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Phaedra Paperback – October 17, 1986


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 128 pages
  • Publisher: Cornell University Press (October 17, 1986)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0801494338
  • ISBN-13: 978-0801494338
  • Product Dimensions: 0.5 x 6.2 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #274,265 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

In addition to proffering such supplementary information as is commonly found in translations aimed at the general public, Ahl argues that the Senecan tragedies were written for production…As for the translations themselves, they are excellent. They convey an impression of the Senecan poetic style rather than make an attempt to imitate it. Most important, the language is such that it can be clearly articulated and rendered at once comprehensible to an audience. Ahl rightly finds the style and texture of each play different and reflects such a difference in his translations. ~Classical World (Spring 1988)



Ahl's translations reveal a genuine, imaginative response to the playwright. His work has a coherent dramatic shape and the quality of lyrical fantasy characteristic of Senecan language. I do not think a translator can come closer to being 'Senecan.' ~Eleanor Winsor Leach, Department of Classical Studies, Indiana University

Language Notes

Text: English (translation)
Original Language: Latin

More About the Author

Lucius Annaeus Seneca, statesman, philosopher, advocate and man of letters, was born in Spain around 4BC. He rose to prominence at Rome, pursuing a double career in the courts and political life, until Claudius sent him into exile exile on the island of Corsica for eight years. Recalled in AD49, he was appointed tutor to the boy who was to become, in AD54, the emperor Nero. Seneca acted for eight years as Nero's unofficial chief minister until Nero too turned against him and he retired from public life to devote himself to philosophy and writing. In AD65, following the discovery of a plot against the emperor, he and many others were compelled by Nero to commit suicide.

Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Ryan Mease on December 29, 2011
Format: Paperback
The notes in this edition were excellent for a quick comprehension of Seneca--both his general context and specific business with this tragic cycle. The notes were never sparing of historical and mythic context, though often when I found some difficulty with the text itself, whether syntax, vocabulary or grammar, they did little to assist me. I recommend you find an English Phaedra for the sore spots in your reading. The editors took no caution to hide their disfavor for the play. An example, 1267n: "This is arguable the worst line in Seneca drama." There are many other moments like this one, include several notes that contrast the Phaedra as a weak counterpart to Euripides' Hippolytus. The play may, indeed, be terrible, but why not let the reader see that themselves?

Overall, this edition presents a clear introduction, readable, compact notes and a careful, sightly presentation of the text. My quibbles are small, not substantial.

APPENDIX: On Ahl's Phaedra

I'm not sure why Amazon decided to loop together the reviews for Ahl's translation and Mayer/Coffey's commentary, but, by coincidence, I also made use of Ahl, so I'll offer a short review.

I used Ahl as an aid to translation, which was a mistake. His translation is clearly (and masterfully) designed for performance, not scholarship. Ahl works wonders with English prose, but these wonders often fly away from the Latin itself. Ahl admits to this, and I don't insult him for doing so. I would love to see his Phaedra performed. That said, because he plays with line numbers and tends to elaborate and clarify by adding to the Latin, the translation is poorly assembled for assisting a Latin reading.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Eustathios on October 11, 2011
Format: Paperback
This is a review of Michael Coffey's and Roland Mayer's commentary on Seneca's Phaedra for the Cambridge Greek and Latin Classics series. Overall, I found the commentary somewhat undependable whenever I had occasion to turn to the back to find help for thorny syntax and vocabulary. About half the time there would indeed be an entry that addressed my specific question, albeit too often formulated in indirect or allusive language, and for the other half I found myself left to figure out the grammatical riddles on my own. That being said, I do think it would have involved a far greater amount of time and effort to read this play just using a dictionary and the OCT.

In other respects, however, this book is an exceptionally good aid for reading and understanding Senecan tragedy. The introduction is quite sophisticated and does a great deal of interpretive work in contextualizing the Phaedra in its historical moment and in the literary tradition that informs it. Many of the notes in the commentary proper are geared toward fulfilling this end as well. Ultimately, the Phaedra that emerges from C&M's analysis is a play whose poetics and phrasing are heavily indebted to earlier authors (chiefly, Ovid, Vergil, and Horace). C&M are also keen to point out and analyze passages that illustrate how Seneca has gone about reworking earlier literary treatments of the myth of Phaedra and Hippolytus, particularly that of Euripides. The complete text of Phaedra's epistle in Ovid's Heroides is also included at the end of this volume, although C&M do not provide any commentary for it. The reception of Seneca's Phaedra in later literature is also addressed in some detail.

C&M thus do an excellent and thorough job demonstrating the complexity and literary aspirations of Senecan Tragedy.
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Good text in a good series; attention in the introduction to the place of Seneca's treatment (itself based on one preserved and one lost play of Euripides) in later European literature. The usual helps for (pretty advanced) student readers of the fairly transparent Latin text.
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