Study at Haverford; A.B. Harvard, 1911; B.A. Oxford (Balliol Coll.) (Rhodes Scholar), 1914; A.M. Harvard, 1916; Ph.D., 1917.
Instr. English, Harvard, 1914-5; master Gk., Groton, 1917-20; instr. to prof. Gk. & Lat., Harvard, 1920-56; chair, class, dept. 1946-51; ann. prof. AAR, 1931-2; vis. prof. U. Chicago, 1938; Cornell, 1947; pres. CANE, 1950-1; pres. APA, 1950-1; vice pres. AAAS, 1952-3; secretary, 1953-6; John Hay Whitney prof., Wells Coll., 1957-8.
“Quid de poetis Plato censuerit” (Harvard, 1917); printed as “Plato's View of Poetry,” HSCP 29 (1918) 1-75.
“The Spirit of Comedy in Plato, HSCP 31 (1920) 63-123; “Young Virgil and 'The Doubtful Doom of Human Kind',” AJP 43 (1922) 344-51; The Achievement of Greece: A Chapter in Human Experience (Cambridge, 1924); Selections from Jowett's Plato (New York, 1927); The Achievement of Rome: A Chapter in Civilization (Cambridge, 1933); “Fate, Good and Evil in Early Greek Poetry,” HSCP 46 (1935) 1-36; “Fate, Good and Evil in Pre-Socratic Philosophy,” HSCP 47 (1936) 85-129; Scholia Platonica, APA Phil. Monogr. 8 (Haverford, PA, 1938); “Note on Georgics IV, 491-3,” Studies Rand, 113-22; Moira: Fate, Good and Evil in Greek Thought (Cambridge, 1944); “Personifications,” “Pietas,” Oxford Classical Dictionary (Oxford, 1949), 669-71, 692; “The Greek Criticism of Poetry,” Harvard Studies in Comparative Literature 20 (1950) 19-53; “The Spoken and the Written Word,” HSCP 60 (1951) 23-59; “Platonism and Its Critics,” HSCP 61 (1953) 39-71; “ 'Gentle Reader': More on the Spoken and Written Word,” Studies Caplan, 391-406.
W. C. Greene achieved deserved acclaim as a generalist with his two books, The Achievement of Greece and The Achievement of Rome. His edition of the scholia to Plato has become a standard in the field, but his most widely influential book was Moira: Fate, Good and Evil in Greek Thought, a book that, with unusual skill and clarity, marshaled a huge body of evidence for the Greek approach to the problems raised by the presence of evil in the world. Greene was a regular contributor to HSCP and also contributed to the Oxford Classical Dictionary. He was a careful scholar who contributed significantly to our general appreciation of Greece and Rome and specifically to our understanding of Greek tragedy and Plato.At Oxford Greene was distinguished by being the first American to win the Newdigate Prize for Poetry (1912), an award won by Matthew Arnold, J. A. Symonds, and Oscar Wilde. He also won the Oldham Prize for his essay “The Sea in Greek Poets.” He was moderator and senior deacon of the First Church (Congregational) in Cambridge, and also an accomplished musician who played the cello in the Harvard Musical Association orchestra.
HSCP 62 (1957) 1-5 (with bibliography); Z. Stewart, APA Newsletter 2 (Winter 1979) 11-2; Z. Stewart, C. H. Whitman, & John H. Finley, “William Greene: A Classicist of Graceful Style, Great Kindness,” Harvard Gazette (20 April 1979) 9.
AUTHORJohn E. Rexine