Theophrastus's Characters

An Ancient Take on Bad Behavior

By Theophrastus

Translated by Pamela Mensch

Introduction by James Romm

Read by Billy Crudup

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Play Sample

Runtime

1h 20m

Release

08-30-22

Abridgement

Unabridged

Genre

Nonfiction/Literary Collections

Runtime

1h 20m

Release

08-30-22

Abridgement

Unabridged

Genre

Nonfiction/Literary Collections

Overview

Read by Billy Crudup

"These Characters are people we know―they're our quirky neighbors, our creepy bosses, our blind dates from hell. Sharp-tongued Theophrastus, made sharper than ever in this fresh new edition, reminds us that Athenian weirdness is as ageless as Athenian wisdom." —Mary Beard, Professor of Classics at Cambridge University, presenter of BBC's Civilisations

When Aristotle wrote that that "comedy is about people worse than ourselves," he may have been recalling a hard-edged gem of a treatise written by his favorite student, Theophrastus. Theophrastus's Characters is a joyous festival of fault-finding: a collection of thirty closely observed personality portraits, defining the full spectrum of human flaws, failings, and follies. With piquant details of speech and behavior taken straight off the streets of ancient Athens, Theophrastus gives us sketches of the mean, vile, and annoying that are comically distorted yet vividly real.

Enlivened by Pamela Mensch's fresh translation―the first widely available English version in over half a century―Theophrastus's Characters transports us to a world populated by figures of flesh and blood, not bronze and marble. The wry, inventive drawings help envoke the cankered wit of this most modern of ancient texts. Lightly but helpfully annotated by classicist James Romm, these thirty thumbnail portraits are startlingly recognizable twenty-three centuries later. The characters of Theophrastus are archetypes of human nature that remain insightful, caustic, and relevant.

Theophrastus

Author Biography

Theophrastus went to Athens as a youth and studied in Plato’s school. After Plato’s death, he became a colleague of Aristotle and was his successor at the Lyceum. Theophrastus presided over the Peripatetic school for thirty-six years.. He is also recognized for his work in botany.