Showing posts with label Latin. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Latin. Show all posts

Thursday, April 24, 2014

That Delightful Rest

The philosophy of Aristotle lacks little, but a gaping omission is a human face. There is no smart aleck Socrates with whom we may laugh and grow irate, nor can we spy a troubled soul, like Marcus Aurelius, behind the words. If there was a character, real or imagined, in the lost works of the Aristotelian corpus, the "rivers of gold" according to Cicero, then we are all the more at a loss, for Aristotle's work is decidedly not that of the mechanical, technocratic mind. His philosophy is not cold and calculating, and we'll find it warm and lived in if we peer behind the notational style. This is nowhere more evident than in the chapter of the Ethics on friendship where he defines a friend, in part, as someone before whom you might do something foolish and still not blush. Yet if this man from antiquity is largely lost to us, there as another face for the philosophy.

Cicero's own philosophical works make no boast of originality, the non plus ultra to the modern mind, but who wouldn't be content, christened "Rome's greatest Aristotelian" by Dante, of all? Unlike their Aristotelian origins, many of Cicero's works are structured not as treatises but dialogues, which give human faces to the dense and often obscure discourses which they summarize or critique. Still there are moments of genuine and unique revelation in Cicero's philosophy when he sheds a new light, filtered by years of study, personal suffering, and the struggles with nation he strove to save, on philosophy.

For me the most poignant of these moments comes toward the end of de Amicitia, written in the summer of 44 BC just before Cicero returned to Rome to launch his famous Philippics against Marc Antony. Here the statesman-philosopher re-imagines Platonism and Aristotelianism, especially the Lysis and penultimate books of Aristotle's Ethics, as a dialogue centered around Gaius Laelius the Wise, the preeminent author and orator of the generation preceding Cicero's. Laelius remembers his friend Scipio Aemilianus, i.e. Africanus the Younger:
Numquam illum ne minima quidem re offendi, quod quidem senserim, nihil audivi ex eo ipse quod nollem. [de Amicitia, 103. The Latin Library]
It seems innocuous enough, obvious even, but there's so much insight in these few words, insight only gained by personal experience. There's so much substance under that polished parallel style.

On the surface, sure, Laelius is saying the obvious that his good friend never said anything which offended him in the least, which he would have noticed, nor vice versa, but this is something we overlook today, I think. With our legal system which functions on the premise that the contest of contrary opinions will reveal truth, a pluralistic polity, and the economic necessity of competition, we perhaps let variety and rivalry get the better of us.

Of rivalry we often consider speaking our mind more than a right but a duty. How quickly do we feel that we'll be implicated if we don't speak up for, or against, something. How quickly do we offer unsolicited opinions simply because they're relevant, even if they're unnecessary. Who doesn't feel the urge to pile on when someone is being dragged through the mud? Laelius' point is of course that he and Scipio didn't offend one another, but surely some of that accord resulted from the prudential application of silence, or at least deferred judgment.

Of variety, how often do we hear platitudes about having rights to opinions, and rights to be heard, and so on. We forget, and Cicero reminds us, that the soul finds rest in the harmony of friendship.

The dialogue contains also in that euphonious and compact relative clause, quod quidem senserim, a subtle nod to the empathy implicit in friendship. Simply, we have to pay attention to how the other person feels, what hurts and delights our loved ones. We need to know that look in their eyes, they way they shuffle in their seats, the way they grow quiet, that tells us we've hurt them, and we have to care enough not to do it again. The very thought of that look, of that quiet, has to pain us so much that we need to avoid it. The dialogue of course is idealized, and it's unlikely anyone has not hurt his friend at some point, but we see the tempered wisdom of Cicero behind the ideal.

Finally, Laelius draws attention to the littlest things, minima, which always need our attention. How our friends cater to our little pet peeves, and how easily we take their considerations for granted. Maybe they let us tell the same story over and over, or they avoid a certain topic to which we are sensitive, maybe they curb their playful teasing, or perhaps they simply stopped slurping their soda for us, but the absence of these irksome bits gradually becomes an environment in which we can find ease, and ourselves, in each other. It's a rest so consoling, so powerful, that we feel it, moreover we can exist in it, even when the activity of friendship is broken off by distance, whether by travel or, as Laelius says about his lifelong friend, by death.

