by R.B. Rutherford
CUP (2012) p/b 471pp £22.99 (ISBN 9781107470750)
No better book on Greek tragedy has been published in the 21st century than this one. R.’s project is highly ambitious. Always giving chapter and verse, he discusses what the characters and the choruses say or sing and how they say or sing it. Vocabulary, imagery, rhetoric, irony and characterization are all grist to his mill. And in a brilliant final chapter, he investigates the alchemy through which Aeschylus, Sophocles and Euripides transform generalizing statements into great poetry. R.’s ambitions are triumphantly realized.
His discussions of excerpts from the plays are consistently judicious and insightful as well as thought-provoking. I found myself almost always nodding in assent and then frequently stimulated to build on his perceptions. For example, to his illuminating discussion of the agôn in Hippolytus, one might add that Theseus and his son are eventually granted…
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