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This review is taken from PN Review 59, Volume 14 Number 3, January - February 1988.

FROM BUSKIN TO SWAN OF AVON Adrian Poole, Tragedy - Shakespeare and the Greek Example (Blackwell) £19.50
H.A. Mason, The Tragic Plane (Oxford: Clarendon Press) £17.50

In a minor novel by Mrs Humphry Ward, The Case of Richard Meynell, the heroine, Hester, has been dispatched to Paris to save her from an unfortunate liaison. She is an intelligent girl of eighteen, but stubborn and wilful. She is taken to see Oedipus Rex; and she writes home giving her reactions:


'I know you want me - you want everybody - "to be good"! But "being good" has nothing to do with us.
How can it? - such creatures and puppets as we are! Poor wretch, Oedipus! He never meant anyone any harm - did
he? - and yet - you see! "Apollo, friends, Apollo it was, that brought all these my woes, my sore, sore woes! - to pass."'


And she goes on:


'You can't think what a good doctrine it is after all - how it steadies one! What chance have we against these blundering Gods? - Nothing one can do makes any difference. It is really very consoling if you come to think of it; and it's no sort of good being angry with Apollo!'


Hester's friends in England think the letter 'part nonsense, part bravado'; and they guess that the Greek notion of 'remorseless fate' had led Hester to 'browse in the . . . magazine articles of French determinism - and this letter was the result.'

Hester's is a caricature - as ...


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