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ELT: Volume 33:2, 1990 thought for a while, then said, "We thought they were the expression of our best selves." And thanks to George Mills Harper, we are now granted immediate access to the best minds and selves of the extraordinary pair. Nothing in this review should detract from the value of Harper's difficult and thorough work. He deserves the gratitude of the scholarly world in general and of lovers of Yeats in particular. Thomas Parkinson University of California, Berkeley Yeats and Sophocles W. B. Yeats, The Writing of Sophocles' 'King Oedipus': Manuscripts of W. B. Yeats. David R. Clark and James McGuire, eds. Philadelphia: The American Philosophical Society, 1989. 283 pp. $40.00 IT NEEDS TO BE REMARKED REPEATEDLY how fortunate Yeats has been in the quality of critics and scholars that have devoted their careers to his work. This is obvious again with the publication of the handsome volume under review. It is a fine piece of scholarship and at the same time adds much to our understanding of how Yeats worked as a conceptualizer and a reviser not only of his own work but that of others. The history of how Yeats came to "write" (he used translations as a springboard) Sophocles' King Oedipus is rather long and complex, and the editors have rendered it as thoroughly as one might wish. This volume is divided into several parts. Part I is an account of "The Writing of Sophocles' King Oedipus" from 1904-1909 with various subdivisions, including one titled 'Yeats Writes his Own Version" which brings the story from 1912 to 1928, when the final Rex 5 was published. These preliminaries are followed by a Variorum Text with collations, "Versions of the Preface," and variant spellings. There were five versions which the editors have called Rex 1, 2, 3, 4, & 5 and the final part of the volume is a facing page transcription of the first four versions of "Rex": the photographic pages, some typed and corrected in Yeats's hand, some in his handwriting with opposite page printed transcriptions. (Anyone familiar with Yeats's handwriting will appreciate the labor, and its value, that such an effort mobilized.) Each transcript version of Rex is preceded by a brief introduction describing what materials constitute the version and valuable notes for each page, every note being easily defined by line number. Rex 1 212 Book Reviews consists of the transcripts of the Choruses, with which Yeats seems to have begun. Even the four typewriters used in composing the Oedipus have been identified and charted. There is no special attempt to analyze the first four versions or to interpret the changes. At first this might appear to be an omission, but the editors have provided so much that the reader can become the interpreter without other guidance than the versions themselves. A comparison of the opening speech by Oedipus in Rex 2 and Rex 4 shows what one might expect: lots of cutting, tightening, a more natural syntax—indeed a very conscious attempt, which Yeats confirmed —to make this a speakable and actable stage play and to rid the "poetry" of all Victorian embellishments in syntax and language that made it sound like an attempt in English to render ancient Greek. The genesis and succeeding history of this play are so interesting , it is worth giving them a brief review here. From 1903 to 1912 Yeats was seriously preoccupied with staging a version of Sophocles' play. Apparently Yeats's first inclination to produce an Oedipus came as a result of wishing to spite the English censors who had banned the play from the English stage, presumably because it dealt with "patricide and incest." Yeats heard of this while on a tour in America at the same time that he was apprized of the play's production at—of all places—Notre Dame! On his return to Dublin, Yeats "opened his campaign" to have an Oedipus at the Abbey. He first invited Gilbert Murray to translate it for a stage production, but Murray sent a discouraging letter, and suggested instead either Prometheus or Antigone. Yeats then approached Oliver Gogarty who began to write some lines but then abandoned the project. "John...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1559-2715
Print ISSN
0013-8339
Pages
pp. 212-214
Launched on MUSE
2010-05-21
Open Access
No
Archive Status
Archived
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