chapter  3
16 Pages

Structural Principles

The modern scholar is not surprised. He will say (wrongly) that it is unreasonable to expect from a dramatist plays without mistakes - just as, presumably, it is unreasonable to expect a professional cabinet-maker always to tum out tables with the correct number of legs, all of the same length. In fact, one regularly finds first-rate workmanship in second-rate dramatists - Sardou, for example. But in the case of the Ajax and Trachiniae it would be a question not of elegance of workmanship but of ordinary competence. We are told sometimes that Sophocles would have increased the unity ofthe Antigone and Trachitliae had he displayed the heroine's body in the final scenes: isit credible that soelementary apoint could have escaped the notice of a dramatist who had been winning prizes for years-and in Athens, not among the Triballi ~ Sophocles was not - like some of his critics - desperately struggling with the rudiments of his art.