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  • Print publication year: 1977
  • Online publication date: January 2011

The Rhesus and related matters


Among the many human problems that refuse to disappear the problem of the authorship of the Rhesus is by no means the most important though it may be among the most tiresome. The latest investigation, and probably the most thorough, is Professor W. Ritchie's The Authenticity of the Rhesus of Euripides (C.U.P. 1964). Ritchie discusses the documentary evidence that has come down to us, submits the text to a sustained and careful stylistic examination – vocabulary, syntax, and style in its many manifestations: metre, structure of the lyrics, dramatic technique. He compares the play point by point with normal Euripidean usage and arrives at the fairly confident conclusion that the play was written by Euripides, rather early in his career, somewhere between 455 and 440 b.c.

Some years earlier D. W. Lucas, reviewing another book on the Rhesus, wrote: ‘There is a strong presumption that the play is an early work of Euripides’; but having said that, he added what oft is thought but not often so pungently expressed: ‘But in spite of all, many will remain disinclined to believe that Euripides could have written a work so intellectually null, so completely devoid of the clash of argument, of ideas, and of verbal nicety and precision.’ True; there are many such.