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Theophrastus, Characters

Study Theophrastus' Characters in the Classical Liberal Arts Academy.
The Shameless Man

The Characters is a work of ethical philosophy written by Theophrastus, a student of Aristotle, in the 4th century BCE. The work describes 30 different types of people, ranging from the virtuous to the unethical, and provides a detailed analysis of their behavior and personality traits. The Characters served as a model for later writers of character sketches and was highly influential in the development of Western literature and psychology. Today, Theophrastus’ work remains an important primary source for our understanding of ancient Greek ethics and philosophy.

Contents of Theophrastus’ Characters

1. The Dissembler

Every word, and every action, of the Dissembler is an artifice by which he labors to conceal some evil intention…

2. The Adulator

Adulation is the base converse of an inferior with one from whom he seeks some sordid advantage.

3. The Garrulous

Garrulity is an effusion of prolix and unpremeditated discourse.

4. The Rustic

Rusticity is an unconsciousness of things indecorous.

5. The Plausible

He who would fain please all the world is one who habitually sacrifices virtues to blandishments.

6. The Ruffian

The Ruffian is distinguished by the recklessness with which he perpetrates or witnesses atrocities.

7. The Loquacious

The loquacious man, whatever you may be talking of, presently interrupts you…

8. The Fabricator of News

It is to gratify his love of the marvellous that this man spends his life in the invention and propagation of falsehoods.

9. The Sordid

The man is justly called a lover of filthy lucre to whom the relish and value of a gain is enhanced by the baseness of the means that have been employed in its acquisition…

10.  The Shameless

The union of avarice and audacity produces a total disregard of decency and reputation…

11. The Parsimonious

Parsimony is an excessive and unreasonable sparing of expense.

12.  The Impure

This man is everywhere to be known by the open and scandalous grossness of his manners; he wilfully offends the eye of modesty…

13. The Blunderer

He whose words and actions, though they may be well intended, are never well timed, is a most troublesome companion…

14. The Busybody

In the proffered services of the Busybody there is much of the affectation of kindheartedness, and little efficient aid…

“The busybody is like a spy, who is always prying into other people’s affairs.”

Theophrastus, Characters

15.  The Stupid

There is a sluggishness of mind in some persons which occasions them perpetually to stumble into absurdities of language or behavior…

16. The Morose

A malignant temper sometimes vents itself chiefly in ferocity of language…

17. The Superstitious

Superstition is a desponding fear of divinities.

18.  The Petulant

A petulant temper will make occasion, where it cannot find reason, for murmurings and rebukes…

19.  The Suspicious

The suspicious man imputes a fraudulent intention to every one with whom he has to do…

20. The Filthy

This fellow neglects his person till he becomes a nuisance to all about him…

21.  The Disagreeable

It is perhaps easier to bear with a neighbor, from whom we occasionally receive some serious injury, than with a constant companion, whose conversation is tedious, and whose manners are unpleasant.

22.  The Vain

When ambition is the ruling passion of a vulgar mind, it shows itself in the eager pursuit of frivolous distinctions.

23.  The Penurious

The absurd vanity of the purse proud man leads him to make as many false pretensions to wealth as the veriest knave who lives by seeming to be what he is not…

24. The Ostentatious

The absurd vanity of the purse proud man leads him to make as many false pretensions to wealth as the veriest knave who lives by seeming to be what he is not…

25.  The Proud

The proud man regards the whole human race with contempt; himself excepted…

“The boaster is like a trumpet that makes a great noise, but produces nothing of value.”

Theophrastus, Characters

26.  The Fearful

There is in some men a constitutional dejection of the spirits, which renders them liable to the constant tyranny of fear…

27.  The Old Trifler

This foolish fellow, although he is threescore; would ſain distinguish himself in accomplishments and exercises proper only to youth…

28.  The Detractor

The Detractor utters not a word that does not betray the malignancy of his soul…

29. The Oligarch

An arrogant desire to dominate over his fellows appears in the opinions, the conduct, and the manners of this partisan of despotism…

30. The Malignant

Some men love and pursue evil, purely for its own sake, with an eager relish. A man of this temper seeks his element amid the turbulences of public life…

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