The Nature and Purpose of the Characters

Diggle, James 2004. The Nature and Purpose of the Characters. In: Diggle, James (ed.), Theophrastus: Characters. Cambridge (etc.): Cambridge University Press, 4-26.

The history of the noun χαρακτήρ is discussed by A. Körte, Hermes 64 (1929 69-86 and B. A. van Groningen, Mnemosyne 58 (1930) 45-53. It describes the 'stamp' or 'imprint' on a coin, a distinguishing mark of type or value [...] It is also used figuratively, to describe the 'stamp' of facial or bodily features, by which kinship or race are distinguished [...] and the 'stamp' of speech, as marked by local dialect [...] or by a style of speech [...] or (in later literary criticism) by a style of writing... (Diggle 2004: 4)
This figurative sense is useful for my purposes; as a specific kind of behavior 'stamps' the person with a specific character.
A work entitled Χαρακτήρες advertises nothing more specific than 'types', 'marks', 'distinctive features', or 'styles'. This is not an adequate advertisement of Theophrastus' work. Definition is needed, and is provided by ήθικοί, whch the manuscripts have lost, but Diogenes Laertius has preserved. The title Characters, hallowed by usage, is both misleading and incomplete. The true title means something like Behavioural Types or Distinctive Marks of Character. (Diggle 2004: 5)
Suits my purposes well.
The Characters, in conception and design, is a novel work: nothing like it, so far as we know, had been attempted before. But antecedents and relations can be recognised. (Diggle 2004: 5)
Weird. Riikonen claims something similar about La Bruyére's Caractéres.
Like Homer, in his description of the δειλός and the αλκιμος, Theophrastus locates his characters in a specific time and place. The time is the late fourth century. The place is Athens. And it is an Athens whose daily life he recreates for us in dozens of dramatic pictures and incidents. If we look elsewhere for such scenes and such people, we shall not find them (until we come to the Mimes of Herodas) except on the comif stage. (Diggle 2004: 8)
That is, in describing characters one is unavoidably describing the characters of a specific chronotope.
Lycon, who succeeded Theophrastus's successor Straton as head of the Lyceum c. 269 BC, wrote a description of a drunkard, preserved in the Latin translation of Rutilius Lupus [...]. Rutilius adduces it as an example of characterismos, the schema by which an orator depicts virtues and vices, and he compares it to a painter's use of colours. (Diggle 2004: 9)
This is a valuable trope, as concursive aspects give literature similar "colour".
The Country Bumpkin is the sort of man who drinks a bowl of gruel before going to the Assembly and claims that garlic smells as sweetly as perfume, wears shoes too large for his feet and talks at the top of his voice (IV.2).
What could be more limpid than that? The Greek is simplicity itself, and conveys, in a very few words, a range of telling impressions, which develop logically the one from the other. First, he drinks for breakfast a qcqcqc κυκεών, highly flavoured broth or gruel. His breath will now be pungent. He goes to the Assembly, where he will meet townsmen, on whom he will pungently breathe. And he says that garlic smells as sweetly as perfume. There was (we infer) garlic in his gruel, and so there is garlic on his breath. In the town they smell not of garlic but of perfume. But perfume and garlic are all one to him. And he clomps his way to town in boots too big for him, and talks too loud. Sound, sight, smell: a slovenly carefree inconsiderate yokel. All that in twenty-six words. Lecture notes, never intended for publication? Or loquendi nitor ille diuinus? (Diggle 2004: 20-21)
This is a sketch of inconsiderate self-presentation, or ill-kempt social composure. Also Jean de La Bruyére is mentioned among many others in R. Aldington's A Book of 'Characters', from Theophrastus....

Theophrastus 2004. Characters. In: Diggle, James (ed.), Theophrastus: Characters. Cambridge (etc.): Cambridge University Press, 61-157.

