Euripides the Rationalist
By A.W. Verrall Introduction by Peter Burian
This is a reissue of a pioneering work of literary criticism in the field of classical literature, dealing with ‘the most tragic’ of Greek tragic poets. A.W. Verrall’s important book (first published in 1895) presents us with a resolutely rationalist Euripides, whose uses of divine intervention are seen as deeply ironic.
For this re-issue Peter Burian has written a new introduction, placing Verrall’s work in its context, assessing its major influence on subsequent criticism, and adding a select bibliography.
The essence of Verrall’s book was his observation that while the ancients were unanimous in regarding Euripides as a dramatic artist of the first rank, modern scholarship had resorted either to distaste for his values and innovative dramatic methods, or to apologetic excuse for them – which misses the point. Verrall’s contentious book proved influential in explaining features of Euripidean dramatic technique – especially in his ‘problem plays’ – that have been basic to interpretation ever since.
A.W. Verrall was fellow of Trinity College, Cambridge, and Cambridge’s first Professor of English Literature. He published important editions of plays by Aeschylus and Euripides, as well as literary critical essays on them, and on Horace and Dryden. Peter Burian is Professor of Classics in Duke University, North Carolina and has written extensively on Greek tragedy, especially Euripides.