Tuesday, 29 November 2011

On restoring fragmentary Attic tragedy

This has been on my mind lately, what with (you know) doing it; and perhaps I'm overly defensive. My sense is that most serious classical scholars would look down their noses at a Euripidean play 'restored' from fragments; an I can sort of see why. But fragments are all we have: I don't just mean with respect to the Phaethon, Telephus and Hypsipyle -- I mean for all Attic drama. Half the Alcestis or the Bacchae is words, and we have the words. Half is music and dance, and we've lost both of those irretrievably (indeed, the music and dance is prior, as far as the history of drama is concerned: the words come after). No classical scholar, except those who  abandon all attempts at realising or interpreting the plays, can say they object to restoring fragmentary versions.

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