[Dissembling, to define it in outline, would seem to be a pretence for the worse in action and speech.] The Dissembler is the sort of man who is ready to accost his enemies and chat with them. When he has attacked people behind their back he praises them to their face, and he commiserates with them when they have lost a lawsuit. (Theophrastus 2004: 65)
Commiserate - express or feel sympathy or pity. Accost - approach and address someone boldly or aggressively.
[Toadying may be interpreted as a degrading association, but one which is advantageous to the toadier.] The Toady is the sort of man who says to a person walking with him 'Are you aware of the admiring looks you are getting? This doesn't happen to anyone else in the city except you', and 'The esteem in which you are held was publicly acknowledged in the stoa yesterday' - thirty or more people were sitting there and the question cropped up who was the best man in the city, and his was the name they all arrived at, starting with the Toady. [...] When the man is speaking he tells the company to be quiet and praises him so that he can hear and at every pause adds an approving 'Well said', and bursts out laughing at a feeble joke and stuff his cloak in his mouth as if he can't control his laughter. (Theophrastus 2004: 69)
I think I know a Toady. He keeps on boasting "no one studies as much as you!"
[Chatter is the narration of a long and ill-considered speeches.] The Chatterbox is the sort of person who sits next to a complete stranger and first sings his own wife's praises, then recounts the dream he had last night, then describes in every detail what he had for dinner. [...] [Show a clean pair of heels, full steam ahead, avoid such people like the plague. It is hard to be happy with people who don't care whether you are free or busy.] (Theophrastus 2004: 73)
The moral is simple: respect people's time. Or, alternatively, don't abuse "the language band" (the obligation to stand or sit still while a person is going on long-windedly).
[Country-bumpkin Behaviour would seem to be ignorance of good form.] (Theophrastus 2004: 75)
Yup, lack of composure.
[It is not difficult to define Repulsiveness. It is conspicuous and reprehensible tomfoolery.] The Repulsive Man is the kind who lifts up his clothes and exposes himself in front of ladies. At the theatre he applauds when no one else is applauding and hisses actors whose performance the audience is enjoying, and when silence has fallen he raises head and burps to make spectators turn round. (Theophrastus 2004: 101)
It sounds like The Repulsive Man is either attention-hungry or self-invested so much as to be out of sync with others.
[Tactlessness is choosing a time which annoys the people one meets.] The Tactless Man is the kind who comes for a discussion when you are busy. He serenades his girlfriend when she is feverish. He approaches a man who has just forfeited a security deposit and asks him to stand bail. He arrives to give evidence after a case is closed. As a guest at a wedding he delivers a tirade against the female sex. When you have just returned home after a long journey he invites you to go for a walk. [...] He stands watching while a slave is being whipped and announces that a boy of his own once hanged after such a beating. (Theophrastus 2004: 103)
Aha, so tactlessness is actually related to tact (musical term). Tact is popularly defined as adroitness and sensitivity in dealing with others or with difficult issues. But the true meaning seems to be sensitivity to the appropriate time in dealing with others or with difficult issues.
[Overzealousness, you can be sure, would seem to be a wellmeaning appropriation of words and actions.] The Overzealous Man is the kind who stands up and promises more than he can deliver. When it is agreed that his case is a fair one he presses on and loses it. He insists on his slave mixing more wine than the company can drink. He steps between combatants, even though they are strangers to him. He leads people on a short cut, then cannot discover where he is heading. He goes to the commander-in-chief and asks him when he intends to take the field and what will be his orders for the day after the next. (Theophrastus 2004: 105)
Damn, sounds like me.
[Self-centredness is implacability in social relations displayed in speech.] The Self-Centred Man is the kind who, when asked 'Where is so-and-so?, replies 'Don't bother me'. He will not return a greeting. [...] He won't wait long for anyone. He refuses to sing or recite or dance. And he is apt to withhold credit from the gods. (Theophrastus 2004: 109)
I wonder what would be the nonverbal manifestations of self-centredness, aside from the obvious "autistic gestures" (self-manipulations). Now waiting long for anyone could be one in the chronemic sense, but what of space, touching, looking, etc.?
[Offensiveness is a distressing neglect of the person.] The Offensive Man ... is quite apt to have sores on his shins and lesions on his toes, and instead of treating them he lets them fester. His armpits are infested with lice and their hair extends over much of his sides, and his teeth are black and rotten [so that he is no pleasure to meet. And so on.] (Theophrastus 2004: 119)
Offensiveness is therefore related to personal upkeeping, health and cleanliness.
[Petty Ambition would seem to be a mean desire for prestige.] The Man of Petty Ambition is the kind who, when he gets an invitation to dinner, is eager to sit next to the host. He takes his son to Delphi to have his hair cut. (Theophrastus 2004: 125)
It sounds likt the Man of Petty Ambition has no respect for status roles.
[Arrogance is a contempt for everyone other than oneself.] The Arrogant Man [...] will never be the one to make the first approach. People who wish to sell or hire something are told to present themselves at his house at daybreak. As he walsk in the street he does not speak to passers-by but keeps his head down and looks up only when it suits him. (Theophrastus 2004: 135)
In light of this, arrogance also seems like something that has shifted meaning over the last two thousand years. Today it is defined as overbrearing pride evidenced by a superior manner towards inferiors. Instead of "inferiors" it should read "everyone else".
[Oligarhy would seem to be a <:policy> covetous of power and profit.] The Oligarchic Man is the kind who steps forward, when the people are considering whom they will appoint in addition to help the archon witht he procession, and gives as his opinion that those appointed should have plenary powers,a nd says, if others propose ten, 'One is enough; but he must be a real man.' (Theophrastus 2004: 141)
In short, the oligarhic man values money and power over morality and other values.

Hicks, E. L. 1882. On the Characters of Theophrastus. The Journal of Hellenic Studies 3: 128-143.

The very quality in Theophrastus which some have called 'superficial,' makes a fresh demand upon the reader. The author indicates only the external symptoms of character, not concerning himself with a deeper analysis. (Hicks 1882: 128)
These external symtpoms are, of course, behaviors or actions. That is, character manifests itself in conduct. It is possible that much of nonverbal behavior or discourse on nonverbal behavior has been lost to history because it has been considered too 'superficial'.


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