Mansur Abu'l Qasem Ferdowsi Criticism - Essay

James Atkinson (essay date 1814)

(Classical and Medieval Literature Criticism)

SOURCE: A preface to Suhrāb and Rustam: A Poem from the “Shāh Nāmah” of Firdausī. 1814. Reprint. Scholars' Facsimiles and Reprints, 1972, pp. l-xxv.

[In the following essay, Atkinson prefaces the translation of the Suhrāb story from the Shah-Namawith a biographical sketch of Ferdowsi and a general overview of the poem. Atkinson praises the poet's descriptions and his flowing verse.]

The Shahnamu, from which the Poem of Soohrab is taken, comprises the history and achievements of the ancient Kings of Persia from Kuyomoors, down to the invasion and conquest of that empire by the Saracens, during the reign of Yuzdjird, in 636. It is replete with...

(The entire section is 3777 words.)

G. E. Von Grunebaum (essay date 1955)

(Classical and Medieval Literature Criticism)

SOURCE: “Firdausî's Concept of History,” in Islam: Essays in the Nature and Growth of a Cultural Tradition, Routledge and Kegan Paul, Ltd., 1955, pp. 168-84.

[In the following essay, Von Grunebaum studies Ferdowsi's portrayal of Persian history, arguing that the poet's aim was to generate a feeling of national unity by portraying the “oneness” of Iran's past.]

It is only when it is drawing to its close or even after it has passed away that a creative age will receive that literary representation that will be felt thenceforth to constitute the valid embodiment of its spirit, its aspirations, and its self-interpretation. Iliad and Odyssey follow...

(The entire section is 7747 words.)

Reuben Levy (essay date 1967)

(Classical and Medieval Literature Criticism)

SOURCE: A prologue to The Epic of the Kings: “Shah-Nama,” the National Epic of Persia, by Ferdowsi, translated by Reuben Levy, revised by Amin Banani, Routledge and Kegan Paul, Ltd., 1967, pp. xv-xxvi.

[In the essay below, Levy offers an overview of Ferdowsi's Shah-Nama, commenting on its form and style and praising, in particular, the poet's skill in his laments for Persia's fallen kings and heroes.]

Before the land of Iran was converted to its present religion of Islam, or Mohammadanism, it had for many centuries followed the doctrines of Zoroaster. His religion, known in the West as Zoroastrianism or Mazdaism, had a literature of its own, which concerned...

(The entire section is 4953 words.)

G. M. Wickens (essay date 1972)

(Classical and Medieval Literature Criticism)

SOURCE: “The Imperial Epic of Iran: A Literary Approach,” in Iranian Civilization and Culture, edited by Charles J. Adams, McGill University, 1972, pp. 133-44.

[In the essay that follows, Wickens examines the portion of the Shah-Nama dedicated to the Sasanid period of Iran's history, offering a synopsis of this section and emphasizing its dramatic form and themes.]

Many of the ideas presented here have undoubtedly been maturing in my mind since I was first compelled, some thirty-four years ago, to read a portion of the Shāh-nāmah not for its own splendid sake but as a tool on which to practice my elementary grasp of the Persian language. They are...

(The entire section is 6512 words.)

Minoo S. Southgate (essay date 1974)

(Classical and Medieval Literature Criticism)

SOURCE: “Fate in Firdawsī's ‘Rustam vam Suhrāb’,” in Studies in Art and Literature of the Near East, edited by Peter J. Chelkowski, University of Utah, 1974, pp. 149-59.

[In the essay below, Southgate maintains that Ferdowsi uses the story of Suhrāb to emphasize the inevitability of fate but stresses that the author's fatalistic view is not shared by all of his characters.]

In a recent study of Matthew Arnold's “Sohrab and Rustum,” Hasan Javadi observes that Arnold's version of the story is more fatalistic than Firdawsī's. Javadi admits that fate is not absent from Fardawsī, but declares that its force “is lessened by the Persian poet's concern to...

(The entire section is 3472 words.)

Anna Krasnowolska (essay date 1977)

(Classical and Medieval Literature Criticism)

SOURCE: “About the ‘Black-and-White Thread’ in Šāh-Nāme,” in Folia Orientalia, Vol. XVIII, 1977, pp. 219-31.

