Hero and Saint: Shakespeare and the Graeco-Roman Heroic Tradition

Reuben Brower, Hero and Saint: Shakespeare and the Graeco-Roman Heroic Tradition (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1971)

From a review in the Journal of English Germanic Philology (Vol. 72, No. 2, 1973):

Professor Brower vigorously pursues the old argument that Shakespeare’s tragedies are in the direct line of the Graeco-Roman heroic tradition: Homer, Virgil, Ovid, and Seneca, as they are modernized, Christianized, and otherwise transformed by a remarkably independent group of Elizabethan translators. To quote:

“Perhaps the main theme of this book is simply the recognition of greatness, a feat more difficult for the twentieth-century reader or auditor than for the Elizabethan. Yet failure to achieve this recognition while reading Shakespeare’s heroic tragedies means either distortion or a kind of non-reading. Magnificence is rarely met with in our world and is almost unknown to our daily idiom; but we must catch and recover the rare instants when we have glimpsed it, if we are to see that Hamlet is a Prince – not a bewildered undergraduate, as he was recently played in England – and that Lear is “every inch a king,” and Coriolanus a hero.”