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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars the classics brought up to date
written centuries ago, the summaries in this small book bring alive not only the plays themselves but the context in which they were written
Published 8 months ago by Steve Chetwood

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7 of 10 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Incomplete and inaccurate
I dissent from the 5-star reviewers (all of them 'A Customer'?). For a start, combining Greek and Roman drama in a single work is rather odd: at least, it resulted in the omission of 5 plays by Euripides and 7 by Aristophanes (unless the author wasn't in the mood for the 12 plays). Burgess's major fault is that he approaches the scripts not as 'drama' but (contrary to the...
Published on 5 Feb 2008 by Filippo Secondo (aka AB)


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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars the classics brought up to date, 13 Jan 2014
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This review is from: The Faber Pocket Guide to Greek and Roman Drama (Faber Pocket Guides) (Paperback)
written centuries ago, the summaries in this small book bring alive not only the plays themselves but the context in which they were written
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Interesting and Easy to Understand, 6 Jun 2005
By A Customer
This review is from: The Faber Pocket Guide to Greek and Roman Drama (Faber Pocket Guides) (Paperback)
I found this book really accessible and also extremely interesting. The sections exploring the meanings of the plays are particularly useful, as are the introductions to each playwright, telling us about their lives and social/political contexts. The writer clearly loves his subject and his enthusiasm certainly lights up what many people see as dry and academic. Recommended!
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7 of 10 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Incomplete and inaccurate, 5 Feb 2008
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This review is from: The Faber Pocket Guide to Greek and Roman Drama (Faber Pocket Guides) (Paperback)
I dissent from the 5-star reviewers (all of them 'A Customer'?). For a start, combining Greek and Roman drama in a single work is rather odd: at least, it resulted in the omission of 5 plays by Euripides and 7 by Aristophanes (unless the author wasn't in the mood for the 12 plays). Burgess's major fault is that he approaches the scripts not as 'drama' but (contrary to the book's title) as 'literature': touching upon stagecraft in the introduction parsimoniously (only 4 pages), he fails to provide specific examples of the ways in which the theatre's sections are used in each work, as well as the delivery of the verse, gestures, props, costumes (including masks), the machinery involved, etc. Burgess is also to be faulted for misinforming the reader: he claims that Euripides' dialogues are longer (70+ lines) than those in Aeschylus and Sophocles (only 10-15 lines!), which is certainly not true (unless the translators of all my editions of the latter playwrights added lines of their own). Moreover, the book contains many inaccuracies: Wagner's 'Ring' cycle is called 'Ring of the Nibelungen' (an Anglo-German title?); Burgess mentions Strauss's 'Die aegyptische Helena' as if it were entirely based on 'Helen' (Hofmannsthal's heavy plot and characters have nothing to do with those of Euripides' hilarious play: 'Helena' isn't even an adaptation of 'Helen'); though he alludes to Orff's 'Antigonae', Burgess ignores the same composer's 'Oedipus der Tyrann'; Lully's 'Alceste' (1674) and Wellesz's 'Alkestis' (1924) are also disposed of; the writer fails to provide Henze's title 'The Bassarids', the opera inspired by 'Bacchae'; Handel's 'Hercules' is not (as he claims) an 'opera' but a 'musical drama'; the premiere of Gluck's 'Alceste' is not 1762 but 1767; that of his 'Iphigenie en Aulide' is 1774 not 1765; that of Cherubini's 'Aulide' is not 1782 but 1788 (the writer should have left out all premiere dates, since he inconsistently does just that with some other operas). For Burgess, all translations released by Faber (his book's publisher) are outstanding, or are referred to impartially, unlike his criticism of some of those by other publishers; he also tends to ignore or depreciate such successful translators as Paul Roche (why isn't he worth mentioning?) and Philip Vellacott (I can't see how his translations are 'dated', not least in comparison with those featuring outmoded archaisms; compare the first lines of his 'Helen' (Penguin) with those by Mitchie and Leach (Oxford), one of Burgess's recommendations: 'This is Egypt; here flows the virgin river, the lovely Nile, who brings down melted snow to slake the soil of the Egyptian plain with the moisture heaven denies'; 'Here live the lovely water-nymphs of Nile who brings the melted snow down to water the plains of Egypt starved of blessed rain'). The quotations from non-Greek sources (eg 'Hamlet') are irrelevant, the lengthy extracts from the plays are a bore, the retelling (over and over again in the section called 'The legend') of the background to a particular mythical story used by more than one playwright is tedious. Space should instead have been provided to explain why this or that translation is 'good', 'frankly pedestrian', or 'disappointing'; alternatively, this space - as well as that of Roman drama - could have been allocated to the 12 missing Greek plays. Another thing is that, on many occasions, the punctuation is unreliable: eg 'Benjamin Britten wrote a cantata ''Phaedra'' in 1975' (I hope that the author is aware that this is the composition date, that of the premiere being 1976). Do the publishers Aris and Phillips know that Burgess refers to them continuously as 'Aris and Philips'? This book should (true to its name) 'guide', not 'misguide'.