So in but a small sentence Cicero through the voice of Laelius reminds us what restraint, consideration, and appreciation are necessary to make, find, and keep that delightful rest we call friendship.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Book Review: Ten Latin Anthologies

Teaching Latin literature courses always runs into several conundrums. Chief among these, perhaps, is whether the course will be structured around one or a few large works, or shorter selections. The former approach has the advantage of encouraging in-depth discussion of an author, genre, or work, but it's easy to get mired in a long text which students cannot move through with great speed. The latter choice necessitates a compilation of texts, and so enters the anthology.

A few notes and exceptions. These are all aimed at the high school, or perhaps undergraduate, level, and thus do not any of them contain an apparatus. I exclude anthologies dedicated to specific collections, such as sacred, medieval, or historical works and likewise omit any text books even if they have a great deal of literature as does Keller and Russell's Learn to Read Latin. Finally, I've surely not compiled an exhaustive list and any recommendations are most welcome

I. An Anthology of Latin Prose [Amazon]
ed. D. A. Russell

This is one of my favorites of the bunch. Russell's compilation gives in selections of about fifty lines each a useful sample of Latin authors and genres. The text's chronological arrangement gives the reader a good sense of evolving style and the brevity of the selections highlights the variety. Russell's notes are minimal, and mostly confined to translating Greek quotations, pointing out omissions and contracted forms, and explaining idioms and less common meanings. There's no help with complex clauses and no glossary, but Russell's introduction is a good one to prose periods and rhythms. Its generous helping of Cicero covers the author's philosophy, legal speeches, public speeches, and letters.

The quantity, brevity, and variety of the selections suits a survey course for proficient students.

II. Cambridge Latin Anthology [Amazon]
ed. Ashley Carter and Phillip Parr

This more slender reader provides equal measures of prose and poetry, with both sections providing a few long selections and then a number of smaller ones grouped by kind. For example, the editors provide four 60-line selections of Ovid and Vergil, and then group a variety of Horace, Martial, and Catullus into categories of love, leisure, and so forth.

The organization chaffed at first, but it's a not imprudent compromise. The lengthy sections provide opportunity for in-depth study while the topically-arranged groups give room for comparing genre, style, author, and content. Unfortunately, none of the poems are numbered and there is no identification of the prose selections, a decision which strips the literature of context, especially given the scant introductions and nonexistent notes. There is bountiful help with vocabulary though, with long-marks, facing-page vocabulary, and a glossary. A teacher's handbook is available that contains notes and commentary. It's not so necessary for teaching these texts, but it might be useful for students who can't read without a little help. The teacher's handbook doesn't contain any translations.

Overall, this reader is a good compromise between poetry and prose, and lengthy and short selections, but its lack of notes (without the handbook) limits its utility for the neophyte and lack of quantity limits its use to the sophisticated reader. Also, the layout is relatively inefficient and with all the dead space, this 180-page volume doesn't have that much Latin.

III. Oxford Latin Reader [Amazon]
ed. Maurice Balme and James Morwood

This anthology succeeds the three-part Oxford Latin Course and is best viewed as a sampler of the most notable sections from the most notable Latin authors: Cicero, Caesar, Catullus, Vergil, Livy, and Ovid. The text offers copious historical introductions and extremely generous notes which quite often translate the Latin outright. There is plentiful vocabulary and a small appendix on scansion. This reader would suit a class of weaker students in which you wanted to focus less on the Latin, to some extent, and more on history, culture, and such, while still getting the students to work in the canonical texts.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

App Review: Classics App Roundup (iOS)

It's curious that the discipline which forever insists that it relates to absolutely everything, which lectures about Vitruvius and Archimedes, which brags about ancient wonders, should be so technophobic. Yes, there's the TLG and the Perseus Project, but databases aren't quite cutting edge in 2013. Maybe the classicist's mind is truly tuned to the past. Perhaps the classicist's heart is quickened only by the authenticity of aged print and spoken words. Maybe they are impecunious or, like many students of the humanities, maybe they simply act the part of the technophobe and luddite. The reason for the technology gap in classics might be that it's a field dominated by academics who don't want to adapt. Whatever the reason, there is interesting and productive work going on in the mobile app classics world. Here are my 10 favorite classics apps on iOS. 

