From Homer to Menander: Forces in Greek Poetic Fiction

By L. A. Post | Go to book overview

VII
Vacillation, Burlesque,
and Variety

THE REMAINING seven plays that are to be considered are at first sight rather a collection of odds and ends. They have in common only the negative trait that they have no claim to be classed with either group of the plays already considered. Their interest is in the action itself and is secured either by the natural depiction of characters who move from one state of mind to another, or by the strangeness and even absurdity of the mixture of elements in the action, or by the mere fascination of the shifting spectacle as one moment in the action succeeds another with no attempt to enlist the spectator permanently for one side or the other and with no concern for the philosophical interpretation of life. Any philosophy that there is will be superficial or vestigial, and miracles will be as welcome as any other device to secure a change in the situation. Gods as well as miracles will be mere theatrical devices, and any new developments will be episodic rather than fundamental. Such plays neither present nor solve problems, nor do they present conflicts as involving important principles. They illustrate the possibilities of human behavior and experience in an entertaining way.

The Philoctetes ( 409 B.C.) of Sophocles of course goes deeper. Yet I have included it in this group because the victory of the main character is an entirely new kind of victory. He wins for his side the soul of the youthful Neoptolemus, who escapes from the snares set by the dishonest Odysseus. It is extremely common in modern drama to make the chief problem a personal one: who wins whom as wife, husband, or lover? This pattern is found in Greek only

-186-

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From Homer to Menander: Forces in Greek Poetic Fiction
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • To Five Great Teachers v
  • Preface vii
  • Contents ix
  • 1- The Pattern of Success 1
  • II- The Tragic Pattern of the Iliad 27
  • III- The Social Consciousness of Aeschylus 56
  • IV- Sophoclean Tragedy 88
  • V- Euripidean Tragedy 122
  • VI- Propaganda, Idealism, and Romance 156
  • VII- Vacillation, Burlesque, and Variety 186
  • VIII- The Comedy of Menander 214
  • IX- Aristotle and the Philosophy of Fiction 245
  • Notes 271
  • Index 323
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