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HesperosStudies in Ancient Greek Poetry Presented to M. L. West on his Seventieth Birthday$
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P. J. Finglass, C. Collard, and N. J. Richardson

Print publication date: 2007

Print ISBN-13: 9780199285686

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: February 2010

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199285686.001.0001

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Sophocles’ Learning Curve

Sophocles’ Learning Curve

Chapter:
(p.204) 15 Sophocles’ Learning Curve
Source:
Hesperos
Author(s):

Christopher Pelling (Contributor Webpage)

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199285686.003.0015

Two of the most influential mid-20th-century discussions of Sophocles' style operated by trying to fit the surviving plays to the threefold scheme; the most recent, and very thorough, discussion of The Language of Sophocles (Budelmann (2000) ), cites it in the third sentence of the first page. If authentic, it would be a rare case where we can see a great practitioner reflecting on his own technique, no less illuminating — perhaps even more illuminating because less jokey — than Aristophanes' remarks in several parabaseis on the various stages of his early development. And, despite the scepticism that such literary anecdotes normally excite among sober scholars, there may be good reason why they suspect that this one is indeed authentic, or at least has its origin in an authentic comment even if it is not a verbatim quotation We can even see how an authentic remark could have survived in some form, for it is a guess, but a plausible one, that the remark could come from Sophocles' contemporary Ion of Chios. Ion was himself a tragic poet, enjoyed gossiping about his meetings with the great and what they had said, and we know that he wrote about Sophocles; we know too that Plutarch knew Ion's work well, and used it thoughtfully and tellingly. This chapter contends that if Ion is the intermediary, then Plutarch's version will be only that one step away from Sophocles' original remark, despite the five-hundred-year time lag. This, then, may be a fitting topic for a tribute to Martin West, who has written with such distinction on Ion as well as on Sophocles — and on so much more.

Keywords:   Sophocles, Ion of Chios, Plutarch

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