As a note to teachers, you can stream all of these to a TV or projector via an Apple TV.

I. Colosseum 3D

I remember the first time I picked up Carcopino's Daily Life in Ancient Rome mostly because I put it down in despair after a lengthy description of the dimensions of some building or other. Colosseum 3D offers some spectacular fly-through renderings of the Colosseum. It's exciting to get a sense of scale for the massive space and to get the teensiest hint of its former glory. 

Free Demo. $3.99 to buy in-app for the full version. 

It's always a pain to study battles because you have to examine the action at so many stages. Descriptions in books are strewn with layers of color-coded, dotted, and dashed-lines or if you're lucky, pages of images, all to compensate for paper's inability to show you the unfolding visual. These apps from Amber Books present you the stages of the battle but both animate and narrate the transitions. They also have some light historical information.

$2.99 each

III. Virgil Out Loud

It's one of the  blessings and curses of classical languages that their study tends to subordinate pronunciation and conversation to grammatical concerns. Add the difficulties of meter and scansion to the pronunciation lacuna in the curriculum and it's no wonder poetry is a tough sell. In Virgil, iOS developer Paul Hudson teamed with University of Exeter's Stephen Jenkin and Llewelyn Morgan of Brasenose College Oxford for an app which gives you four choice selections of the Aeneid with reading notes and, more importantly, recitations. Morgan reads the hexameters slowly enough for students to follow, but the app highlights the line just in case.


Friday, August 9, 2013

Presidential Rhetoric VI: John Quincy Adams

Welcome to Part Six of our series on the rhetoric of American presidential inaugural addresses. Please feel free to look at the previous entries in the series:
  1. Worthy of Marble?
  2. John Adams
  3. Thomas Jefferson
  4. James Madison
  5. James Monroe
We continue with our present look at the rhetoric of John Quincy Adams' inaugural address. The first presidential son of a president, John Quincy fittingly owes his considerable education, Classical and otherwise, to his father.

As a child he was instructed in history yes, but with a point of observing "treachery, perfidy, cruelty, and hypocrisy" which he "should learn to detest." Before his teens he delighted in Shakespeare, though in old age he confessed what humor he had missed as a child. Later, visiting Johnny at the Passy Academy in Paris in 1778, the father Adams would remark, "this child. . . learned more french in a day than I could learn in a Week with all my books." Years on when studying at Leyden, Johnny would receive from his father a gift of Terence in  both French and Latin, which the boy had of course learned by now de rigueur. From Leyden Johnny would write how he was "writing in Homer, the Greek grammar, and the Greek testament every day," although his father would write, outraged that the curriculum didn't include Cicero and Demosthenes, an inclusion upon which he insisted. Johnny's Harvard years, which he didn't reflect on with too much affection, rounded out his formal education, before adding to it an MA from his alma mater and joining the bar, age 23.

Let us see to what end the second presidential Adams' considerable intelligence, education, and experience met the occasion of his Inaugural Address, delivered Friday, March 4, 1825.

As usual, the speech is available via Bartleby, which we reproduce here boldface, with my comments following.

[A] IN compliance with an usage coeval with the existence of our Federal Constitution, and [B] sanctioned by the example of my predecessors in the career upon which I am about to enter, [C] I appear, [D] my fellow-citizens, in your presence and in that of Heaven [E] to bind myself by the solemnities of religious obligation [F] to the faithful performance of the duties allotted to me [G] in the station to which I have been called.

