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Reviewed by:
  • Euripides. Alcestis
  • David Sansone
L. P. E. Parker (ed.). Euripides. Alcestis. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2007. Pp. lxxxviii, 307. $140.00. ISBN 978-0-19-925466-8.

This is a good, old-fashioned text and commentary with a state-of-the-art price tag. It is intended to provide today’s students and scholars with a modern equivalent of A. M. Dale’s good, old-fashioned, inexpensive edition published in 1954 by the same press. The new volume is printed in a larger format and offers a newly constituted Greek text, unlike its predecessor, which merely reproduced Murray’s Oxford text. Both decisions on the part of the press are welcome; they also go some way toward accounting for the high cost. (Accounting, presumably, goes the rest of the way.) Parker’s apparatus is based on Diggle’s 1984 OCT, but her text exhibits independence from his in about twenty places, sometimes retaining the reading of the manuscripts where he prefers scholarly conjecture (lines 16, 144–45, 218), sometimes printing an emendation where he follows the manuscripts (lines 291, 304, 501). In each instance Parker supplies a well-reasoned and often convincing justification for her decision.

In the commentary, discussions of textual matters, along with linguistic explanations of a more technical nature, are given at the end of a note, between brackets. This is designed so that the reader can “skip what he does not need” (v; Parker is resolute in her avoidance of gender-neutral language and has no sympathy with feminist criticism). It is anticipated that readers of both genders will not wish to skip Parker’s detailed analyses of the lyric meters, which are, as was to be expected, a particularly valuable component of the commentary. Parker’s treatment of the lyrics is masterly. I suspect, however, that it will be read and appreciated only by the initiates. Parker clearly expects that some readers will have little metrical expertise—the extended discussion of meter in the introduction (lxvii–lxxix) begins, “Greek verse is ‘quantitative’”—but her attempts to accommodate them are unlikely to prove successful. I was initially mystified, for example, by her schema for the iambic trimeter (lxix). Terms like “verse” (what Dale calls “period”) and “colon” are used but not defined, the latter being explained merely as equivalent to the printed line in a modern text (lxxvii). There is little to criticize in the substance of Parker’s treatment of metrical matters, and what she has to say, for example, about the “evolutions of rhythm” through the play (lxxii) and about “echoing” between strophe and antistrophe (on lines 235–37) is illuminating. It is the presentation of that treatment that could have been improved, particularly for the benefit of novices. In contrast to the brief illustration of “echoing” on line 245, where corresponding lines are juxtaposed in a manner that Dale had used for whole stasima, the stark metrical schemata often give the impression that metrical matters are being treated in the abstract, divorced from the meaning of the words whose [End Page 92] syllables are marked out. It might have helped matters if the metrical discussion had followed, rather than preceded, the relevant linguistic and textual notes, so that the student would already have been aided in an understanding of the sense before he (or she) was asked to grapple with the metrical form through which that sense was conveyed.

In general, the interests of both students and scholars are well served. Matters of text and interpretation are fully and helpfully treated. The introduction presents a detailed account of how the myth and Euripides’ version of it have fared at the hands of subsequent poets and critics, concluding with the disarming disclaimer that the commentary is intended “not so much to interpret as to stress the limits of possible interpretations” (lvi). Particular stress is laid on the limits of the interpretations proffered by Anne Burnett and Thomas Rosenmeyer. Parker’s own limitations are illustrated by her willingness to spend nearly two pages assessing the relative merits of , and (line 420) while, e.g., making no mention of Henrichs’ important work on “choral projection” (at 452) and neglecting to comment on the role...


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