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This work has been selected by scholars as being culturally important, and is part of the knowledge base of civilization as we know it. This work was reproduced from the original artifact, and remains as true to the original work as possible. Therefore, you will see the original copyright references, library stamps (as most of these works have been housed in our most impor This work has been selected by scholars as being culturally important, and is part of the knowledge base of civilization as we know it. This work was reproduced from the original artifact, and remains as true to the original work as possible. Therefore, you will see the original copyright references, library stamps (as most of these works have been housed in our most important libraries around the world), and other notations in the work. This work is in the public domain in the United States of America, and possibly other nations. Within the United States, you may freely copy and distribute this work, as no entity (individual or corporate) has a copyright on the body of the work. As a reproduction of a historical artifact, this work may contain missing or blurred pages, poor pictures, errant marks, etc. Scholars believe, and we concur, that this work is important enough to be preserved, reproduced, and made generally available to the public. We appreciate your support of the preservation process, and thank you for being an important part of keeping this knowledge alive and relevant.

30 review for The Tragedies of Sophocles: Translated from the Greek. with Notes Historical, Moral and Critical ... to Which Is Prefix'd, a Preface; Containing ... a Defence of Tragic Poetry ...

  1. 4 out of 5

    Alex

    Aristotle thought Sophocles the best of the Greek tragedians, and Oedipus the King the perfect tragedy. Sophocles wrote complicated, powerful plays - seven of them have survived, out of 120. He wrote about outcasts. My favorite, Antigone, is about fighting the power, and so are Elektra and Philoktetes. Robert Bagg and James Scully run down his common themes in their intro to this complete edition: - Sympathy for fate's victims - Hostility towards tyrants - Skepticism toward self-indulgent "heroes" - Aristotle thought Sophocles the best of the Greek tragedians, and Oedipus the King the perfect tragedy. Sophocles wrote complicated, powerful plays - seven of them have survived, out of 120. He wrote about outcasts. My favorite, Antigone, is about fighting the power, and so are Elektra and Philoktetes. Robert Bagg and James Scully run down his common themes in their intro to this complete edition: - Sympathy for fate's victims - Hostility towards tyrants - Skepticism toward self-indulgent "heroes" - Disillusionment with war and revenge. They go on: "It's impossible to sanction revenge...simply through analysis and debate. Revenge, the audience realizes, issues from hatred immune to logic or morality." But Sophocles is clever and ambiguous, so it's possible (for example) to misunderstand Antigone; Creon, the tyrant machine Antigone is raging against, isn't a two-dimensional villain. Sophocles' plays "bristle with ironies and implications that suggest his characters do not, or cannot, understand everything that is happening to them." If you're not careful you won't understand everything that's happening to these characters either. This 2011 translation is a little controversial; Bagg and Scully refuse the tendency toward high-falutin' language that most other translations use. They present Sophocles in stubbornly modern voices: "Sure, you can bitch" (i.e. complain) says Elektra to her sister. The word "bogus" is used. "To translate the rich range of expressive modes Sophocles had at his disposal," argues Bagg, "we need the resources not only of idiomatic English, but also of rhetorical gravitas and, on rare occasion, colloquial English as well." They dismiss what they see as a stuffy insistence on high-toned, Victorian translation habits. The effect is a little jarring, but I'm kinda...convinced, to be honest. They do bring plenty of "rhetorical gravitas" at times: when Elektra bemoans You, my rancid bed in that Palace of pain (118) you're reminded that these guys are poets. But they're determined to avoid gravitas for gravitas's sake. They compare the plays to Greek statues in museums: they're all this stark, pure white marble, and that's how we think of them, but they weren't anything like that when they were made. The Greeks painted them with bright, even garish colors. They even dressed them up. We have the wrong idea, because it's been so long that the colors have worn away. By using modern English in their translations, Bagg and Scully are trying to put the color back in Sophocles. Elektra (Read October 2016) But here's a weird effect: it's suddenly possible to interpret Elektra as a comedy. I didn't get this sense when I read Anne Carson's translation. I didn't like it as much either. Sophocles amped up the weirdness and unlikability of Elektra and Orestes from Aeschylus' Libation Bearers, which tells the same story - there's his tendency to undermine "heroes" for you - and in Bagg's hands it reaches points of near silliness. "They've found a way into the heart of their hostess," says Elektra to Aegisthus, snickering. (They found it with daggers.) And a moment later: "For gods sake, brother," she says to Orestes: "Don't let him talk! You'll get a speech!" There's a whole section where Orestes slowly reveals to Elektra that it's not his ashes in this urn that's almost goofy. So your mileage will vary on these idiosyncratic translations. For me: I found that I was drawn into these plays more than I ever have been before. (And I've read some of these like five times.) I liked them more; I understood them better; I was more interested. And I was more entertained. More plays Aias (Read in December 2016) Great stuff, five stars, review here. Women of Trakhis (Read in January 2017) Dug it! Four stars, Review here. Philoktetes (Read in October 2017) Loved it! Five stars, Review here. Antigone (read a bunch of times) Probably the consensus best of his plays, and I see no reason to disagree. Here's my most complete review of it. Oedipus Rex & at Colonus (read years ago and not this translation) I never have written a review of these two, even though Oedipus is the most iconic figure in all of Greek drama. They're good? Dude fucks his mom?

  2. 4 out of 5

    Anand

    What a brilliant collection, and now that I’ve read Sophocles’ entire oeuvre, I consider him one of my favorite playwrights Philoctetes is one of the most brilliant portraits of pain, physical and emotional pain. And Odysseus, who appeared as the commonsensical counterpart to the sons of Atreus in Ajax (a superb portrait of heroic madness in the face of perceived insult), is here the deceptive schemer. Thinking now of Philoctetes, I am surprised by how singular The Odyssey’s multifaceted and most What a brilliant collection, and now that I’ve read Sophocles’ entire oeuvre, I consider him one of my favorite playwrights Philoctetes is one of the most brilliant portraits of pain, physical and emotional pain. And Odysseus, who appeared as the commonsensical counterpart to the sons of Atreus in Ajax (a superb portrait of heroic madness in the face of perceived insult), is here the deceptive schemer. Thinking now of Philoctetes, I am surprised by how singular The Odyssey’s multifaceted and mostly sympathetic portrayal of Odysseus stands out in light of Odysseus’ often negative reputation in later ancient literature. Then the Oedipus plays are the most masterful “classic” Greek tragedies, full of gravity, beautiful language, elevated grandeur and nobility, and more. Oedipus the King is perhaps the more perfect, but so far my preference goes toward Oedipus at Colonus for the serenity that pervades that play and for the presence of a wiser and more peaceful Oedipus and for the noble presence of Theseus And Antigone is special for its dramatization of the resistance of right against might, of the individual against the State. And it’s perhaps Sophocles’ bleakest play, insofar that there are three deaths at the climax - Antigone, Haemon, and Eurydice. At least the Oedipus plays establish a kind of noble stance in relation to fate, and Philoctetes ends with a hope of healing. Antigone seems the most relentless of the Sophoclean masterpieces.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Captain Sir Roddy, R.N. (Ret.)