For his opening, Adams has folded all of his introductory ideas into one sentence. He begins with two parallel prefaces in which he identifies the occasion of his inauguration as [A] coeval, and thus of equal authority, as the constitution, and [B] sanctioned by his predecessors' examples, and thus sanctioned by tradition and excellence. Adams delays his appearance in the speech until [C], which coming after his prefaces about the history of the constitution and the previous presidents, gives the effect of Adams appearing at this moment, a subtle and effective instance of style mirroring content. No sooner does he introduce himself, though, than he addresses his fellow-citizens [D], smartly associating himself with the people and continuing the image of the speaker presenting himself to the people. Adams continues with overt religious analogy by identifying his oath as sacred [E], his duties as both [F] obligatory (faithful performance) and specific (allotted), and his election as democratic. [G]

The most succinct opening yet, Adams packs a lot of detail into a very small span with his Latinate and Ciceronian phrasing.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Odi et Amo

Some attain immortality by doing great deeds, others by getting swept up in the affairs of great men. It's unlikely we would remember a fourth-rate crook like Gaius Verres had Cicero not so ferociously denounced the fool, nor would an obscure archbishop like Hieronymous Colloredo be remembered but for getting under the skin of a certain W. A. Mozart. Lesbia, as her lover called her, we know for her affair with the greatest poet of his age, Catullus. Her reputation fared somewhat better than those of Verres and Colloredo, who were both eviscerated to rags, but we generally remember her as the woman not who loved, but who tortured Catullus. Lesbia is not the inspirational Muse that Simonetta Vespucci played to Botticelli, inspiring thoughts of a perfected beauty to be contemplated and never defiled, but the spark of Catullus' very earthy passions of love and hate.

We really do owe to the ancient lovers a great debt, though, for the poet's pains bore one great fruit: a poignant, poetical crystallization of that curiously close kinship between love and hate.

That brilliant single couplet of poem 85, odi et amo, gets the glory, but Catullus 85 is best seen as the culmination of thoughts more fully explored in poem 72.

Here, Catullus begins by retracing his affair with Lesbia.

1 Dicebas quondam solum te nosse Catullum,
2 -----Lesbia, nec prae me velle tenere Iovem.
3 dilexi tum te non tantum ut vulgus amicam,
4 -----sed pater ut gnatos diligit et generos.
5 nunc te cognoui: quare etsi impensius uror,
6 -----multo mi tamen es uilior et levior.
7 qui potis est, inquis? quod amantem iniuria
8 -----talis cogit amare magis, sed bene velle minus.

The first two lines are a miniature masterpiece describing the good old days, a couplet structured around dicebas and te, which set up the two parallel, sequential indirect statements describing Lesbia's promise.

On the one hand Lesbia once promised that she loved Catullus alone (1), and on the other that she didn't prefer even Jove to him (2). It's a simple, even slight, notion which only someone head-over-heels could have taken to heart. I wonder just when and why made this "promise?" To coax her reticent, junior lover, maybe? In flagrante delicto? Or maybe, perish the thought, the poor, proud boy, as she ushered him out the back door, paused at the threshold and asked how much she loved him, to which she replied with invisible irony, More than Jove, darling.

Perhaps, though, Lesbia did make this promise a full-hearted confession to Catullus one afternoon in some sacred lovers' grove and for a time at least, truly meant it. Either way, Catullus seems to have thought the love both permanent and binding, seeing how he interweaves the thoughts. Notice how solum...Catullum (Catullus alone) surrounds te nosse (you knew), how Catullum runs into Lesbia on the next line, and how nec prae me (not before me) literally precedes velle tenere Iovem (you wanted to hold Jove.)

3 dilexi tum te non tantum ut vulgus amicam,
4 -----sed pater ut gnatos diligit et generos.

The word order of the next couplet is a twofold contrast. Instead of discussing Lesbia's promise we move on to Catullus' love, and instead of interweaving the thoughts, they are simple and linear. I loved you not as a crowd [loves] someone, but as a father loves his sons and sons-in-law. The contrast within the couplet is between vulgar, public, and temporary effusion, and heartfelt, private, and perpetual love.

