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Sophocles II: Ajax / Women of Trachis / Electra / Philoctetes (Complete Greek Tragedies, #4)

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"These authoritative translations consign all other complete collections to the wastebasket."Robert Brustein, The New Republic "This is it. No qualifications. Go out and buy it everybody."Kenneth Rexroth, The Nation "The translations deliberately avoid the highly wrought and affectedly poetic; their idiom is contemporary....They have life and speed and suppleness of phrase." "These authoritative translations consign all other complete collections to the wastebasket."Robert Brustein, The New Republic "This is it. No qualifications. Go out and buy it everybody."Kenneth Rexroth, The Nation "The translations deliberately avoid the highly wrought and affectedly poetic; their idiom is contemporary....They have life and speed and suppleness of phrase."Times Education Supplement "These translations belong to our time. A keen poetic sensibility repeatedly quickens them; and without this inner fire the most academically flawless rendering is dead."Warren D. Anderson, American Oxonian "The critical commentaries and the versions themselves...are fresh, unpretentious, above all, functional."Commonweal "Grene is one of the great translators."Conor Cruise O'Brien, London Sunday Times "Richmond Lattimore is that rara avis in our age, the classical scholar who is at the same time an accomplished poet."Dudley Fitts, New York Times Book Review


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"These authoritative translations consign all other complete collections to the wastebasket."Robert Brustein, The New Republic "This is it. No qualifications. Go out and buy it everybody."Kenneth Rexroth, The Nation "The translations deliberately avoid the highly wrought and affectedly poetic; their idiom is contemporary....They have life and speed and suppleness of phrase." "These authoritative translations consign all other complete collections to the wastebasket."Robert Brustein, The New Republic "This is it. No qualifications. Go out and buy it everybody."Kenneth Rexroth, The Nation "The translations deliberately avoid the highly wrought and affectedly poetic; their idiom is contemporary....They have life and speed and suppleness of phrase."Times Education Supplement "These translations belong to our time. A keen poetic sensibility repeatedly quickens them; and without this inner fire the most academically flawless rendering is dead."Warren D. Anderson, American Oxonian "The critical commentaries and the versions themselves...are fresh, unpretentious, above all, functional."Commonweal "Grene is one of the great translators."Conor Cruise O'Brien, London Sunday Times "Richmond Lattimore is that rara avis in our age, the classical scholar who is at the same time an accomplished poet."Dudley Fitts, New York Times Book Review

30 review for Sophocles II: Ajax / Women of Trachis / Electra / Philoctetes (Complete Greek Tragedies, #4)

  1. 4 out of 5

    Elle (ellexamines)

    Continuing the tradition of greek tragedy reviewing. Sophocles is by all definitions one of the greatest playwrites of all time. He focuses on the psyche, and often on characters who fall by doing the right thing: who define themselves by honorable traits until it kills them. These plays may be less known on the whole, but still pack a punch. I did notice that these plays had little affect on me in comparison to certain others by Sophocles, but I believe this may partially be a result of transla Continuing the tradition of greek tragedy reviewing. Sophocles is by all definitions one of the greatest playwrites of all time. He focuses on the psyche, and often on characters who fall by doing the right thing: who define themselves by honorable traits until it kills them. These plays may be less known on the whole, but still pack a punch. I did notice that these plays had little affect on me in comparison to certain others by Sophocles, but I believe this may partially be a result of translation; these translations feel less biting, less sharp, more direct meaning than emotion. Reviewed Plays from this Collection →Ajax ★★★☆☆ Sophocles← (c.445 BCE) (from a diff. volume) Ajax is a man with a name that shrieks: the Greeks would have called him Aias. The vocative, when speaking to him, would've sounded like aiai, the Greek exclamation. In this play, following Ajax's final day after a prophesy comes he will kill himself, he certainly lives up to that. After this one day, the time for his fate to come will expire, and he may live. Ajax dies upon a Trojan sword, on Trojan ground, but he has placed it himself. Tecmessa, Ajax's wife and war-bride, plays a much wider role in this than expected: she garners respect, in contrast to the expectations for war brides. Yet she still has a fragile role. The consequences for her if Ajax dies are not just losing him, but losing everything. His son, Eurysaces, would be considered illegitimate; indeed, this is the fate of his half-brother, Teucer. The contrast between him and Teucer is also interesting: while Teucer is an archer, associated with cowards (Paris) and tricksters (Odysseus), Ajax is a straight-shooting fighter. But the 'deception' speech to Tecmessa complicates this, using arrow imagery around his upcoming death. The breaks in convention are notable: the play breaks typical narrative structure, the location shifts, the chorus leaves and comes back, and Ajax dies on stage, rather than off. Notable Lines (John Moore translation): CHORUS: Strangely the long & countless drift of time brings all things forth from darkness into light. (646) AJAX: My speech is womanish for this woman's sake. (652) →Electra ★★★★★ Sophocles← (unk) Reviewed here. →Women of Trachis ★★★★★ Sophocles← (unk) The saddest of these plays... to me, anyway. Following Deianira, wife of Heracles, as she is tricked by the dead into killing her husband, this play pulls its audience in. Deianira is hopeless, but never pathetic—she uses what agency she has to great renown. This play made me feel genuinely claustrophobic. We, as the audience, know from the beginning that Deianira is killing her husband through her actions: as she battles with whether to stand still or act, we know she should stand still. But it is impossible to fully want that for her. It is her willingness to act that makes her so compelling; it gives her the chance to fix her life, and eventually destroys her life. →Philoctetes ★★★☆☆ Sophocles← (409 BCE) This play revolves around the consequences of an evil trick played by the Greeks (as per usual). Ten years ago, the Greek army abandoned war hero Philoctetes on an abandoned island. Now, as per a prophecy, trickster Odysseus and young Neoptolemus must retrieve him. The character of Neoptolemus here must grapple with the bones he's standing on, but also keep the peace with both parties. This play is interesting in that, like Ajax, it's a story about war that occurs removed from war. This is a recurring theme of Greek tragedy: the battles are not actually the topic of drama. It is the psychological trauma of war and the dynamics of heroism that are up for debate. Blog | Twitter | Instagram | Spotify | Youtube | About |