    I finished this new volume of translations of the seven existing plays by Sophocles last night. I unhesitatingly recommend this new work of the translators, Robert Bagg and James Scully, as they really did an outstanding job of presenting these powerful dramas with lyricism and impact. For your information, I am providing a list of the plays in the collection and the primary translator--Aias (James Scully) Women of Trakhis (Robert Bagg) Philoktetes (James Scully) Elektra (Robert Bagg) Oedipus the Ki I finished this new volume of translations of the seven existing plays by Sophocles last night. I unhesitatingly recommend this new work of the translators, Robert Bagg and James Scully, as they really did an outstanding job of presenting these powerful dramas with lyricism and impact. For your information, I am providing a list of the plays in the collection and the primary translator--Aias (James Scully) Women of Trakhis (Robert Bagg) Philoktetes (James Scully) Elektra (Robert Bagg) Oedipus the King (Robert Bagg) Oedipus at Kolonos (Robert Bagg) Antigone (Robert Bagg)Interestingly enough, this was the first time that I had read Aias (Ajax) or the Women of Trakhis and I really, really enjoyed both of them. While I was familiar with the story of Ajax from The Iliad, I have to say that Sophocles and James Scully really made me realize the physical and psychological toll that warfare and combat has upon a soldier. One has to believe that what is described in Aias can only be classified as "post-traumatic stress disorder" (PTSD). We see the toll that this 'madness' takes upon the family and friends of Ajax, and it is truly heartbreaking. In the Introduction to the volume, Bagg and Scully indicate that excerpts from both Aias and Philoktetes have been performed for members of the American armed services and their families in the context of addressing and dealing with PTSD. Bravo! Finally, I have to say that I consider myself somewhat a connoisseur associated with Sophocles' Antigone, and the version in this collection is simply superb. The dialog is spare, clipped, and drips with pathos--we emotionally respond not only to what Kreon and Antigone say in the play, but the overall intent of Sophocles in writing the play. As Antigone prepares to meet her fate she laments,"Hades, who chills each one of us to sleep, will guide me down to Acheron's shore. I'll go hearing no wedding hymn to carry me to my bridal chamber, or songs girls sing when flowers crown a bride's hair; I'm going to marry the River of Pain." (890-895)That'll wrench your heart-strings. Bagg and Scully have given us a new version of Sophocles that is dramatic, poetic, and lyrical. The language incorporated in these translations is not in the slightest degree flowery or excessive. In my opinion, not one word is wasted, the emotion is right there--in your face--and it just feels right. Read these plays and see what you think.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Rosa

    Aias - 3 Stars Women of Trakhis - 5 Stars Philoktetes - 4 Stars Elektra - 4 Stars Oedipus the King - 4 Stars Oedipus at Kolonos - 5 Stars Antigone - 5 Stars A beautiful, simple translation. I only wish more than 7 of Sophocles' 125 plays had survived. Aias - 3 Stars Women of Trakhis - 5 Stars Philoktetes - 4 Stars Elektra - 4 Stars Oedipus the King - 4 Stars Oedipus at Kolonos - 5 Stars Antigone - 5 Stars A beautiful, simple translation. I only wish more than 7 of Sophocles' 125 plays had survived.

