Theophrastus’ Characters: An Ancient Take on Bad Behavior

Callaway Arts & Entertainment Sept. 2022. 1:20 hrs. ISBN 9798212170499. $24.95. LIT
Romm (classics, Bard Coll.; How To Die: An Ancient Guide to the End of Life) offers an illuminating introduction to Greek philosopher Theophrastus’s startlingly relevant series of character sketches. Theophrastus, sometimes referred to as the “father of botany,” is best known for his scholarship in the natural sciences. With these 30 depictions, charmingly translated by Pamela Mensch, Theophrastus abandons the scholarly, instead presenting a damning, but entertaining catalog of human failings and character flaws. The narrator, actor Billy Crudup, delivers these character sketches with perfectly pitched sardonicism and wit, making it possible for listeners to imagine Theophrastus’s lip curl or eye roll as he describes the Flatterer, the Pinchpenny, the Busybody, the Vulgar Man, the Social Climber, and many others. These characters—just as familiar in modern times as they would have been in Theophrastus’s world—may remind listeners of people they know and might also prompt self-reflection. After all, no one wants to be the Babbler, drowning victims with incessant chatter, or the Complainer, who moans over even the loveliest gifts.
VERDICT Although not a first-tier purchase, this refreshing audio provides an excellent entry to Theophrastus’s work and would be a welcome addition to most nonfiction audio collections.
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