  2. 5 out of 5

    Daniel Chaikin

    57. Sophocles II : Ajax; The Women of Trachis; Electra; Philoctetes (The Complete Greek Tragedies) translated: 1957 format: 255 page paperback (20th printing of a 1969 edition, printed in 1989) acquired: May read: Aug 31 - Sep 5 rating: 4 stars There is something special about Sophocles relative to the other two preserved tragedy playwrights. David Grene says he is "the most modern, the nearest to us, of three Greek tragedians". What I think sets him apart is the power of the language itself. I kno 57. Sophocles II : Ajax; The Women of Trachis; Electra; Philoctetes (The Complete Greek Tragedies) translated: 1957 format: 255 page paperback (20th printing of a 1969 edition, printed in 1989) acquired: May read: Aug 31 - Sep 5 rating: 4 stars There is something special about Sophocles relative to the other two preserved tragedy playwrights. David Grene says he is "the most modern, the nearest to us, of three Greek tragedians". What I think sets him apart is the power of the language itself. I know I'm reading this in translation, but Sophocles manages to make striking notes with short phrases, over and over again through his plays. These four range quite a wide spectrum of his styles. The Women of Trachis stands out as being unusually wordy. It's considered immature, and it was the one I liked the least, although it has it's memorable aspects. The other three are each a masterwork in some way. Ajax ~440 bce, translated by John Moore When Achilles died, his armor was supposed to go to the best warrior. But Odysseus manipulated the process and won the armor. Ajax, truly the best warrior, committed suicide in humiliation. The manner in how he does this varies in different stories and Sophocles could chose his preferred version for the drama. In this version Ajax sets out to kill Agamemnon, Menelaus and Odysseus, but Athena plays a trick on his mind. Instead of attaching the men, he attacks sheep, thinking they are these men. He captures and tortures them, gloats and kills them and then passes out. Upon awaking, he is fully humiliated. The play is about how he bears it. I found Ajax, the character, magnificent. He must come to terms with what he has actually done, and what to do about it, and about his wife, and son and brother, Teucer. He rocks with grief, then, feeling he has no choice but to kill himself, must give his family an affectionate goodbye, while concealing it from them, their servants, and the entire audience. In the Homeric story, Ajax may well represent the most ancient aspects of Greek history. His full-bodied shield is antiquated even for the supposed time period of the bronze age Trojan War, and also for weaponry used within the epic. He is a relic from an older time, preserved. He is an archetype, silent both in his stoicism and because he in some ways defies words. I like to think Sophocles knew this, even if he didn't have the word "archetype" within his vocabulary, and that he captures elements of this here. Unfortunately, we lose Ajax halfway through the play, and the play must go on without its best character. The Women of Trachis ~450 bce, translated by Michael Jameson In the tradition, apparently, Deianira, long suffering wife of Heracles, has had enough when Heracles falls for his captive, the young Iole. She sends him a poisoned gift. Sophocles' twist is to make her innocent. She intends to send him a potion from long ago that would make Heracles only love her and no one else. She doesn't realize it's actually poison. Sophocles does some interesting things with Heracles too. The play seemed wordy to me, and lacked the magical lines Sophocles creates in his other plays. And, being a Greek tragedy, it was a bit over the top with the melodrama. Not my favorite, obviously. Electra ~409 bce, translated by David Grene Electra is a brilliant, if understated play, with little action. Grene appreciates this in his intro and translation. He wasn't able to create the same magic Anne Carson does with her translation, and I don't think he felt and understood Electra the character as well as Carson does. But, still, this play has a lot of life in his translation too. (I reviewed Anne Carson's translation HERE) Philoctetes 409 bce, translated by David Grene This was a great play to end with. It is interesting and curious. Philoctetes, a master bowman from the Iliad who uses Heracles's bow, was bitten by a snake in the foot. Then he was dumped alone on the island of Lemnos by the Greek leadership - namely Agamemnon, Menelaus and, Odysseus. But the prophecy says that Philoctetes and his bow are needed to defeat Troy. He has to come back and fight for those who punished him. In the play it's Odysseus and a young Neoptolemus, son of dead Achilles, are sent to bring him to Troy. Odysseus plays a hard game, opening the play by manipulating the still pure and honorable Neoptolemus. He knows it must be Neoptolemus who convinces Philoctetes to join, through is own apparent integrity and honor. "It is you who must help me," he tells him, and then advises him to "Say what you will against me; do not spare anything." Things mostly go as planned. Neoptolemus wins the elder Philoctetes over completely, but the respect is mutual. Odysseus sets the trap, captures the bow and waits for Philoctetes to finally give in, but Neoptolemus undermines it all, returning the bow to Philoctetes. It's only when Heracles himself appears, in god form, that Philoctetes relents and comes to Troy. Odysseus controls everyone ruthlessly, never letting on about his true plans. But his machinations don't capture the audience as much as Philoctetes does. It's hard not to like this desperate, and rather disgusting and unkempt survivor. The conversation between Philoctetes and Neoptolemus is moving. When Philoctetes is betrayed he reveals that he has no god to turn to. They are all against him. "Caverns and headlands, dens of wild creatures, you jutting broken crags, to you I raise my cry—there is no one else that I can speak to—" And, later, screaming at Odysseus "Hateful creature, what things you can invent! You plead the Gods to screen your actions and make the Gods out liars." This is Sophocles quietly damning the Gods himself. A last note about his play. These plays were restricted to three actors and a chorus. When Heracles appears, Neoptolemus is on stage with Philoctetes. Which means the actor who plays Heracles is the same one who plays Odysseus and the audience would know this. So, was it Heracles, or, wink wink, was it really Odysseus putting in his last trick? This collection finishes my incomplete run through these tragedies. I read all of Aeschylus and Sophocles, and most of Euripides. Of three playwrights, Sophocles was easily my favorite. I see him as the gem, the full master of language, creating living breathing experiences within the restrictive constraints of the form.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Sincerae