  5. 5 out of 5

    John Pistelli

    It is never a bad time to get right with the classics. After having read Oedipus and Antigone several times in multiple translations (Jebb, Arnott, Fagles) over the years, I decided to read all of Sophocles’s extant plays—a mere seven out of 123 (civilization is fragile; don’t let anyone tell you differently). I am here reading the version by poet and translator Paul Roche for Signet Classics. According to Wikipedia, Roche was a second-generation Bloomsberrie, enemy to Vanessa Bell and lover of It is never a bad time to get right with the classics. After having read Oedipus and Antigone several times in multiple translations (Jebb, Arnott, Fagles) over the years, I decided to read all of Sophocles’s extant plays—a mere seven out of 123 (civilization is fragile; don’t let anyone tell you differently). I am here reading the version by poet and translator Paul Roche for Signet Classics. According to Wikipedia, Roche was a second-generation Bloomsberrie, enemy to Vanessa Bell and lover of Duncan Grant. (Was it Hugh Kenner who, with a mixture of homophobic venom and campy cattiness, described Bloomsbury as a congeries of men and women all in love with Duncan Grant?) As a translator, Roche is much less devoted to Biblical fustian than Jebb, and his verse is as simple and conversational as Fagles’s while also being more carefully wrought. As he tells us in his translator’s preface, he retains Sophocles’s meter by using what he rather oddly calls “Freewheeling Iambic”—i.e., essentially a form of accentual verse, not unlike Hopkins’s neo-medieval “sprung rhythm,” wherein the poet counts the beats per line without also counting the syllables, this to keep a flexible but percussive regularity, as of natural speech. Roche adopts this technique, he says, to give English readers a sense of the speed of the plays in Greek, and it works quite well for that; but he confesses also that it is beyond his ingenuity to reproduce the density of sound in Sophocles—the alliteration, consonance, and assonance that creates such magnificent textures out of what Roche assures us are common Greek words. Roche arranges the plays in the historical/mythological order of events they describe, so that the volume opens with Ajax, set during the Trojan War, and ends with Antigone, the conclusion of the Theban cycle—even though Antigone is a work of Sophocles’s middle period and famously late plays, such as Philoctetes and Oedipus at Colonus, get displaced into the middle of the volume. I suppose this is the least confusing way to do it for students, but I would have preferred to track the development of the playwright’s vision and sensibility. My brief responses to the plays themselves, in the order in which they appear in this volume: Ajax: In this play set during the Trojan War (after the death of Achilles), the great warrior Ajax has just been vexed by Athena. Furious that the armor of Achilles has gone to Odysseus, he plots to murder Agamemnon and Meneleaus, whom he not unreasonably blames for having dragged him away from family and homeland for the sake of their corrupt and sordid war. But Athena tricks Ajax into murdering instead a head of cattle seized from the Trojans before it can be distributed among the Argives. When he comes out of his illusion, the mortified and furious Ajax plots and eventually accomplishes suicide, despite the protests of his sailors (the chorus) and of his touchingly though realistically loyal captive bride Tecmessa. Following Ajax’s death, a dispute ensues between his half-brother Teucer and the Atreus brothers over whether his body should be buried (shades of Antigone); eventually the shrew and politic Odysseus mediates and the burial takes place. This is not a very action-packed play; the main interest is in its laments and debates, particularly in Ajax’s climactic curse upon the House of Atreus, Teucer’s rancor against same, and Odysseus’s amusing opening conversation with Athena. (Odysseus is an ambiguous figure here, ethically dubious but pragmatic and level-headed in a play all about seeking balance; Athena, standing behind him, is even more questionable.) Even more interesting than the language, though, is the mise en scène: Ajax among the slaughtered cattle in the play’s beginning; Ajax’s body impaled upon his own sword, oozing gore, throughout the final third. This is a play whose superficial resolution cannot cloak its terrible assertion that if the gods will it, your life will become an abattoir. (Your own hubris will certainly not be to your advantage in the situation, however.) Electra: This a protracted revenge play, poignant for its tender portrayal of its heroine, reduced to the conditions of a slave and thereby able to sympathize with the conditions of slavery. Her repeated references to herself as a nightingale, singing of her losses, is moving in itself and more moving when one considers it as a poetic trope that will resonate through the centuries—in Ovid, Shakespeare, Keats, Eliot:ELECTRA: Shallow is one who forgets a parent’s Pitiless end. Give me instead The sorrowful nightingale, she who sings Its Itys—forever distraught: Emissary of Zeus.The confrontation between Electra and her sister (who wants to be prudent) is a nice revisitation of the Antigone/Ismene conflict in Sophocles’s earlier play. Orestes’s fake death, reported by his older confederate to mislead the villainous Clytemnestra, is a masterpiece of action-narrative, justifying the back cover’s reference to Sophocles as a “tragic Homer.” Clytemnestra herself is too petulant to be impressive, though her self-justification (that she killed Agamemnon in revenge for his sacrifice of Iphigenia) is compelling, despite Electra’s correct reply that this does not justify adulterous murder. Not the most impressive Greek play, but worth reading for its heroine. Philoctetes: In this play’s backstory, the titular snakebitten warrior has been abandoned on a deserted island called Lemnos by his Greek comrades during the Trojan War because the stench of his wounded foot so disgusted them. The play begins when crafty Odysseus, along with the dead Achilles’s son, Neoptolemus, land on Lemnos to retrieve Philoctetes, because an oracle has revealed that the Greeks will not defeat Troy without him. This play is notable for its particularly unpleasant portrayal of the scheming Odysseus, a figure Sophocles seems to find repellent, as he attempts to trick Philoctetes into coming back to the Greek camp. The decent Neoptolemus forges a tender relationship with the aging, injured warrior and resists Odysseus’s deceit. (As in the similarly late play of old age, Oedipus at Colonus, Sophocles elegiacally portrays a youngster coming to love an older, more vulnerable person who relies on the aid and loyalty of youth.) Philoctetes’s characterization is masterly, from his sad way of asking after his former associates and lamenting the news of their deaths (including that of Achilles) to his sick old man’s querulousness, especially potent in his rage against Odysseus. He really does remind me of a Beckett character, with his unutterably sad vulnerability, his bittersweetly comic and half-impotent fury, and even his injured foot (a motif in Beckett, poet of pain, whose characters often literally “can’t go on,” because they lack the power of locomotion). But Sophocles has the gods whereas Beckett has nothing, and this play, not a tragedy at all, ends full of promise, as the 90-year-old playwright and his suffering hero look to the horizon:Good-bye, sea-skirted isle of Lemnos: Breeze me away on a faultless voyage To whatever haven Fate will waft me, To whatever purlieus the wish of my friends And the universal god of happenings brings me. The Women of Trachis: This one is almost Euripidean in its sympathy and complexity. It is the story of how Deianeira, trying to win back the love of her womanizing husband, the hero Hercules, after he captures a younger bride, accidentally kills him by sending him a shirt bequeathed to her by the centraur Nessus. Nessus, unbeknownst to her, had poisoned it to revenge himself on Hercules for wounding him as he attempted to rape Deianeira. The second half of the play, full of the very slowly dying Hercules’s complaints, is not interesting, but Deianeira’s resigned, intelligent, and forthright reflections on the fatality of love are quite moving, as is her eventual suicide:You are talking to a woman     who is neither perverse nor ignorant     of the ways of men     and knows the inconstancy of the human heart. Anyone who has a boxing match with Eros is a fool. The god of love does exactly what he likes—     even with the gods. If he rules me,     then why not another woman in the same way.Oedipus the King: What is left to say about Oedipus? It is a masterfully constructed play, full of symbolic economy (references to eyes and vision are pervasive) and, every time I experience it, it is unbearably suspenseful in its dramatic irony. Everybody from the ancient audience to the post-Freudian reader knows Oedipus’s story before he does, rendering the play a master-class in sympathy with sublime catastrophe. Even though this play allows its spectators a god’s-eye-view, we know that we, no less than the tragic hero, are caught in the toils of fate and must one day submit. Few moments in literature are more moving than Jocasta’s farewell: “Good-bye, my poor deluded, lost and damned! / There’s nothing else that I can call you now.” (Not son, not husband.) Oedipus’s tragic flaw, I note, is a trust in himself (borne of solving the Sphinx’s riddle without realizing its implications for all mortals). When he refers to himself, earlier in the play, as “a stranger to the story” of Laius’s murder, we know that the terrible story is in fact about him and no one else. Seeing himself as a rational foe of the monstrous (perhaps also, implicitly, the sexual, the feminine, and the deadly), he does not recognize the monstrous in himself. But the sublimity of his self-trust comes from his pursuing his investigation to the end of the line, until he finds a truth so horrifying to look upon that he must strike at the organs of perception, thereby becoming precisely the decrepit man at evening, going on three legs, referred to in the Sphinx’s riddle. I recall that Adorno and Horkheimer, in Dialectic of Enlightenment, were able to mount their attack on the entirety of Western civilization by treating Odysseus (about whom Sophocles is so ambivalent) as its founding representative—Odysseus, the polytropic man, who always wins by cheating. Of course, there would have been a hint of self-praise in selecting Oedipus as representative of Enlightenment. But Oedipus is the ultimate in self-scrutiny and self-criticism, as the modern West might say of itself, if only it weren’t too self-critical to congratulate itself so. In any case, Oedipus may investigate himself and punish himself, but it does not make him (or us) any less a monster. This truth—that knowledge is its own good but no salvation—suggests the limits of any Enlightened perspective. Oedipus at Colonus: Sophocles’s final vision, the drama of the aged Oedipus’s transfiguration, his mysterious near-assumption on the outskirts of Theseus’s Athens:Some emissary maybe from heaven came;     or was the adamantine floor of the dead     gently reft for him with love? The passing of this man was painless     with no trace of pain nor any loud regret. It was of mortal exits the most marvelous.There is loud conflict, with the blind and vulnerable Oedipus in marvelous command of language as he rebukes his enemies—including Creon and his son, Polyneices. As Roche observes, “his years of suffering have raised him to a holy dignity as the recognized vehicle of divine justice.” The drama gives way to the mysterious ritual of its conclusion, a kind of authorial prayer for grace on the lip of the grave. Meanwhile, the chorus of Athenian elders concludes, at the play’s end, as Sophocles nears his own death and a weeping Antigone walks offstage to her fate,Come, then, cease your crying Keep tears from overflowing All’s ordained past all denying.A wisdom much out of fashion—and not actually comforting—but fortifying. Antigone: Now this play I have never quite understood. Ever since Hegel, it is famous for supposedly representing a confrontation between two viewpoints, each of which is right on its own terms. But Creon is not right on any terms. Everyone in the play agrees that his decree against burying Polyneices is impious, a slight against the gods that will invite punishment. Moreover, his ruling is impractical from a pragmatic political perspective—while a leader wants to make himself feared and respected, petty dictatorial actions against a defeated enemy seem like a confession of insecurity, a display of inner weakness rather than strength. As for Antigone, she may be technically correct about the familial and religious need to bury her brother, but Sophocles presents her as a heroine so death-entranced as to be positively Decadent (I imagine she is the inspiration for Wilde’s Salome). I believe some have suggested that Antigone has an incestuous desire for her brother, a plausible interpretation given that she is herself a child of incest. But she justifies risking her life for her brother in coldly rational terms, terms so rational that they actually exclude piety (since she avers that she would not risk death to bury any other family member): if you lose a husband or a child, you may marry or bear another, but you can’t find or make more siblings. Again, correct on a technicality, but all her emotion, all her desire, is for death itself, because what does she, who has lost so much, have to live for?—Come, tomb, my wedding chamber, come! You sealed off habitations of the grave! My many family dead, finished, fetched,     in a final muster to Persephone.There is much to admire in this brief play, from the chorus’s extraordinary oration on human power and limitation to the brief but perfectly evocative roles for Haemon (a Romeo avant la lettre, as Roche points out in his introduction) and the prudent (or cowardly) Ismene. I do not think this play can bear the weight of its political interpretation—as a staging of the rival claims of family and state—since both family and state are so utterly disordered in this story of the house of Oedipus. But as a drama about human despair and perversity, about the irresistible urge some of us—the fatally stubborn Creon no less than death’s bride, Antigone—feel to take our lives to their ultimate conclusions in some spectacular gesture, it is unrivaled.

