Friday, January 31, 2014

A Review on Taplin's "Greek Tragedy in Action"

             I have rather mixed feelings about Taplin’s work Greek Tragedy in Action. From a scholarly perspective, it’s hard to disagree with the points that he presents.  I think that his goals to incorporate a visual performing aspect or a “stage of the mind” into the way Greek tragedy is read and understood are very pertinent to a more complete grasp of the genre. Taplin’s arguments make one really evaluate the playwright, his motives and how he chooses to portray a story. The background he provides on the logistics of Greek theatre is both helpful and clarifying. All in all, Taplin creates an insightful reader; one who looks for blocking clues within the lines, evaluates tableaus, looks for symbolism in limited props, and ponders story timing.  After Taplin, it is hard to merely trot through a plot. He has given his readers the tools turn Greek literature into a more three dimensional experience.  However, his book is a bit tricky to read on its own. Because he continually references many different Greek plays, it is hard to truly benefit from these references unless one has recently read the play (which in some cases we had).  I believe that the knowledge within this book may be more beneficial if certain sections were published in the same copy of the play to which they refer (as an afterword/ annotation of sort). I find that the organization of this book may be its flaw. I might have found it more helpful if Taplin began with a brief overview of all his concepts and then did a chapter per play. He could then, in separate chapters, set up each play and review the important theatrical concepts within that play. This way, readers wouldn’t have to be constantly switching gears to different storylines to benefit from his references.  Also this system may be more convenient for those who are trying to put on a production of one of the plays he mentions. This way, one could find all the commentary on a specific play in one chapter as opposed to having to fish for it throughout the book. In a sense though, I see that Taplin may have set the book up the way he did in order to compare and contrast different examples that match a concept. Unfortunately, for me, that aspect doesn’t redeem the effort it takes to continually remember different plot lines in order to understand his point.


  1. It would be nice to have two versions of this book: one organized by topic, the other organized by play. Did the book make you want to read any of the other plays that you weren't familiar with?

  2. Taplin is probably just so knowledgeable and engrossed into Greek drama that referring to a bunch of plays simultaneously is no problem for him, but for us it is.