    I had planned to only read Electra and Ajax, but I enjoyed those too so much that I decided to read all four of the plays: Ajax, Electra, Women of Trachis, and Philoctetes. These plays by ancient Greek drama great Sophocles delves into the private lives and crises of the heroes and villains of the Trojan War and Greek mythology, especially their children and spouses . In this edition the language is written in free verse and is easy to understand. The language is emotional at times, pleasant, sa I had planned to only read Electra and Ajax, but I enjoyed those too so much that I decided to read all four of the plays: Ajax, Electra, Women of Trachis, and Philoctetes. These plays by ancient Greek drama great Sophocles delves into the private lives and crises of the heroes and villains of the Trojan War and Greek mythology, especially their children and spouses . In this edition the language is written in free verse and is easy to understand. The language is emotional at times, pleasant, sarcastic, and occasionally even there's a glimmer of humor. At the end there is a small section of notes for each play.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Laura Leaney

    There is something about Greek literature, Sophocles and Homer most especially, that buries itself in the mind so that it remains unforgettable. The moaning, groaning, wailing, and suffering becomes “your own heart’s speech.” It’s more than a little eerie to identify so well with ancient mythological figures, but their grief and agony articulate the distant voices of the collective unconscious. Perhaps I’m easy to please, but I found all the plays in this edition extraordinarily compelling. My f There is something about Greek literature, Sophocles and Homer most especially, that buries itself in the mind so that it remains unforgettable. The moaning, groaning, wailing, and suffering becomes “your own heart’s speech.” It’s more than a little eerie to identify so well with ancient mythological figures, but their grief and agony articulate the distant voices of the collective unconscious. Perhaps I’m easy to please, but I found all the plays in this edition extraordinarily compelling. My favorites are the Ajax and Philoctetes, about two great warriors fallen low, so exquisitely low that their contemplations of suicide become existential commentaries on the significance of life. Like the ancient Greek audiences, most readers who choose this book already know the basic plots of each play, but there are surprising turns in the language and in the nuanced depiction of the characters. In general, I was surprised how much hate is directed at Odysseus, although I felt a little sorry for him in the Ajax. And even though he is hard and tricky in Philoctetes, Odysseus, who at one point says “What I seek in everything is to win,” is simply obeying the gods’ directives in deceiving the maimed and suffering hero out of his famous bow. The agony is monumental in each play. Ajax suffers as a result of his wounded pride and shame. Deianira unwittingly becomes the cause of her husband Heracles’ physical torment and death. Electra’s moaning is the result of her long-enduring desire to revenge her father’s murder, and Philoctetes’ physical torment from a festering, odiferous wound results in his ten-year abandonment on a desert island. All the plays express human truths and reveal Sophocles’ great understanding of the behavior that results from a human mind and heart after intense trauma. It seems that Ajax has the line that speaks for all: “No, none, to ease my pain. / For God’s sake, help me die!” Death, it seems, is the only cessation to suffering.