  6. 4 out of 5

    EJ Daniels

    An excellent modern translation of the works of Sophocles which emphasizes vernacular and eschews grandiose phrasing. While I personally prefer the more florid prose of traditional translations, this version does emphasize the timeless qualities of Sophocles' great works. An excellent modern translation of the works of Sophocles which emphasizes vernacular and eschews grandiose phrasing. While I personally prefer the more florid prose of traditional translations, this version does emphasize the timeless qualities of Sophocles' great works.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Yair Ben-Zvi

    There's not much I can say about this collection that won't sound like hyperbole but, the fact is, it's all kind of true. What you see in these works is, in many cases, the early seeds of some of the greatest storytelling devices ever conceived by the minds of men. Much like how the Bible (or as Eddie Izzard would say the Biblee) is a cornerstone of the West in such a way as to partly explain our language(s), culture(s), beliefs, so to with these texts we find the Grecian mother to our Biblical There's not much I can say about this collection that won't sound like hyperbole but, the fact is, it's all kind of true. What you see in these works is, in many cases, the early seeds of some of the greatest storytelling devices ever conceived by the minds of men. Much like how the Bible (or as Eddie Izzard would say the Biblee) is a cornerstone of the West in such a way as to partly explain our language(s), culture(s), beliefs, so to with these texts we find the Grecian mother to our Biblical father. I categorize them that way because, so it seems to me at least, that (ancient) Greek storytelling has something that the Bible (what I've read of it so far) does not. Namely, this missing factor is a self-awareness and even a malleability (relatively speaking) of concept that the Bible (dogmatic as it is) just doesn't have. Oh, sure, Biblical exegesis is anything but uniform (duh) but where does Moses doubt God's efficacy (or even existence) while still giving him praise? (ala Lucretius) I don't know, if nothing else I guess I could envision the Greek mode of storytelling of being more Chabbad (the Jewish Religious movement) where the Bible (not even ironically, come on) is the strict shomer shabbes Ultra Orthodox. Both offer something the other lacks, but both lack something that keeps them from being whole. I won't pretend I'm original in thinking this (hell, Thomas Aquinas and Maimonedes kind of predate me and their whole 'reconciling the two halves of the dialectic, as in, Grecian ideas made consumable for the religious public' thing) but I will say that these are not friendly bedmates. But that's part of the fun. It's knowing these ideas are at each other's throats, it's downright Darwinian. Digression(s) aside, this a wonderful collection and will have you slapping your forehead as you realize that the ancient Greeks were masters of storytelling devices that many modern and ostensibly more 'sophisticated' writers STILL have trouble grasping. Read it and watch the seeds as they fall to the soil.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Mert

    5/5 Stars (%100/100) Includes all 7 of Sophocles's surviving works. Instead of adding all of them separately, I've decided to add this one only. (Same as Shakespeare) I've read all of these plays multiple times. I only added Turkish editions of the plays separately. Great compilation of plays, definitely recommended. 5/5 Stars (%100/100) Includes all 7 of Sophocles's surviving works. Instead of adding all of them separately, I've decided to add this one only. (Same as Shakespeare) I've read all of these plays multiple times. I only added Turkish editions of the plays separately. Great compilation of plays, definitely recommended.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Pilar

    Very good edition by A. C. Pearson. This volume contains the Greek text of the surviving seven tragedies by Sophocles with critical apparatus, and an introduction. The title, introduction and notes of the critical apparatus are written in Latin, as it is customary in this Oxford scholarly editions.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Marc

    Contains all the classics of Sophocles. Best ones: Antigone, Oidipoes, Electra.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Anders

    I like these translations.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Phillip