[In the essay that follows, Krasnowolska examines the contention that the Shah-Nama reflects Ferdowsi's dualistic view of life, maintaining that there is insufficient evidence to support this argument. Rather, Ferdowsi presents his story from a flexible point of view in order to demonstrate that events can be observed from many angles and that nothing is “black and white.”]

Comments about the structure of Ferdousi's Šāh-nāme have not been until now, very numerous. They were rather occasional and chiefly included into the...

(The entire section is 4610 words.)

Jerome W. Clinton (essay date 1987)

(Classical and Medieval Literature Criticism)

SOURCE: An introduction to The Tragedy of Sohráb and Rostám from the Persian National Epic, the “Shahname” of Abol-Qasem Ferdowsi, translated by Jerome W. Clinton, University of Washington Press, 1987, pp. xiii-xxv.

[In the following essay, Clinton reviews the structure and themes of the Shah-Nama, observing that the work is unified by its focus on dynastic succession.]

The story of Sohráb is just one small portion of the vast compilation of stories that make up the Iranian national epic commonly known as the Shahname, or Book of Kings. The Shahname traces the history of the Iranian nation from the first mythological shah, Kiumars, down to...

(The entire section is 3529 words.)

William L. Hanaway (essay date 1988)

(Classical and Medieval Literature Criticism)

SOURCE: “Epic Poetry,” in Persian Literature, edited by Ehsan Yarshater, Bibliotheca Persica, 1988, pp. 96-108.

[In the essay below, Hanaway discusses Persian national epic poetry in general and the Shah-Nama in particular, focusing on the poem's language and the nature of its heroes. Hanaway also comments on the movement from epic to romance that occurred in the literature of medieval Persia after the Shah-Nama.]

Persian epic poetry is both extensive and little known. The following discussion will attempt to introduce this poetry by touching on several areas of literary and cultural interest. Beginning with a definition of epic poetry, it will move on to...

(The entire section is 5574 words.)

Dick Davis (essay date 1992)

(Classical and Medieval Literature Criticism)

SOURCE: An introduction to The Legend of Seyavash, by Ferdowsi, translated by Dick Davis, Penguin Books, 1992, pp. ix-xxvii.

[In the following essay, Davis studies the plot and themes of the Shah-Nama, focusing in particular on the Sasanian bias of the later portions of the text, including the story of Seyavash. Davis observes that the authority of God and King in the text are of major importance, but are exceeded in significance by the authority of the father over the son.]

The Legend of Seyavash is a section of The Shahnameh, written by the Persian poet Ferdowsi (c. 940-c. 1020). The Shahnameh bears approximately the same...

(The entire section is 8466 words.)

Olga M. Davidson (essay date 1994)

(Classical and Medieval Literature Criticism)

SOURCE: “Ferdowsi's Oral Poetic Heritage,” in Poet and Hero in the Persian “Book of Kings,” Cornell University Press, 1994, pp. 58-72.

[In the essay below, Davidson analyzes the oral tradition from which Ferdowsi drew the Shah-Nama and in which the text figured as a recitation piece. Davidson contends that the Shah-Nama was shaped by the creativity of its oral tradition.]

The composite picture of an assembly of mōbads, whose coming together literally constitutes Ferdowsi's “sourcebook” by way of their collective recitation, can be supplemented by individual pictures, recurring throughout the Shāhnāma, of individual recitation....

(The entire section is 7071 words.)

Jerome W. Clinton (essay date 1999)

(Classical and Medieval Literature Criticism)

SOURCE: An introduction to In the Dragon's Claws: The Story of Rostram and Esfandiyar from the Persian “Book of Kings” by Abolqasem Ferdowsi, Mage Publishers, 1999, pp. 9-23.

[In the following essay, Clinton follows his outline of the Shah-Nama's themes with an analysis of the story of Rostram and Esfandiyar as it reflects the recurring themes of the work as a whole—ambivalence toward the demands of heroism and a critical attitude toward monarchy.]

The story of Rostam and Esfandiyār is taken from the Shahnameh, or Book of Kings, a long narrative poem in Persian that was given its present form by Abolqasem Ferdowsi (ad 932-1025). The many...

(The entire section is 4740 words.)