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Modern scholars of New Comic language have generally echoed Plutarch’s assertion in A Comparison Between Aristophanes and Menander that, unlike Aristophanes, Menander artfully weaves variations of syntax into a crafted, polished whole. Sandbach’s treatment (1970) of Menander’s linguistic zeal remains the seminal work in this area. It traces not only the syntactical aberrations which reflect a character’s age, ethnicity, and status, but also those which reflect the persona’s character. Despite his achievements in this area, Sandbach leaves much room for additional analysis, as for instance in understanding the antithetical speech pattern of Gorgias, a poor, rustic youth in the Dyskolos. Whereas Sandbach asserts that Gorgias’ ability to speak like an orator is merely a function of his copious free time, I contend that, despite age and social status, Gorgias’ oratorical speech patterns indicate his innate virtue— a habituated state best understood in light of Aristotle’s comments on character and persuasion in the Rhetoric. Therefore the present paper stresses the union between á¼”ργον and λÏŒγος in Gorgias’ character. After establishing his virtuous behavior with his congruence to Aristotle’s prime of age man (1390a-b), I argue how Gorgias reaffirms this virtue by mapping his antithetical speech pattern onto the triad of persuasive speech (1378a), Aristotle’s assessment of the qualities most necessary for persuasive oratory.

Aristotle defines the prime of age man with language akin to the excess, deficiency, and mean of moral virtue in the Nicomachean Ethics. When the prime of age man exhibits propriety in age, trust, and courage, and shows a willingness to act in accordance with what is fitting, he attains a virtuous mean. In the Dyskolos, the presence of notoriously old and youthful characters like Knemon and Sostratos provide a pointed contrast to Gorgias and allow him to subtract the excesses from their personalities and achieve a mean between them. Menander introduces this idea in the prologue when Pan states that Gorgias is a responsible young man, wise beyond his years. His actions throughout the play support this assertion: after an initial outburst of cynicism in the vein of his stepfather Knemon, Gorgias learns to trust Sostratos, whom he eventually accepts as a friend; with quiet courage Gorgias unflinchingly rescues his step-father Knemon from the well; and Gorgias cites his devotion to his modest farm to explain why he has not fallen in love.

Given his virtuous behavior, it is fitting that each of Gorgias’ antithetical speech constructions includes a component of Aristotle’s triad of persuasion: practical wisdom (φρÏŒνησις),virtue (á¼€ρετή),and goodwill (εá½”νοια). Yet contrasted with his many virtuous antitheses is his lengthy moralizing speech to Sostratos. It is generally agreed that Gorgias fails to persuade Sostratos of his guilt because he unsuccessfully mimics what he thinks a wealthy man like Sostratos would want to hear (Arnott 1981; Gomme and Sandbach 1973; Rosivach 2001). However, none of these authors treat the failed speech in light of Gorgias’ innate antithetical speech patterns elsewhere in the play. I argue instead that his failed speech to Sostratos also shows a lack of virtue, and therefore I treat Gorgias’ speech patterns in terms of his virtuous character for its own sake, rather than as a contrast to other characters.

It is difficult to argue conclusively for an outright relationship between Menander’s plays and the Peripatetic school; however, several authors have indicated the likelihood of the connection (e.g., Barigazzi 1965; Webster 1960). My reading of the Dyskolos draws on this probability and promotes Peripatetic virtue, in addition to age, status, or education, as another lens through which to judge speech patterns in ancient comedy.

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