    Updated Review: I deleted the blog where my reviews were originally posted, but I'm doing a project where I'm discussing each of the surviving Greek plays in a Youtube video (at https://www.youtube.com/c/TheatreofPhil). I'll be rereading these plays as I move through making the videos, and I'll write new reviews here. You can watch my overview video about Sophocles here: https://youtu.be/9gR36rauWkA Ajax: For me, there are two main ways to read Ajax. The first, more traditional way, is as a tale o Updated Review: I deleted the blog where my reviews were originally posted, but I'm doing a project where I'm discussing each of the surviving Greek plays in a Youtube video (at https://www.youtube.com/c/TheatreofPhil). I'll be rereading these plays as I move through making the videos, and I'll write new reviews here. You can watch my overview video about Sophocles here: https://youtu.be/9gR36rauWkA Ajax: For me, there are two main ways to read Ajax. The first, more traditional way, is as a tale of hubris punished. Ajax is proud, especially dismissing the help of Athena in fighting the Trojans, and so when he determines to murder the Greek generals out of anger at not being given Achilles' armor, Athena confuses him so that he attacks a herd of livestock. In this sense, Athena humbles Ajax by making him look so ridiculous that he eventually kills himself. On the other hand, there is a more modern reading that has become pretty common since the beginning of the Iraq War (and to a lesser extent the Afghanistan War), which sees this as a story about PTSD. Much of Ajax's behavior--including the confusion, the violence, his uncontrollable weeping and shaking, and even his suicide--is consistent with the symptoms of PTSD experience by soldiers returning from combat. Many people (including Theatre of War's Bryan Doerries, who wrote a book on using Greek tragedy to help traumatized soldiers process their experience) today are reading Ajax as a story about the damaging psychological effect of war. That reading is especially timely considering that since 2003 or so there has been a whole new generation of US (and coalition) soldiers dealing with PTSD. As in the post-Vietnam War years, it is a massive problem, especially given underfunding of veteran's services and the difficulty of access to healthcare in the US. https://youtu.be/HeAggm42DFs Electra: This play is an interesting version of the Electra story, which Aeschylus also presented in The Libation Bearers (the middle play of the Oresteia trilogy) and Euripides presented in his Electra. What strikes me about Sophocles' Electra is that the characters are more bloodthirsty and inflexible than in many of the other versions. There's a very clear agonistic structure, and it definitely reveals one of the key points that the theorist Rene Girard makes about tragedy--that the agon pits two flawed characters against one another, using comparable types of violence in an escalating cycle of conflict. This is not a good-bad axis because each side is equally violent. Sophocles makes this especially clear, with Electra and orestes making a lot of (ironic) references to justice and the penalty for violence regarding Clytemnestra's killing of Agamemnon. They put forward these arguments to justify their own planned murder of her and Aegisthus. But taking these arguments about justice and not using violence seriously would require them to acknowledge that 1) Agamemnon did in fact kill Iphigenia and deserved punishment for that, and 2) their plans to murder Clytemnestra are essentially a mirror of her murdering Agamemnon. And in fact, at the end of the play the murders of Clytemnestra and Aegisthus eerily resemble the murder of Agamemnon from Aeschylus' Oresteia--Clytemnestra cries out from in the house, and Orestes actually drives Aegisthus into the palace to kill him where Agamemnon was killed. Basically, Sophocles highlights how Electra and Orestes are as guilty of murder as Clytemnestra and Aegisthus. https://youtu.be/5eWP9eVNiS4 Philoctetes: I'm not much of a fan of Philoctetes, in part because of the ending, which seems largely to negate everything that comes before. Basically, Philoctetes was marooned on an island by the Greeks at the beginning of the Trojan War because he had a wounded and infected foot that stunk. Later, the Greeks found out through a Trojan prophet that they needed Philoctetes and the magic bow of Heracles in order to take Troy. The problem being that he was still on the island, and pretty much hated all the Greek commanders who left him there, especially Odysseus. In order to get him, Odysseus and Neoptolemus (son of Achilles) sail to the island, where Odysseus instructs the younger man to trick Philoctetes into giving up the bow so they can steal it and go back to Troy. Against his conscience, Neoptolemus does this, but he also feels tremendous sympathy with Philoctetes' sufferings. When Philoctetes is in despair, deprived of the bow that was his only way to get food on the island, Neoptolemus comes back in defiance of Odysseus and returns the bow to the wounded man. Neoptolemus then tries to persuade Philoctetes to go to Troy, but fails to convince him. It's only when Heracles--formerly Philoctetes' friend and now a god--comes and commands Philoctetes to go to Troy that the man agrees. For my money, this deus ex machine (literally, since Heracles almost certainly would have been swung in on the mekhane, a kind of crane used to show gods and from which we get the Latin term deus ex machine) basically undermines everything else that happens in the play because it gives the Greeks what they want without them actually having to achieve it through persuasion, coercion, or trickery. https://youtu.be/yub_GeR0An4 The Women of Trachis: This is a play structured on reversals. Right from the very beginning we get a hint to expect the unexpected and that things would change in unpredictable ways. The play opens with Heracles' long-suffering wife Deianeira metatheatrically pointing to the folk wisdom that one should never count a person's life as lucky or unlucky until they're dead (this is metatheatrical because the saying shows up repeatedly in Greek tragedy), but that she knows her life has been blighted. Heracles is off doing labors/sacking cities, and he's left her a prophecy that on this date he'll either return triumphant or die, so Deianeira is understandably worried. Then Lichas, Heracles' herald, shows up to announce that Heracles has sacked a city and will be home shortly. Lichas brings a bunch of captives, including a beautiful young girl whom he claims to know nothing about. But then a messenger reveals that Lichas knows exactly who she is, that she's Heracles' concubine, and that far from the noble motives Lichas had told Deianeira, Heracles sacked the city to take her prisoner (this is a the first major reversal). Deianeira realizes that her marriage is in jeopardy, so she uses a potion that the centaur Nessus had given her, promising that it would ensure Heracles never fell in love with another woman. However, what she didn't consider (and this seems like a huge oversight) is that the potion was Nessus' blood as he was dying from an arrow Heracles shot into him, so Nessus didn't exactly have the purest motives to help Heracles and Deianeira. Deianeira is alerted to the deadly nature of the centaur's blood when a piece of wool she used to smear it on a robe for Heracles dissolves, and her suspicion is confirmed when their son returns with news that the robe is painfully killing Heracles (the second reversal). The son, Hyllus, accuses Deianeira of murdering his father, but when she kills herself he finds out from the servants that she did not mean to hurt Heracles but was trying to save her marriage, so Hyllus feels like an ass (a third reversal). Then Heracles is brought on and basically spends the last quarter of the play bragging about his accomplishments, whining about the pain, threatening to kill Deianeira (until Hyllus tells him about her suicide, to which Heracles basically responds by wishing he'd gotten to murder her), and finally gets Hyllus to promise to take him to a sacred mountain and burn his still living body and then come back and marry the (ex-)princess that Heracles had already gotten pregnant. https://youtu.be/ZAawo4aRSnQ Oedipus the King: There's a massive amount to be said about Oedipus the King, which is one of the most studied plays in world history. There are deep themes of fate and free will, blindness (both physical and symbolic) and insight, strength and flexibility, truth and expedience, etc. https://youtu.be/0_dp9n1qc6M Oedipus at Colonus: This is perhaps Sophocles' last play, and it's got the same kind of themes of maturity, seeking rest, and tragic fate that we see in a play like King Lear. perhaps one of the most interesting questions/issues with Oedipus at Colonus is the question of Oedipus' transformation from Oedipus the King. Paul Roche, in his introduction to this translation, seems to think Oedipus has almost completely changed. Certainly he's become an object of veneration--which he isn't shy about telling anyone and everyone--and he says he has moderated the uncompromising nature that had him self-exiled from Thebes at the end of Oedipus the King. But I'm not sure I see these changes in Oedipus at Colonus. I mean, he's certainly an object of veneration by the end of the play, but he starts out an object of disgust. The elders of Colonus try to throw him out when they find out who he is, and it's only when they learn that his presence will bring blessings to whomever has him that they change their tune. This is a change from Oedipus the King, but it's a reversal rather than a change of kind--in the earlier play Oedipus goes from honored to rejected, now he goes from rejected to honored. Similarly, I'm unconvinced by Oedipus' claims that he has moderated his hubristic pride, just changed the focus of it. In this play Oedipus is stridently dedicated to taking revenge on those in Thebes he feels had wronged him--Creon and Oedipus' sons Polynieces and Etocles--by refusing to let him return to Thebes. I have a few problems with this. One is that Oedipus ends Oedipus the King vowing that he will be exiled from Thebes for the rest of his life, then he just changes his mind and expects everyone to go along with it. And when people refuse to accept that he's changed his mind and wants to come back to Thebes, he curses them, even though he knows that it's his destiny not to go back to Thebes. Which brings up another issue with Oedipus in this play: he plays the "I was fated to kill my father and marry my mother, so none of that is really my fault" card, but refuses to accept that if his fate is also to die at Colonus then neither Creon nor his sons could/should have accepted him back into Thebes. It's almost like Oedipus is the only one who gets a pass for being fated to do things, even if those things are pretty well worse than what other people are doing. https://youtu.be/Hi2QrLVVcTw Antigone: I'm actually not a big fan of Antigone, in part because I think so many people get the play wrong by underestimating the complexity of Antigone and Creon, and by seeing in it what they want to see (which is often a radical anti-authoritarian politics). However, I don't think Antigone really does stand for the rights of the individual against the autocratic state. I see this argument, but I think it misses the specificity of her experience. Antigone does not necessarily stand up for the rights of anyone else to defy the state, even acknowledging that she would not do so for a husband or a child, only the specific circumstance of a brother who cannot be replaced because their parents are dead (suggesting that if Oedipus and Jocasta were still alive and could have another son, Antigone might not even bother burying Polynieces). Additionally, when she explains the plan to Ismene at the beginning of the play, Antigone's focus seems to be on her own impending execution for breaking Creon's edict. While she definitely does assert the ethics of burying her brother, she also says "How beautiful to die in such pursuit!" and refuses Ismene's request to bury him in secret without letting anyone know. If the goal is merely to bury Polynieces to honor the dead and the gods, then why not do it in secret? Antigone asserts that she will bury her brother and essentially demands to be killed for it--which doesn't necessarily jive with the idea that she's a champion of individual rights (though it does fit with another common reading, which is that she's morbidly in love with death as such). And while Creon is often identified as the ruthless and unyielding tyrant, in many ways he's actually more flexible and open to persuasion than Antigone (or Oedipus in both Oedipus the King and Oedipus at Colonus). For instance, initially Creon determines to execute Ismene along with her sister, but when the Chorus mentions this Creon changes his mind with virtually no pressure put on him. Similarly, after Tiresias gives his warning, Creon pretty much immediately yields to the force of prophecy (though he doubts and insults Tiresias while the seer is on stage) and goes to bury Polyneices and free Antigone. For being the unbending tyrant, he actually bends a lot, which again doesn't necessarily fulfill the individual-rights-against-authoritarianism narrative. https://youtu.be/Hp6Oo-ZJENs Theban Trilogy Video: https://youtu.be/AWr9feYIYtc Original Review: I don't think most people ever read anything by Sophocles except the Oedipus cycle, or Oedipus Rex and Antigone without Oedipus at Collunus. But I really like these translations of Sophocles' plays, though I'm not sure how true to the original they are some of the words seem a bit to slangy for me to really believe its an authentic translation from ancient Greek.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Hayden

