Scholia Reviews ns 6 (1997) 4.
Euripides, Cyclops, Alcestis, Medea (Vol. I). Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1994. Pp. 427. ISBN 0-674-99560-0. UKstlng11.50. Children of Heracles, Hippolytus, Andromache, Hecuba (Vol. 2) edited and translated by David Kovacs. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1995. Pp. viii + 519. ISBN 0-674-99533-3. UKú11.95.
University of Sydney
A.S. Way's Loeb translation of Euripides has been well known for the florid obscurity from which one often turned for guidance to the Greek original. The new Loeb of Kovacs is a refreshing change. His translation is clear and readable, his text is careful but not over- cautious, his introductory material and notes provide useful background.
Volume I begins with a general introduction to Euripides and to the text and translation. The bulk of the introduction is devoted to a discussion of Euripides' life and dramatic career (pp. 1-21), to an analysis of the picture of Euripides in Old Comedy (pp. 22- 32), and to judgements of his work in the 4th century (pp. 32-36). Kovacs' treatment of what we know of Euripides' life is suitably sceptical and leads to the distillation of only a few reliable facts from the sources. He points out that many of the traditional details are topical, or are the product of synchronising tendencies or of absurd projection of Old Comedy's fantasies onto the real life of the poet. On the characterisation of Euripides' work in Aristophanes Kovacs is also cautious: though certain features of the poet's style are accurately represented, the contrast between Euripides and the other tragedians is evidently exaggerated. The section on views of Euripides' art would have been usefully followed by a survey, however brief, of salient trends in modern criticism.
The introduction is rounded off with shorter discussions of the history of the text and Kovacs' own working principles, of the 5th century stage (I was surprised to see no reference to the possibility of a trapezoidal orchestra), and of Kovacs' aims and methods in translation (pp. 36-42). A select bibliography, mostly of recent work grouped into appropriate categories, is added at the end. Under Bibliographical Aids at least Collard's survey[] and the general bibliography in the Aris & Phillips volumes[] should have been cited.
The text and translation of each play is preceded by a brief introduction to the drama as a whole and by a short list of editions and literary critical items. In considering the merits of Kovacs' work I have focused on the treatment of Medea in vol. I and Andromache in vol. II.
Kovacs' knowledge of Euripidean Greek is formidable and so he feels able to make some bold decisions on what Euripides did or did not write. He deletes Med. 304f., And. 194f. (with 199f. transposed to before 196), and, notably and in my view wrongly, And. 330-51. On the other hand, he retains the tail-piece to both Med. and And. and rightly resists the arguments for deleting And. 1279-82. He is less savage on Medea's great Monologue than Diggle and leaves us all but 1056-64; conservatives will welcome the evidence (not, of course, conclusive) of a recently edited 3rd cent BC papyrus.[] He posits a lacuna after Med. 365 and in the middle of Med. 1316 (the former is unnecessary, the latter attractive), and, wrongly I think, after And. 241. There are some noteworthy transpositions: Ladewig's persuasive moving of Med. 929ff. to after 925; Kovacs' own transposing of And. 199f. to before 196 which, with the deletion of the problematical 194f., is attractive; his unconvincing shifting of And. 647 to after 645 with KA)J for KAI\ in 646.
Kovacs accepts several emendations, old and new, not all of which carry conviction. In Med.: 12) I think the grammar of the traditional text defensible; 45) Willink's KALLI/NIKOJ is unnecessary (cf. HF 681); 847) Kovacs' own QEW=N for FI/LWN seems to me too bold. In And.: (897) Brunck's TW=NDE for TH/NDE removes the appropriate emphasis on Hermione; (1014) Kovacs' O)RGA/NAJ may be right, but his NU=N for NIN in 1031, though easy, deprives us of the emphatic, anaphoric reference to Clytemnestra produced in Diggle's text. He rightly prints Borthwick's H)=NON in And. 1132, and in 1246 Mastronarde's TH=SDE (a note on the staging implications would have been useful; cf. Stevens, Lloyd ad loc.). In Med. 1051 his taking of TOLMHTE/ON TA/DE as a question is excellent, as is his suggested repair of Med. 234. But I disagree with his treatment of Med. 910 where I should read GA/MOUJ PAREMPOLW=NTOJ A)LLOI/OUJ, PO/SEI (for the construction see Page; the negative overtones of PAREMPOLW=NTOJ show Jason's self-righteous confidence -- he expresses Medea's point of view).
Kovacs' translation is clear, judicious and a reliable guide to the Greek. His handling of the stichomythia and Andromache's bitter speech in And. 435-63 is a good example of his sure touch, as is the translation of the stasimon Med. 824-865. I was struck by the felicitous wording in Med. 45 'no one . . . will find it easy to crow in victory'; 125f. 'moderate fortune has a name that is fairest on the tongue'; 920f. 'fine strapping lads coming to young manhood'; in And. 385f. 'If I win my life, it means misery, if I lose it, disaster!' Sometimes the register of the language jars: 'no slacker as guard' And. 86; in 402 Andromache is 'pulled by the hair'; 'she has a terrible temper' of Medea (38). Cliche intrudes in 'cold steel' (Med. 264) and 'hot pursuit' (And. 992), and I found the translations of Med. 60, 228, And. 172 wordy. Exclamations are notoriously difficult to translate and Kovacs. does well with 'Pah!' for FEU= FEU= in Med. 1393 (but 'O dear' in 358 is somewhat genteel and suburban), 'Help!' for I)W/ MOI in 1270a. The accuracy of Kovacs' versions is remarkable and I would question only 'let slip' for MEQEI=TE in And. 1018, 'you expected' for HU)/XEIJ in And. 311, 'sensation' for GNW/MHN in Med. 230; I noted the absence of significant words in Med. 641, 770, 835; And. 13, 311.
The translation is equipped with short explanatory notes, mostly on necessary background, but also on formal matters (And. 501, 825). The apparatus is in Latin and will be inaccessible to many users of these books. The printing and production are excellent.
All in all, then, these volumes will be warmly welcomed by all who read and study Euripides, tiros as well as more experienced students and scholars. I look forward to seeing the next stages of Kovacs' important task.
[] C. Collard, Euripides. Greece & Rome New Surveys in the Classics No. 14 (Oxford 1981).
[] E.g. Euripides Andromache edited with an Introduction, Translation and Commentary by Michael Lloyd (Warminster 1994) 167-171.
[] See W. Luppe, 'Ein neuer frueher "Medeia"-Papyrus P.Berol. 21 257', AFP 41 (1995) 34-9.