'The gods' messenger and secretary'?--Thornton Wilder and the Classical Tradition

Borgmeier, Raimund
January 2001
International Journal of the Classical Tradition;Winter2001, Vol. 7 Issue 3, p344
Academic Journal
Literary Criticism
The article attempts to give an overview and analysis of Thornton Wilder's relationship to the classical tradition. In the initial section, Wilder's background and his view of the role of the author are examined. It turns out that, in contrast to the predominant conception of a modern writer, he sees himself as a kind of poeta doctus who is examining the classical tradition. This is offered as a partial explanation for Wilder's surprisingly undervalued status as a literary author. The main part discusses the most significant works of Wilder in chronological order, concentrating on the classical elements. With The Woman of Andros, Wilder turns a Latin comedy into a modern novel. In Wilder's own plays, which clearly constitute his literary fame, he not only uses classical elements but also shows a basic affinity with the classical model. The Ides of March, Wilder's Caesar novel, depicts a complex portrait of the Roman dictator which even experts in this field find fascinating. The Alcestiad, though less successful on the stage, can be seen as one of the most significant adaptations of this classical myth in world literature. Even Wilder's last novels evince his proximity to the tradition originating in ancient Greece and Rome.


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