    This was my first true foray in Classical Greek literature (D.W.'s version of The Odyssey in Arthur not withstanding). I had seen a production of Antigone in high school, and Greek mythology is not exactly foreign to me, but I'd never read any original works of the time. While at first this translation seemed a little too modern to me, I soon grew to enjoy it; it was very easy to understand, and I was able to go through the plays quickly. Due to their somewhat depressing nature I only read one pl This was my first true foray in Classical Greek literature (D.W.'s version of The Odyssey in Arthur not withstanding). I had seen a production of Antigone in high school, and Greek mythology is not exactly foreign to me, but I'd never read any original works of the time. While at first this translation seemed a little too modern to me, I soon grew to enjoy it; it was very easy to understand, and I was able to go through the plays quickly. Due to their somewhat depressing nature I only read one play every few days, but they weren't hard reads. I wasn't terribly impressed when I first began, mainly because I don't think the first play, Aias, is one of the strongest--or maybe it was one that I personally didn't connect to as much. But then I read Women of Trakhis, and my opinion changed. It's definitely my favorite out of the whole book. I'd recommend this translation for people who, like me, are wary of of jumping into Greek drama with very little experience beforehand.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Brandy Sharpe

    This was an easy read for me. Paul Roche seems to go out of his way to make this translation digestible and understand able. Moreover, he illustrates elements that continue to be common place in Greek people today. My Mother in law is Greek and shows many of the same speech patterns, infinitesimal care of others, and attitudes. Except for Antigone. Of these plays, Antigone is my absolute favorite. How interesting that Antigone, while the third and final portion of the Oedipal cycle, was the firs This was an easy read for me. Paul Roche seems to go out of his way to make this translation digestible and understand able. Moreover, he illustrates elements that continue to be common place in Greek people today. My Mother in law is Greek and shows many of the same speech patterns, infinitesimal care of others, and attitudes. Except for Antigone. Of these plays, Antigone is my absolute favorite. How interesting that Antigone, while the third and final portion of the Oedipal cycle, was the first to be written. Again, I love this book. However, I will be releasing this to a local Little Free Library for others to enjoy.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Skyler Peterson

    Worth reading at some point to get a taste of Greek tragedy. It will provide some context to future western literature (and other forms of media) which is still heavily influenced by it. I would say that reading all of the plays in one go was a bit tiresome. At some point the plays become predictable and even a bit boring. This may be in part because of the translation process to English and I don't believe Sophocles himself would expect or wanted people to consume his plays in this way. Worth reading at some point to get a taste of Greek tragedy. It will provide some context to future western literature (and other forms of media) which is still heavily influenced by it. I would say that reading all of the plays in one go was a bit tiresome. At some point the plays become predictable and even a bit boring. This may be in part because of the translation process to English and I don't believe Sophocles himself would expect or wanted people to consume his plays in this way.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Northpapers

    Briefly, since it's all been said: Five stars for the plays. They set up convincing tensions and navigate them in moving and brilliant ways. Three stars for the translation. I compared the language with several other translations, and I found Bagg's and Scully's interpretations consistently felt less earthy and musical. That might be part of their intent, and it might be true to the original text (I have no way of knowing), but on the page, it felt a little flat to me. Briefly, since it's all been said: Five stars for the plays. They set up convincing tensions and navigate them in moving and brilliant ways. Three stars for the translation. I compared the language with several other translations, and I found Bagg's and Scully's interpretations consistently felt less earthy and musical. That might be part of their intent, and it might be true to the original text (I have no way of knowing), but on the page, it felt a little flat to me.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Tomq

    I don't usually read theatre, I don't know any ancient Greek or Latin. I picked this up pretty much at random, and was amazed at how engaging the plays were. It's essential general culture; it is the foundation of western civilization as much as the Bible is; but unlike the Bible, the writing is beautiful and it's incredibly accessible. Pick it up! I don't usually read theatre, I don't know any ancient Greek or Latin. I picked this up pretty much at random, and was amazed at how engaging the plays were. It's essential general culture; it is the foundation of western civilization as much as the Bible is; but unlike the Bible, the writing is beautiful and it's incredibly accessible. Pick it up!