5 nunc te cognoui: quare etsi impensius uror,
6 -----multo mi tamen es uilior et levior.

The third couplet opens with a brutal contrast, continuing the parallelism in the hexameters of leading with the main verb giving action to te (Lesbia) but viciously subverting the meaning. We move from Dicebas...te (you were saying... that you) to Dilexi te (I loved you) to Nunc te cognovi, Now I know you. All of Catullus' love seems to shatter and we expect a torrent of vituperation, but the poet twists our expectations by returning immediately to the thought of his love, which is not diminished byt amplified in impensius uror (althought I burn more strongly.) Catullus leaves us hanging at the end of line 5 and then drives home his point:

6 -----multo mi[hi] tamen es uilior et levior.
6 -----by much to me you are cheap and meaningless. 

This is the final evolution of the second person characterization of Lesbia:

Dicebas...te - you were saying that you...
Dilexi...te - I loved you
te cognovi - I know you
es vilior et levior - you are...

Here, however, Catullus opens line 6 not with Lesbia, but with his valuation (multo) and himself (mihi.)

The structure of the closing couplet encapsulates the whole of the poem, introducing by a rhetorical question Catullus' lesson: such injury urges lovers to love more, but to regard less.

What a delicious paradox: Catullus hates her for rejecting him even as that spurning betrayal inflames his ardor. As he values her less, he wants her more. It's a sentiment which has to be felt to be believed. On the one hand the rejection spurs furious outrage at the perfidy and indignity. It means nothing to be rejected by her. How could I ever have valued her highly?

On the other hand her faithlessness implants the secret suggestion that somehow, in denying you, she's demonstrated that she has higher standards, a tantalizing and infuriating fancy. Every tricksy turn, then, inspires both hate and love, and thus the full weight behind Catullus' most famous lines.

Odi et amo. quare id faciam, fortasse requiris.
-----nescio, sed fieri sentio et excrucior.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

On Five Lines of Cicero

In discharge of my pedagogical duties I've been this week teaching a selection of Cicero's Catilinarian Orations. Given our Presidential Rhetoric series, as well as recent praise of Rand Paul's filibustering and the usual boilerplate about President Obama's rhetorical prowess, it seemed prudent to share some thoughts on a choice passage of Cicero. Not that we need any pretense to talk Cicero, of course.

Without further delay, Cicero against Catiline. Fasten your seat belts.

Though we are looking only at a section of the speech, it is clearly of the deliberative type. Cicero stands before the senators to:
  1. Urge a course of action: the exile of Catiline. 
  2. Demonstrate a concern over Rome's future.
  3. Establish the expediency of punishing Catiline.
Given Catiline's crimes, though, this speech undoubtedly shares in the elements of a forensic speech with its invective and catalogues of Catiline's deeds.

Let's now look at a section, which I reproduce courtesy The Latin Library.
V. Quae cum ita sint, Catilina, perge, quo coepisti, egredere aliquando ex urbe; patent portae; proficiscere. Nimium diu te imperatorem tua illa Manliana castra desiderant. Educ tecum etiam omnes tuos, si minus, quam plurimos; purga urbem. Magno me metu liberabis, dum modo inter me atque te murus intersit. Nobiscum versari iam diutius non potes; non feram, non patiar, non sinam
The opening cum clause swiftly combines the previous thoughts and emphasizes one thing: that they happened. Cicero continues in apostrophe, addressing Catiline directly with a series of imperatives: perge, egredere, proficiscere, educ, purga. The effects are many. First, as a list, Cicero provides a catalogue of what Catiline intended to do. Second, Cicero is being ironic, suggesting that Catiline leave not to come back and challenge Rome, but as an exile. Third, the imperatives taunt Catiline, challenging him to do what he wanted to do. Fourth, Cicero mocks Catiline, emphasizing both Catiline's desire to do those things as well as his weakness and exposure. Lastly, the imperatives, as commands, emphasize Cicero's consular authority.

