Natura e fine dei Caratteri di Teofrasto. Storia di un enigma

Philologus: Zeitschrift für Antike Literatur Und Ihre Rezeption 155 (1):69-91 (2011)
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The question of the nature and the scope of Theophrastus’ Characters is one of the most intricated and most desperate puzzles of classical studies. Today many scholars are either sceptical about the possibility of giving a univocal answer to this vexatissima quaestio or prefer not to take position about it. Among the most various interpretations four principal theses arise. According to them, the Characters represent respectively: 1. a complement to a treatise of moral philosophy; 2. a literary work written in an artistic prose with a humorous intention; 3. a rhetorical exercise for training in schools of rhetoric; 4. the appendix to a treatise of poetical theory. Through a historical survey of the relevant scholarship, I will show that the first two positions cannot reasonably be held any more. The last two ones, instead, conserve most of their scientific value and should be used in the next future as a new hermeneutical basis for a possible solution or semplification of the ‘Theophrastean question’.



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