FINGLASS (P.J.) Ed. Sophocles. Ajax: Edited with Introduction, Translation, and
Commentary (Cambridge Classical Texts and
Commentaries 48). Cambridge: Cambridge
University Press, 2011. Pp. x + 612. £110/ $180. 9781107003071. doi:10.1017/S0075426913000190
This is an outstanding piece of scholarship. In the ‘Introduction’ (1–69: contrast 16 pages of
Electra), Finglass deals in detail with key issues, such as date, production, heroism, unity, politics, textual transmission. Among major achievements,
Finglass uses interlinear hiatus and antilabe as evidence for dating (around 440s), puts
Sophocles’ version against earlier literary sources on Ajax, successfully tests consistency of plot on thematic and structural grounds, aptly challenges
B.M.W. Knox’s influential model of the ‘Sophoclean hero’ (The Heroic Temper. Studies in
Sophoclean Tragedy, Berkeley and Los Angeles, 1964) and S. Goldhill’s claims on politics in tragedy (‘Undoing in Sophoclean drama: lusis and the analysis of irony’, TAPhA 139, 2009, 21–52) and restates the cultic association between Ajax and Athens. Discussions are insightful and wellbalanced: one may regret Finglass’ passing glance on vases (39–40: references are missing) and silence on reception. Staging deserves Finglass’ careful attention. As regards long-disputed question of setting(s), he thoroughly refutes J.S.
Scullion’s argument (Three Studies in Athenian
Dramaturgy, Stuttgart and Leipzig, 1994, 109–28) that no change occurs after 814, but uncomfortably blurs his case by assuming no substitution of scenery. I am doubtful: no skene could properly represent both a hut and a place in wilderness; the ‘logical’ shift of the hut towards eisodos might have caused misunderstanding by the audience; such emphasis on space would be less effective if not accompanied by any material alteration.
Quick removal and replacement of skene by stagehands, dismissed by Finglass, offers a viable alternative.
Text and apparatus are Finglass’ own.
Finglass’ apparatus, more accurate than LloydJones and Wilson’s OCT, separately cites L and Λ (the two oldest mss.), K (the first scholar to do so),
A D Xr Xs Zr (‘a’ group), G R Q (‘r’ group); mere authors’ abbreviations for secondary sources sporadically result in ambiguity (257, 753); not infrequently, Finglass also reports the first proponent of a conjecture, even if that text is preserved by tradition. Finglass’ own conjectures 169 are modest: apart from slight orthographical changes (340 οἴμοι; 609/10, 900, 901, 908/9 ᾤμοι; 1342 stressed σοί), he solely proposes a lacuna after 1415 (in a passage heavily corrupt, if not interpolated). Finglass often succeeds in defending transmitted text: he agrees with OCT against Dawe’s Teubner in about 22 cases (for example 446, 771, 782, 790, 988, 1027, 1059, 1282, etc.), the reverse occurring about 15 times (for example 114, 191, 420, 630, 1357, etc.).
Moreover, Finglass is always keen on printing a good conjecture: I praise 360 πημονὰν (Reiske), 718 θυμοῦ and 947–48 ἄναυδ’ ἔργ’ (Hermann), 1312 τοῦ σοῦ γ’ (Bothe). When he challenges both editions, Finglass hardly defends transmitted text against conjectures (thus 1009); rather, he adopts a different reading (305, 379, 387, 1000, etc.) or decides on a different emendation (799, 908, 921, 1211, etc.): of the latter, I would retain paradosis at 656 ἐξαλέξωμαι (West: read
Hesychius’ ἐξαλύξωμαι) and 817 δοῦπον οὐ κλύω τινά; (αὖ Ω, corr. Firnhaber: no need to accept
Wolff’s interrogative). In flawed passages, rather than endorsing emendation, Finglass repeatedly opts for obeloi, yet he strives to reduce their extent (thus at 407, 601/3, 869; contrast 476, 802).
Finglass is not afraid of deletions (39 lines: compare Lloyd-Jones and Wilson 28, Dawe 70): in most cases, his arguments deserve to be taken seriously, although I hesitate to accept Morstadt’s excision of 1028–39 (I am quite persuaded that the chorus’ urging μὴ τεῖνε μακρὰν at 1040 only makes sense if Teucer appears to waste his time or miss the point of Ajax’s burial, which just happened in these lines).
The commentary, 390 pages printed in fine type, is painstaking and exhaustive: almost every word is surveyed, and Finglass’ translation is sound. He shows mastery on a wide-ranging variety of topics and approaches: language and syntax are constantly investigated with remarkable precision and conciseness; metrical analyses both give explanation of Finglass’ choices and consider alternative solutions; even the slightest change in tradition is noticed, and Finglass conveniently lists from time to time confusions in manuscripts; tragic and non-tragic parallels are abundantly recorded to shed light on multifarious nuances of
Sophoclean drama. Introductory notes to individual sections insightfully illuminate recurrent themes, attitudes of characters, structure, possible audience reactions: Finglass equally devotes attention to each segment of the drama, including the generally disregarded final debates
REVIEWS OF BOOKS on Ajax’s burial. Once again, Finglass works hard on staging. I particularly recommend his long treatment of suicide (376–79), in which accounts of other scholars are convincingly rejected. His claim that Athena is invisible to both Odysseus and Ajax in the prologue (137–38) is questionable: he underestimates tragic parallels for ἄποπτος (15), which regularly means ‘out of sight’ rather than ‘invisible’; I prefer Odysseus gradually seeing and approaching Athena. Elsewhere he takes for granted the use of ekkyklema on unproblematic grounds.
The strength of the book lies in its 65 pages of bibliography, including about 1,560 records (followed by indexes of subjects and Greek words). Everywhere, Finglass mercifully cites (and criticizes) any contribution suitable for discussion; not rarely, he also embeds direct quotations from other scholars, thus providing the reader with a useful starting-point for further scrutiny. Omissions are few: I was surprised not to see W. Jens’ Bauformen der griechischen