Note also the personification with castra desiderant: "The camp has been missing you, its general." Here Cicero at once 1) mocks Catiline, calling him "general," imperatorem, 2) reminds the audience of Catiline's martial intentions, 3) reminds the audience about the army which was at that very moment waiting to attack Rome, and 4) distances Catiline from the senators, as if Cicero said, "Go back to your camp, with your people, where you belong." This is masterful economy.

Cicero continues to taunt Catiline, telling him to leave and take his friends with him. Again, a few brilliant touches here.

First, si minus, quam plurimos, "if [you take] less than all [your allies], [take] as many as possible" suggests, correctly or not, that there are so many conspirators that Catiline might not be able to take everyone with him. Also, there is a pleasing parallelism and contrast of if less, then many. The omission of the verb, such as to lead, and the substantive tuos give this statement a curt, off-the-cuff ring, as if Cicero is so fed up he blurts out, "Go, fine if you can't take them all, but just go!" Second, purga carries the sense of empty as well as meaning of clean here, suggesting in departing Catiline will be cleansing the city, an image Cicero will pick up again later.

Cicero finishes this thought with a simple conditional, stating that if Catiline goes, he'll "free" (liberabis) Cicero from a great fear, as long as a wall, that is the wall around Rome, separates them. It's easy to overlook the effects of this simple statement.

First, Cicero is being ironic in using liberabis, as if the criminal Catiline could do anything such as free someone. Second, Cicero emphasizes his dominance by painting a scene in which Catiline has obeyed him. Third, he describes that Catiline was a danger with magno metu, but indirectly, connecting by metonymy Cicero's fear with Catiline's plans which caused the fear. Lastly, the invokation of Rome's walls reminds the audience of Rome's power and, again, the fact that Catiline belongs outside them.

Cicero concludes the section with a series of short, staccato phrases. Of devices we have alliteration and  anaphora with non, as wells as asyndeton with the final three verbs. versari, meaning to stay but also be situated among again drives home the point that Catiline does not belong. Also, the word order here and person of the verbs here are effective:

With us to stay longer you are not able; 
I will not bear it; I will not endure it; I will not allow it. 

Cicero places Catiline's inability, potes, right next to Cicero's own authority, non feram.

Too the shift from the previous imperatives, taunting Catiline, to the second person, "you will free" and "you are not able," mocking and diminish him, to Cicero's conclusions with "I, I, I" are pleasing contrast, climax, and a reminder of who is in charge.

Not bad for five sentences.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Top Ten: Things Which Annoy Classicists

Classicists are a curious bunch. We come in all shapes and sizes and with all manner of creeds, but generally it's a smart and elitist crowd. We're also rather. . . picky.

Most of us find the following vexing. Utter these at the risk of being denounced on an epic scale. I tried to keep the list focused on the discipline and not academia.

10. "I know Italian/Modern Greek. . .

. . . can't I just pronounce/read it like that?" It's not the ignorance of the cradle of Western Civilization here that galls so much as the unwillingness to invest in learning about it.

9. Fouling up quotations

Quote foreign languages at your own risk. "Arma virumque cana" is an epic fail.

8. Duckworth, Balchazy-Carducci, and Cambridge

Aside from the varying quality of the commentaries, the first two fall apart about an hour into reading and there is no force in the universe which can keep a new Cambridge propped open.

7. Random Translations

It's admirable that you added the $4.99 bargain edition of The Odyssey at checkout, but the Derpy McDerperson translation is not helping anyone or anything. Ask for assistance.

6. Lack of an Apparatus Criticus

You mean we don't have perfect original manuscripts? What?!

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Bach: Quia fecit mihi magna

Quia fecit mihi magna, qui potens est.

One of the most brilliant and  bafflingly simple moments of music and an example of Bach's oft-cited "one-part" counterpoint, this is a priceless gem. Yes it is a masculine moment for the Magnificat, but has any other piece ever so captured the personal element of the Christian faith? Has one ever felt so guided, so gently rocked, so nestled, has the world and beyond ever seemed so ordered, so prepared, has all ever seemed so firm as in these thirty four bars? And has one ever then been so grateful?

