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Oedipus at Thebes: Sophocles' Tragic Hero and His Time
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Bernard Knox is perhaps the greatest living classicist and he may just be one of the greatest of all time. He writes with an ease and lucidity that renders the most difficult subject available to the lay reader. He has an uncanny facility to sum up in a paragraph a subject that has occupied him for twenty or thirty pages. Indeed one of the delights of this book is that at the end of each section there appears a wonderfully pithy summation.
When this book was first published it (surprisingly) received immediate and positive reviews from the New York Times and the New Yorker. But it was almost universally ignored by the classical community who were perhaps annoyed at the twitting they received in Knox's introduction. Dismayed by the appearance of an article entitled "The Carrot in Classical Antiquity", Knox had lashed out at the "excessive technicality" of his colleagues. This will remind many of us of Victor Davis Hanson's brilliantly polemical attack on the classical establishment in "Who Killed Homer".
Time, however, was on Knox' side and he went, on, as I said, to become a giant in his field. In 1998, "Oedipus at Thebes" was republished for a new and grateful generation of students.
This is a true tour de force. Knox took as his starting point a statement made by Walter Headlam. Headlam had claimed that "when embarking on the elucidation of a Greek text, the scholar should first learn the text by heart and the read the whole of Greek literature looking for parallel passages." Sounds almost preposterous. Right?Read more ›
"The plague, whether or not the chorus is right in calling it Ares [a Greek god], is of course, in the last analysis, from a religious point of view, the will of the gods, but Sophocles is clearly insisting, by his unparalleled image of the arrows of Apollo as allied against his plague & his equally unparalleled identification of the plague with Ares, that the plague is not to be understood as Apolline interference, that is the work of the play's external factor."
This is my nomination for one of the ten worst written sentences of the 20th century*.
OED was regretfully pulped on April 4th 2011 - about ten minutes after reading commenced.
*DEATH BY COMMAS: "The plague, 1... Ares [a Greek god], 2... analysis, 3... view, 4... gods, 5... insisting, 6... Ares, 7... interference, 8 ... factor."
P.S.: "Do not join independent clauses by a comma" is advised by Strunk & White's "The Elements of Style." A period - breaking this tsunami of gibberish into two sentences - is necessary after "gods, 5."
And somehow, the "tags" option did not appear, so here goes:
Oedipus, Sophocles, Apollo, Greek Theatre, Bernard Knox, Spanish Civil War, Yale University, Sigmund Freud, World War II