  18. 5 out of 5

    Caitlin Kingsley

    The Scully plays, though scarce, were much more powerful translations. Aias was beautiful. Women of Trakhis (see: Robert fucking Bagg) was awful, in my opinion. Bagg did redeem himself with Antigone, however. Somewhat. If you squint hard enough. In all seriousness, Antigone was nicely treated. Overall, I enjoyed these plays - albeit because Trakhis was brief.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Efren

    I would not remember much of this book for my life, but if I could to carry with me these two quotes I would like. "I rate the man as nothing worth who feels the glow of idle hopes." - Ajax "How then could royalty be sweeter for me to have than painless rule and influence? Not yet am I so misguided as to desire other honors than those which profit." - Creon I would not remember much of this book for my life, but if I could to carry with me these two quotes I would like. "I rate the man as nothing worth who feels the glow of idle hopes." - Ajax "How then could royalty be sweeter for me to have than painless rule and influence? Not yet am I so misguided as to desire other honors than those which profit." - Creon

  20. 5 out of 5

    Gage Hoefer

    Technically my version only had the three Theban plays, but this was the only collection of plays listed on Goodreads that I could find. What an incredible collection of plays- Sophocles is one of the greatest playwrights in history, and certainly one of my personal favorites. I'll round up from a 4.5 to a 5. Technically my version only had the three Theban plays, but this was the only collection of plays listed on Goodreads that I could find. What an incredible collection of plays- Sophocles is one of the greatest playwrights in history, and certainly one of my personal favorites. I'll round up from a 4.5 to a 5.

  21. 5 out of 5

    CaliforniaCoyote

    One of the most current, readable translations in print today. Having read the original Greek and multiple translations, these renditions are like hearing Sophocles' voice with babel fish running around in there somewhere! One of the most current, readable translations in print today. Having read the original Greek and multiple translations, these renditions are like hearing Sophocles' voice with babel fish running around in there somewhere!

  22. 4 out of 5

    Komal

    "The kind of man who always thinks that he is right, that his opinions, his pronouncements, are the final word, is usually exposed as hollow as they come. But a wise man is flexible, has much to learn without a loss of dignity." Pg 366 "The kind of man who always thinks that he is right, that his opinions, his pronouncements, are the final word, is usually exposed as hollow as they come. But a wise man is flexible, has much to learn without a loss of dignity." Pg 366

  23. 5 out of 5

    Genesis

    Of the seven plays, two of them have a happy ending. All are bathed in tragedy, but in two, the struggling protagonists get what they wanted, but as it is common of tragedies, not what they deserved. A Must Read for everybody.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Tim Laas-Nesbitt

    Fantastic, great translation.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Bob Kaufman

    It's been good to read the stories that so many later works use as inspiration. It's been good to read the stories that so many later works use as inspiration.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Kibzaim Mejia

    Maybe my first favorite book ;D

  27. 4 out of 5

    Luke

    Take and read, ye impious, for your melioration!

  28. 5 out of 5

    David Alexander

    I just finised reading all of Sophocles plays, except the 116 plays they have not found or have found only in fragments. There is a moral impulse in Sophocles which strikes me as commendable. The first thing I think of when I consider this aspect of his writings is not, "The savage!" but rather of how he, writing thousands of years ago, shared in common with the best of us moral sentiments we commend and recognize as good. There is a timeless good to certain moral acts of mankind. I would even s I just finised reading all of Sophocles plays, except the 116 plays they have not found or have found only in fragments. There is a moral impulse in Sophocles which strikes me as commendable. The first thing I think of when I consider this aspect of his writings is not, "The savage!" but rather of how he, writing thousands of years ago, shared in common with the best of us moral sentiments we commend and recognize as good. There is a timeless good to certain moral acts of mankind. I would even say I am edified by the thought of Antigone taking a stand against the king's edict to bury her brother. Sophocles also has a realism in his handling of tragedy which brings his work to the level of timeless art. When he deals with suicides, for instance, the causes and the emotional state of the characters are depicted convincingly. There is a lot of myth and the supernatural woven into his plays but his characters, even the fabled Heracles, still have a convincing human face. He can bring you to think about the tragic and about the morally awful and our reactions to it. There is also a dynamism of action in the plays that keeps them from lagging. The sequence of events moves quickly and is artfully well thought out. Even his last play, Oedipus at Colonus, is intelligently constructed in a way that it fits with Antigone, written much earlier, whose chronological sequence of events come after. His last play is especially profound in its reflection on mortality, given that Sophocles dies before the play was produced and he constructs the play as a loving farewell to his childhood home in the suburbs of Athens, placing in the mouth of the dying Oedipus Rex thoughts on death. There is a bleakness about the octogenarian Sophocles' thoughts about long life. More sorrows come with longer life. The message of this last play also has some resonant parallels with Christian teachings about love for neighbor, particularly Mother Teresa's teaching that Christ comes in distressing disguises which we must learn to embrace. Oedipus Rex, who unwittingly killed his father and bore children with his mother, awakens moral repugnance and fear of the gods, but Athens recieves a blessing by welcoming this outcast. I especially liked Philoctetes although the ending seemed to me a little forced, but still satisfying. The poor outcast Philoctetes struggles years alone and must overcome his rigid hatred of those who marooned him if he is not to maroon himself. The one who speaks to him most convincingly, apart from the final intervention, is one who acts with true sensitivity of conscience, honorably and therefore from true friendship, not instrumentally. Odysseus convincing Neoptolemus to decieve Philoctetes for the common good would be a good text for grappling with the ethical merits of the CIA. Words of Ajax words in Sophocles's play by that name remind me of the Rolling Stones when they sing, "I want to see it painted black, painted black, Black as night, black as coal. I want to see the sun, blotted out from the sky." The willful collapsing of the accesses of the light of the earth and the light of the heaven is something that happened thousands of years ago among some humans as it does among some today. Ajax: "Alas, you darkness, my sole light! O you nether gloom, fairer for me than any sunshine! take me to dwell with you, yes take me. I am no longer worthy to look for help to the race of the gods, or from any good men, the children of a day." Ajax's "I am no longer worthy" is the same thing one hears today with some- a feeling of being the Unforgiven. But note that there is a willfulness often behind this feeling, an indulgence of a kind of prideful exaggeration that wills the dark to enhance the feeling of being cast out by man and God, a subjectivity which closes the shutters on the light of the good shining in your life, though humbly it comes and humbly it knocks. "Listen, then. For the love of the gods, do not take heart to cast this man forth unburied so ruthlessly. Never let violence prevail with you to hate so utterly that you should trample justice underfoot." Odysseus says this defending the honor of his dead enemy Ajax against the anger of the king Agamemnon in Sophocles's Ajax. How many today need to hear the same advice. An evolutionary narrative or narrative of Progress presents a great peril to the heart's and mind's openness to the best observers of the timelessly human. "You could put a fair face on many a furtive villainy," Teucer, Ajax's brother, says, confronting the king Menelaus who with Agamemnon would prevent the burial of Ajax. Words which could be well-applied to many a politician today.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Ray

