Sophocles. An Interpretation.
Cambridge University Press, Cambridge (...), 1980. 1st ed. XII,346p. Paperback. Name stamp and date on free endpaper. 'This is perhaps the most important and challenging interpretation of Sophocles to appear since Karl Reinhardt's brilliant Sophokles, published in 1933. The author's purpose is 'to interpret the seven extant tragedies ... each in its own unique form, quality and theme'. (…) In a final chapter, 'Heroes and Gods', Winnington-Ingram attempts to deal with the three questions he raised before embarking on the detailed survey of the seven extant tragedies: the nature of heroism and its place in the world; the justice of divine rule; 'the status of pity in the tragic world'. The Sophoclean heroes, as he says, 'have characteristics which they share in common' – he explores in detail their 'loneliness' – but he warns against 'supposing that we can catalogue them in some simple scheme, or for that matter, easily identify a typical Sophoclean attitude toward the world of which they are members'. (…) The gods, unlike the heroes, are 'immune from disaster' but 'divine justice turns out to bear a sinister resemblance to that kind of retaliatory justice in pursuing which men themselves bring about tragic events'. In such a world pity is not to be expected from heaven (…). Pity is not a quality of the hero either, absorbed as they are in their own excessive claims on the world of men and gods. 'If the theatre of Sophocles is full of suffering, it is full of pity but it is not the pity of the gods. There is the pity of those characters who are capable of it (…), and there is the poet's own pity which is dominant and all-embracing. The books ends with a reminder that Sophocles is the 'supreme ironist', a master not just of verbal and of 'dramatic irony', but also of deeply founded irony of situation, he is the creator of a world in which (…) the man who answered the riddle of the Sphinx did not know his own parentage (…).This irony is bitter and terrible and pitiable; it is a mode of the expression of pity. (…) This is a Sophocles closer to Dodd’s 'last great exponent of the archaic world-view' than to Whitman's humanist or Knox's hero-worshipper. Not everyone will accept this picture fully, but no one can ignore the power and persuasiveness of Winnington-Ingram's case, not the least of its virtues being the importance it attaches to the choral odes, which most of us have underestimated as indicators of the poet's deepest thought. (…) Not the least of the merits of this magisterial work, the end-product of a lifetime’s study of thought, are the grace, wit and clarity with which its original viewpoints and great learning are conveyed.' (B.M.W. KNOX in The Classical Review (New Series), 1982, pp.8-12).