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3 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars inspiring and more-ish, 15 Jun 2005
By A Customer
This review is from: The Faber Pocket Guide to Greek and Roman Drama (Faber Pocket Guides) (Paperback)
This book is such a treasure. My lack of previous knowledge about these plays did not appear to be a problem as the writer manages to explain everything without it seeming like hard work at all. A whole world comes alive with fascinating detail. The plays themselves are opened up for the reader so that they seem fresh and urgent in a way that completely took me by surprise. (Helen of Troy and Gilda - why not?) Definitely a book that belongs on the desk in the 'indispensable reference' section. Inspiring and more-ish.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A must buy!, 28 Jan 2013
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mrs (wellingborough, United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Faber Pocket Guide to Greek and Roman Drama (Faber Pocket Guides) (Paperback)
This is a brilliant little resource - concise, informative, an enjoyable read. Burgess has an relaxed, informal style and keeps it light with occasional humour. I bought it as a writer and actor; so handy to swat up on the legends, or glean some inspiration. But I think anyone would enjoy having it on their shelf or bathroom mag rack because you can delve in or just pick it up for an interesting snippet. It has a neat layout, beginning with a potted overview of the period; then each of the Dramas is sectioned into: the legend, the story, the drama of the play (with lovely angles as Burgess is a director), translations available (which are best & which best avoided), performances (including original production info - fascinating - and recent productions incl dates, theatres, actors/directors & other lovely tidbits). Burgess certainly knows his onions. Highly recommend it!
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5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars, 9 Aug 2014
This review is from: The Faber Pocket Guide to Greek and Roman Drama (Faber Pocket Guides) (Paperback)
Very good
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2 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Wonderful Book, 17 Jun 2005
By A Customer
This review is from: The Faber Pocket Guide to Greek and Roman Drama (Faber Pocket Guides) (Paperback)
This really does tell you all you need to know. Forty plays explained in wonderfully simple but throughly researched chapters. No home should be without one!
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1 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars blew me over!, 13 Oct 2005
By A Customer
This review is from: The Faber Pocket Guide to Greek and Roman Drama (Faber Pocket Guides) (Paperback)
I was given this book by a friend because, believe it or not, my mother is Greek and my middle name is Roman. It was a gag, OK? But I'm not entirely a theatrical innocent,seen quite a few serious plays as well as the obvious Les Mis, Phantom, etc. I am a fan of Jane Birkin, so I went to "Women of Troy" a few years back, which I thought was amazingly up-to-date in its takes on war and injustice, though I didn't like what the National theatre had done to the play, it was too fancy. But it left me with an interest in Greek plays and when I got this book I thought now is my chance. I'll keep this simple. It tells you every Greek play and every Roman play, and it explains what's good about them, and also (this is what I liked the most) it explains what the people who wrote them were trying to say, and what the audiences thought they meant, so you get a whole picture of a bygone age. Sounds like a history lesson, doesn't it? Well maybe it is, but I thought it was great. There are also some quite funny snipey jabs at people the writer doesn't like, crap translators etc.
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