It has been the fortune of the Trachiniae to provoke
Divergent views of the Trachiniae. Difficulty of judging it rightly.
a singular diversity of judgments. Dissen and Bergk refer the play to a period when the powers of Sophocles were not yet fully matured1. Bernhardy regards it as a mediocre production of declining age2. Schlegel, in his Lectures on Dramatic Literature, goes further still; he pronounces the piece unworthy of its reputed author, and wishes that the responsibility for it could be transferred from Sophocles to some feebler contemporary,—his son, for instance, the ‘frigid’ Iophon3. Yet there has never been a lack of more favourable estimates. In the very year when Schlegel was lecturing at Vienna (1808), Boeckh pointed out the strong family likeness between this and the other six plays4; Jacob A. made a direct reply to Schlegel's censures5; and Godfrey Hermann said that, whatever faults the work might have, at any rate both the spirit and the diction were unmistakably those of Sophocles6. During the last half century, with the growth of a better aesthetic criticism in relation to all things Hellenic, a sense of the great beauties in the Trachiniae has decidedly prevailed over the tendency to exaggerate its defects; indeed, the praise bestowed upon it, in these latter days, has sometimes perhaps been a little too indiscriminate. The play is in fact an exceptionally difficult one to appreciate justly; and the root of the difficulty is in the character of the fable. A necessary prelude to the study of the Trachiniae is to consider the form in which the Heracles-myth had been developed, and the nature of the materials available for the dramatist.

The Heracles myth.— Argive legends.

1 Dissen, Kleine Schriften, p. 343; Bergk, De Sophoclis Arte, p. 26.

2 Bernhardy, Gk Lit. II. pt ii. p. 375: “‘ein mit mässiger Kunst angelegtes und matt durchgeführtes Werk aus spätem Lebensalter.’”

3 A. W. Schlegel, Lect. VII. All that he says of the Trachiniae is contained in one short paragraph, and the grounds of the condemnation are indicated only in vague terms. ‘There is much both in the structure and plan, and in the style of the piece, calculated to excite suspicion.’ ‘Many critics have remarked that the introductory soliloquy of Deianeira, which is wholly uncalled-for, is very unlike the general character of Sophocles' prologues.’ ‘Although this poet's usual rules of art are observed on the whole, yet it is very superficially; nowhere can we discern in it the profound mind of Sophocles.’ With regard to the prologue—the only passage which Schlegel specifies—some remarks will be found below, § 22.

4 A. Boeckh, Graecae trag. princip., c. xi. p. 137 (referring to the Electra and the Trachiniae): “tantum cum ceteris similitudinem habent ut nefas esset de auctore dubitare.’

5 A. L. W. Jacob, Sophocleae quaestiones, vol. I. p. 260 (1821).

6 G. Hermann, Preface to the Trachiniae, p. vi:Ego quidem, quomodo qui Sophoclem cognitum habeat, an genuina sit haec fabula dubitare possit, non video. Nam quae duae res in poesi maxime produnt a quo quid scriptum sit, ingenium poesis et dictio, eae ita sunt in hac fabula eaedem atque in ceteris, ut miraturus sim, si quis proferat aliquid, quod alienum ab Sophocle iudicari debeat.’

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