Monday, January 11, 2010

Movie Review: Bottle Shock

Directed by Randall Miller. 2008.

In the absence of flashiness and spectacle and without technical polish and narrative novelty Bottle Shock is left to rise or fall by its ideas. It is appropriate, though, that this film should be so modest in presentation since its characters too are so. Bottle Shock quite simply tells the story of Jim Barrett in 1976 Napa Valley, California struggling to perfect his Chardonnay and make his business fly. Struggle he does, with the Franco-centric wine world and prejudices against American wine, with the need to pay back the debt he has accumulated in his risky venture, with embarrassment in the face of those who thought his endeavor foolish, and with the sheer difficulty of his task.

Jim has one philosophy for growing grapes and it is a tough one:
Jim: The vineyard's best fertilizer is the owner's footsteps. . . its eluvial volcanic soil. . . you want to limit the irrigation because it makes the vines struggle, intensifies the flavor. A comfortable grape, well-watered, well-fertilized grape grows into a lazy ingredient of a lousy wine.

Sam: So from hardship comes enlightenment.

Jim: For a grape.
His philosophy, peppered with references to struggling and being stronger where one has been hurt, rather seems not to have been working in his personal life. His struggles have not brought success to his business. His hippie son, Bo, is neither employed nor educated and without prospects for either. Perhaps his son, Jim thinks, has simply had it too easy to want to reach out and struggle for something. In addition to his entrepreneurial spirit and stoic take on suffering, Jim is characterized by his insistence that he himself succeed and without charity. When Bo borrows money from his mother, who has left Jim and re-married his law partner from his old firm, for some needed casks, Jim is outraged and unwilling even to consider it a gift,  "a gift like that costs more than money. . . I don't want to owe anybody." It's his land, his grapes, his wine, his toil, and it has it be his success.

Jim is particularly suspicious of Steven Spurrier, a British sommelier on his own entrepreneurial quest selecting Napa wines for a competitive taste-testing against French ones. Jim suspects a plot to embarrass the Americans on the bicentennial with a rigged competition and refuses to give Spurrier the wines for testing. His son, though, once again in secret, gives Spurrier the wines and. . . well the rest is history.

The mix-up about the wine's color is successful in adding some dynamism and tension to the end of the movie, but that it feels slightly contrived is perhaps a triumph and not a failing. You see, there are really no villains in the movie. The French wine snobs are characterized as such, but they figure only slightly into the story. The movie is not about whether Jim defeats his rivals, indeed all the Napa viticulturists realize if any ones of them wins the new Napa reputation will benefit them all. Bottle Shock is likewise not about Jim overcoming the contrivances, crimes, or machinations of someone, but whether he has it within himself to succeed unaided. In fact Jim's success party comes not when he wins the competition, but when he opens his bottle of perfect, clear Chardonnay in his old office and stands there in the triumph of his challenge.

Perhaps it was this success that motivated Bo to follow in his father's footsteps. Perhaps at last he glimpsed the connections among a person, one's work and the intensely personal joy of achievement and was inspired to take on a struggle for himself.

Vergil. Georgics II.
O fortunatos nimium, sua si bona norint, [458]
agricolas! quibus ipsa procul discordibus armis
fundit humo facilem victum iustissima tellus.
Si non ingentem foribus domus alta superbis
mane salutantum totis vomit aedibus undam,
nec varios inhiant pulchra testudine postis
inlusasque auro vestes Ephyreiaque aera,
alba neque Assyrio fucatur lana veneno
nec casia liquidi corrumpitur usus olivi:
at secura quies et nescia fallere vita,
dives opum variarum, at latis otia fundis—
speluncae vivique lacus et frigida Tempe
mugitusque boum mollesque sub arbore somni—
non absunt; illic saltus ac lustra ferarum
et patiens operum exiguoque adsueta iuventus,
sacra deum sanctique patres; extrema per illos
iustitia excedens terris vestigia fecit.

Translation I. | Translation II.