|Abstract:||The traditional theme of "the reversed social order" (in
which the last become the first) , involving an illusory, Utopian
solution of the play's plot, is present in almost every
Aristophanic comedy. But the denouement of the Menandrean comedy
proves to be equally illusory and Utopian, with the only
significant difference that in Aristophanes the Utopia extends
to the entire society, while in Menander it is limited to the
interests of two or three families.
Now, in Aristophanes Utopian solutions may have been encouraged
by the nature of the traditional literary genre itself.
But in Menander such an "illusory harmony" only attests to
the incompatibility between the fresh — mostly peripatetic —
social and ethical ideals, and the surrounding reality. In brief,
Menander 's characters are not real Athenians but rather idealized
models. The poet consistently re-examines the traditional
characters in an effort to transform them into more humane,
conscientious, noble-minded, self-denying, ideal human beings.
Such is the case with the hetaera and with the professional
soldier, while the traditional abuse of the parasite and the
cook is reduced to a minimum. Accordingly, the traditional
theme of "the acquisition of the bride" is also re-evaluated,
usually ending in a legitimate matrimony.
Finally, there are no real antagonistic forces in action
in a Menandrean comedy: Chance is everybody's fiend or friend.
She creates misunderstanding, confusion and conflict, and she
usually brings them to a happy solution.
The author substantiates these remarks with many examples