Lloyd, Michael, ed. and trans., Euripides Andromache
Aris & Phillips, Warminster, 1994. xxviii + 178pp.
ISBN 0-85668-623-9 (cloth) $49.95,
0-85668-624-7 (paper) $24.95
Reviewed by Wilfred E. Major
Dept. of Classical Studies
Loyola University New Orleans
With this volume, the Aris and Phillips' Classical Texts series now includes seven plays of Euripides. Michael Lloyd's Andromache follows the series format. Shirley Barlow provides an introduction to the series of Euripidean plays and Lloyd himself introduces this particular play. Diggle's 1984 OCT text comes next, with a facing translation. A brief commentary follows. Introductory bibliographies on Euripides and the Andromache, an English index of names and topics, and a brief index of important Greek words round out the book. Lloyd provides a welcome and worthy addition to the series.
The introductory material is informative and accessible to a wide readership. Barlow's General Introduction provides a wealth of fundamental information on Ancient Theater, Greek Tragedy, and Euripides. In fifteen compact and energetic pages she surveys the contrasts between ancient and modern theater, the mythological nature of the plays' sources, Greek Tragedy's religious, social, and formal characteristics, and Euripides' adventurous experimentation with the genre. For its brevity, breadth of coverage, and enthusiasm for the many complexities of Greek drama, I would recommend this essay as one of the best introductions to Euripidean tragedy available.
Lloyd follows with background material for the Andromache. He covers the little knowledge we have of other previous and contemporary treatments of the myth. Sections on 'Structure and Themes,' 'Wives and Concubines,' 'Locale and Staging,' 'Date and Place of Production,' and the Greek text round out the introductory portion. Each discussion is sober and lucid, including brief notes which point to more detailed scholarly works. It is perhaps unfair to criticize this section for what it does not contain, but I would have liked Lloyd to draw attention to the distinctively Euripidean elements of the play. Barlow's introduction touches upon some characteristic features of Euripides' plays: downsizing heroic mythology, spotlighting traditionally marginal characters, anti-Spartan polemic, a weakness for the melodramatic, and a scepticism, even pessimism, about divine morality. All these motifs appear in the Andromache, making this play something of a sampler of Euripidean techniques. Especially for the new, general reader for whom this series is designed, Lloyd would have done well to establish the presence of these elements in the play so that the reader can better navigate the sharp changes in emphasis and tone.
Like previous entries in the series, this volume reproduces the now standard text of Euripides' plays, that of Diggle's Oxford Classical Text (1984). It appears here in an attractive, easy-to-read font which, like Diggle's text, prints only full iotas but uses traditional sigmas rather than Diggle's lunate sigmas. There are a handful of minor errors in the reproduction of the text (incorrect diacriticals in lines 318, 321, 361, 401, 699, 933, 1151, 1254, 1260, xrhn for xrh in 602, misleading colometry at 1010, cherwn for cheirwn at 1128, hyp' for hyph' at 1143, ballwn for balwn at 1180; Lloyd silently corrects a typo in Diggle's text at 1094). Lloyd also provides a streamlined version of Diggle's critical apparatus.
Lloyd's literal translation can be useful to both the student of Greek and the Greekless reader who wants to check the liberties taken by more artistic translations because, freed from the usual constraints of meter and the hope of capturing the author's style, Lloyd can concentrate on an idiomatic yet faithful account of the substance of the Greek text. He succeeds admirably in this goal. The facing translation serves as a guide to the content of the Greek. Those needing a performance text or a translation which captures Euripides' style and rhythm will look elsewhere (e.g., to J.F. Nims' rendition in Grene and Lattimore's Chicago series). On occasion, Lloyd does take unnecessary liberties, but all minor and none likely to lead the reader seriously astray. Once in a while he compresses needlessly (e.g., 'Menelaus' for hoi peri ton Menelaon at Hyp. 9), expands a little too much (e.g., 'in the court of public opinion' for en tois pollois at 336), or makes an unwarranted substitution ('Andromache' for gynai at 366; markedly different translations for ti xrhma at 896 and 901). Far more often, however, Lloyd manages to contrive some reasonable reflection of the meaning of the Greek, even when the original text does not lend itself easily to English idiom.
Lloyd next provides some 50 pages of commentary and, again remaining consistent with the format of the series, keys his notes to the English translation. The last commentary on the Andromache was that of P.T. Stevens (Oxford, 1971) and was based on Gilbert Murray's 1902 OCT. Nevertheless, Stevens provides clear and full discussions which are still useful. Wisely, then, Lloyd designs his commentary to meet two goals: 1) provide fundamental background information on specific points for the general reader and 2) supplement Stevens' commentary by explaining passages where Diggle's text differs from Murray's and providing pointers (conveniently marked by >> in the text of the notes) to more recent scholarly discussions of various topics. As an added bonus, Lloyd, fresh from the publication of his The Agon in Euripides (Oxford, 1992), provides concise and insightful commentary on the rhetorical techniques employed in the play.
There are scattered shortcomings. Lloyd should provide a note discussing the first Hypothesis, which called the play of the 'second rank.' I dislike labelling episodes anachronistically as 'Acts.' Halperin's quote given in the note to 269ff is less than helpful. Why point out the absence of clear evidence for stage action at 387ff when we hardly ever have such evidence? Why does Diggle dagger pheromai in 785? Lloyd should acknowledge that his stage direction for 841-44 is speculative, if reasonable. The note at 1120 is misleading: Lloyd translates xwrei de prymnan with 'He backed off,' which is fine. Then in the commentary he adds 'lit. 'backed water,'' as if the Greek uses the same metaphor as English. In fact, Lloyd's translation is more literal than the English idiom. The translation stands perfectly well on its own. Lloyd's references to the 'themes' of the play seem more facile than explanatory. Still, these quibbles should not diminish Lloyd's achievement in producing a brief commentary which will ably serve general readers and simultaneously merit consultation from scholars.
Indeed, this volume as a whole should please both generalists and specialists alike. The Andromache will never be considered Euripides' finest moment. With its clumsy slanders of the Spartans and the mythological tradition and its occasionally frigid use of formal devices, the play has something to disappoint virtually everyone. And yet, its central preoccupation with what constitutes respect and dignity between family members linked by marriage yet separated by generations insures that this play will always seem relevant. Michael Lloyd has done us all a service by providing a reliable and accessible edition of the play for all those drawn to one or more of this play's captivating moments.
Wilfred E. Major
Loyola University New Orleans
(Wilfred Major , who nurtures a secret admiration for Euripides' Andromache has just defended his dissertation on Aristophanes at
Indiana University and is an instructor at Loyola New Orleans.)