theophrastus (371-287 BC)

125. Characters by Theophrastus (371-287 BC)

Plot:  A set of 30 brief character sketches (all bad) which may have been written as examples for characterizations in comic plays such as Old Cantankerous (#15 The Hostile Man, no doubt – see my post for 124. Dyskolos by Menander)

My copy is the older Penguin Classic (1967) translated by Philip Vellacott, also containing the surviving works of Menander.

My thoughts: Perhaps better known as the Father of Botany, Theophrastus not only took over from Aristotle as the head of his school, but also wrote extensively on just as wide a range of subjects. Not so much survives, and as I am not a great fan of the botanical sciences, I have restricted myself to this small serve in the literary vein.

I must confess disappointment that these sketches were not more amusing. Each trait (e.g. the flatterer, the boor, the talker, the skinflint, the offensive, the tiresome, etc.) is described and then examples of typical behaviour are listed. Plenty of scope for humour here but none of them raised even a smile for me. Better off reading Dickens and seeing them fleshed out.

This style was repeated  later by authors such as Ben Jonson and George Eliot  -let’s hope they do better.

Favourite lines/passages:  None.

Personal rating: Meh. 3/10

Kimmy’s rating:  Slept through.

Next : Still have Politics (#122) andThe Athenian Constitution (#123), both by Aristotle to get back to, then another slog through the Old Testament and the Books of Ezekiel and Daniel (#126), After that it will be a voyage to China to meet up with Mencius, and then a relaxing sea cruise in search of the Golden Fleece. The end of the Greeks is in sight.

 

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