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In this book Cedric Whitman turns from the heroic poets of Greece to the world of Euripides, less than heroic but still archetypal in its adherence to myth. In a four-part essay he analyzes the three “romances,” Iphigenia in Tauris, Helen, and Ion, placing them in the poet’s work as a whole.
The keynote is myth, not as a collection of outmoded stories to be rejected or rationalized by the “philosopher of the stage,” but as a fulfilling pattern of personal redemption, never completed in the other extant plays. In this reading, the controversial gods of Euripides are seen as characters in a greater scheme, the myth, rather than as parodies of religion or objects of atheistical satire. The theme of purity, or spiritual wholeness, wrought into the poetic texture, appears as a recurrent symbol of what redemption means to the struggling protagonists. This is an elegant piece of criticism, both in its conception and in its style.