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. "Antigone" by Sophocles, (play read 20090807) ****. Antigone's two brothers have killed each other in a battle for kingship over Thebes. Creon, the new king, issues an edict that the body of the usurping brother, Polynices, should not be given the honors of burial but must be left out to the ravages of the elements and wild animals. Placing her duty to family and to the gods higher than her obedience to the state, Antigone refuses to heed Creon's command and buries her brother. Antigone's and Cr "Antigone" by Sophocles, (play read 20090807) ****. Antigone's two brothers have killed each other in a battle for kingship over Thebes. Creon, the new king, issues an edict that the body of the usurping brother, Polynices, should not be given the honors of burial but must be left out to the ravages of the elements and wild animals. Placing her duty to family and to the gods higher than her obedience to the state, Antigone refuses to heed Creon's command and buries her brother. Antigone's and Creon's combined pride, stubbornness, and refusal to compromise results in yet another tragedy for the lineage of Oedipus. [Though Campbell's verse translation is somewhat old-fashioned, it suits the Greek tragedy genre very well and makes for an enjoyable read.:] "King Oedipus" by Sophocles, (play read 20090830) ****. King Oedipus tries to discover and root out the cause of a plague, sent by angry gods, which afflicts his kingdom of Thebes. As the play progresses, this task increasingly dovetails with Oedipus' ominous-- and finally tragic--quest for self-discovery. Oedipus has lived his whole life to avoid fulfilling the prophecy that he would murder his father and marry his mother; but in trying to escape it, he has unwittingly brought it about. Forget the Freudian overlays. This is all about how even the cleverest, most capable individual can never escape the inevitability of fate, because they can never escape who they are. "Electra" by Sophocles (play, read 20091108) ***. Electra lives under the sway and control of her mother, Queen Clytamnestra, and King Aegisthus, both of whom killed Electra's father, Agamemnon, when he returned from Troy. Electra's life is consumed with mourning for her dead father and with longing for her brother Orestes to return and revenge Agamemnon's death. Finally Orestes does return in secret and kills both Clytamnestra and Aegisthus. In one scene, Clytamnestra admits to her daughter openly that she killed Agamemnon, but she justifies the act as vengeance for Agamemnon's sacrifice of their daughter, Iphigenia. There is also a stark contrast made in the play between Electra who is unconsolable in grief and outspoken about her mother's and step-father's brutal crime, and her sister, Chrysothemis, who recognizes the futility (and outright danger) of railing against a situation that cannot be changed. Electra wilfully prolongs her sense of righteous anger and filial duty, even at the risk of her life, while Chrysothemis simply tries to get along under circumstances she dislikes but which are beyond her control. "The Trachinean Maidens" by Sophocles (play, read 20091113) **. Deanira, faithful wife of Hercules, waits at home while her husband is abroad performing his fabled labors. After a very prolonged absence, Deanira rejoices to hear that her husband is about to return, but she soon despairs because he has brought with him a second, much younger wife. Foolishly following the advice of Hercules' former rival (a centaur killed by Hercules years earlier), Deanira sends a cloak with the rival's blood as a "love charm" to compel her husband's affection. With his dying words to Deanira, however, the rival had set in motion a scheme to kill Hercules. Instead of winning back her husband's love, the cloak dooms Hercules to an agonizing and prolonged death. Realizing her mistake, Deanira kills herself. While it is interesting to see that the "trophy wife" scenario dates at least as far back as ancient Greece, and Deanira has some worthy meditations on the unfairness of growing old, the play as a whole is not very compelling. "Aias" by Sophocles (play, read 20100103) **. Aias (elsewhere called Ajax) is passed over when the Achean leaders award Achilles' armor to Odysseus. In a rage, Aias decides to kill his erstwhile comrades, but Athena confuses his mind, and he butchers flocks of livestock instead. When he returns to his senses, he is so embarassed over his mistake and the ridicule it has brought upon him, that he resolves to kill himself. Much of the play involves long speeches between Aias and his supporters over whether he should carry through with his resolution. (Knowing the flimsy plot on this one, I almost skipped reading it. I would not have missed much if I had.)

  30. 4 out of 5

    Rick

    Only seven of the 100 or so plays written by Sophocles have survived intact. Less than 10% of his creative output. It’s a ratio that could drive one to distraction—the odds are long that as great or greater plays as the seven survivors were lost. Better not to dwell on an unimaginable loss and focus on these seven dramas: Ajax, where the fierce warrior, second only to Achilles, is maddened by a god seeking to stop Ajax from slaying Odysseus, Agamemnon, and Menelaus in a rage over a perceived slig Only seven of the 100 or so plays written by Sophocles have survived intact. Less than 10% of his creative output. It’s a ratio that could drive one to distraction—the odds are long that as great or greater plays as the seven survivors were lost. Better not to dwell on an unimaginable loss and focus on these seven dramas: Ajax, where the fierce warrior, second only to Achilles, is maddened by a god seeking to stop Ajax from slaying Odysseus, Agamemnon, and Menelaus in a rage over a perceived slight (it also could also be read as the first artistic treatment of post-traumatic stress syndrome without diminishing the tragedy’s imaginative power or, I suspect, imposing a modern reality onto an ancient drama: Sophocles was a veteran of Athenian wars); Electra, where the heroine and her brother revenge themselves on their mother for the father’s murder; Philoctetes, where the great archer, once cruelly abandoned by the Greeks, is now sought, through Odyssian tricks, by those same Greeks because an omen says he and his bow are needed to overthrow Troy; The Women of Trachis, where Heracles and Deianeira’s marriage is challenged by his prolonged absence while he fulfills his fabled twelve labors and makes some time for some philandering; and of course the Oedipus cycle—Oedipus the King, Oedipus at Colonus, and Antigone, where only bad things happen to good people. Philoctetes is the only one of the plays without a tragic, corpse-strewn finale but is no less instructive on the human condition and the potential penalties for those whose superstition, self-importance, or simple hubris leads them down paths that would have been better left untraveled if only wiser, more moderate heads had prevailed. All seven dramas are powerful and insightful and, despite their relative brevity, nuanced and provocative in their understandings of humanity. Roche is very knowledgeable about Greek tragedy and the poetry of the original language but his translation is constrained by adherence to principles of translation and pride that matter less to the reader than him. To echo the Greek in form and style is fine if you can match the impact of both. Roche can’t and the result is stilted and even pedantic. Not the best introduction to the wonders of Sophocles but instructive if not compelling or vital.

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