Greek Dramatists Not Up to Homer

Ezra Pound, ABC of Reading (46-47):

“An epic is a poem including history.

Greek Drama depends greatly on the hearer or reader knowing Homer. It is my firm opinion that there are a great many defects in Greek drama. I should never try to stop a man’s reading Aeschylus or Sophocles. There· is nothing in this book that ought in any way to curtail a man’s reading or to prevent his reading anything he enjoys.

Ultimately, I suppose, any man with decent literary curiosity read the Agamemnon of Aeschylus, but if he has seriously considered drama as a means of expression he will see that whereas the medium of poetry is WORDS, the medium of drama is people moving about on a stage and using words. That is, the words are only a part of the medium and the gaps between them, or deficiencies in their meaning, can be made up by ‘action’.

People who have given the matter dispassionate and careful attention are fairly convinced that the maximum charge of verbal meaning cannot be used on the stage, save for very brief instants. ‘It takes time to get it over’, etc.

This is not a text-book of the drama, or of dramatic criticism. It is unfair to a dramatist to consider his WORDS, or even his words and versification, as if that were the plenum of his performance. Taken as READING MATTER, I do NOT believe that the Greek dramatists are up to Homer. Even Aeschylus is rhetorical. Even in the Agamemnon there are quantities of words which do not function as reading matter, i.e., are not necessary to our understanding of the subject.”

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