  5. 4 out of 5

    sologdin

    The standout is the Philoktetes, which is a nice little piece to use as a heuristic for Hegel's theory of tragedy, insofar as Right comes into confrontation with Right, and about which I have written separately. Otherwise-- Aias Accused of “an act of staggering horror” (22), Aias has “aimed a stroke at the whole Greek army” (44), a stasis in the camp at Troy. Athena here recalls Aeschylus’ Prometheus Bound, asking “Who was more full of foresight that this man, / Or abler, do you think, to act with The standout is the Philoktetes, which is a nice little piece to use as a heuristic for Hegel's theory of tragedy, insofar as Right comes into confrontation with Right, and about which I have written separately. Otherwise-- Aias Accused of “an act of staggering horror” (22), Aias has “aimed a stroke at the whole Greek army” (44), a stasis in the camp at Troy. Athena here recalls Aeschylus’ Prometheus Bound, asking “Who was more full of foresight that this man, / Or abler, do you think, to act with judgment?” (119-20). Odysseus laments Aias’ “Terrible yoke of blindness” (123), finding in it “the true state of all us that live” (125). Some condemnation of those who “weave with false art a supposititious tale” (190). Indeed, “how shall I speak a thing that appalls my speech?” (214). Aias is alledegly “clear in mind” (258) and yet “anguish totally masters him” (275). The play comments on its own construction: “how at the start did this catastrophe / swoop down?” (282-3), pointing out that the catastrophe supposedly ends the tragedy, at least in the later definitions of Aristotle, Freytag, and others. Aias apparently believes that “a woman’s decency is silence” (295) and crying is “marks of an abject spirit” (320). The oikos as private abattoir, as in Aeschylus (345). His defect is perceived atimia: “but now in dishonor / I lie abject” (425). “my name is Aias / agony is its meaning” (431-2). “nor less deserving, yet am left an outcast, / shamed by the Greeks, to perish” (439-40). Tecmessa invokes Homeric moments in Andromache’s plea to Hektor (498 ff.) and Priam’s appeal to Achilles (507 ff.). “ignorance is an evil free from pain” (555), the disjunction of aesthetics and gnosis. Murder changes to suicide: “He swooned in death; this sword Hector gave Aias, / who perished on it with a death-fraught fall. / Did not a Fury beat this weapon out?” (1032-4) “Destinies of men, for the gods weave them all” (1038). Denial burial follows, a familiar difficulty—but “laws will never be rightly kept in a city / that knows no fear or reverence” (1073-4). This metaphor, which Menelaus seeks to apply to the army at Troy, violates the constitution thereof: “didn’t he make the voyage here on his own, / as his own master?” (1099-1100). A religious affront, also, in preventing the burial (1131). One of Aias’ complaints had been against Menelaus’ “procuring fraudulent votes” (1135), a democratic concept in this aristocratic myth. “how fugitive is the gratitude / men owe the dead” (1261-2). Odysseus as the voice of reason on the burial issue: “I hated him while it was fair to hate” (1347); “his greatness weighs more than my hate” (1357). The burial is Ananke (1365). Odysseus resolves to be Aias’ friend in death (1377)—cf. the Antigone for the handling of this issue—here, it is not a polis and thus not a stasis: ergo, no need to take sides in a ‘fight’ and no need for amnestia thereafter? No violations of the rules here means no reciprocal punishments required? Trachiniae Deianira opens by channeling Solon from Herodotus: “You cannot know a man’s life before the man / has died, then only can you call it good or bad” (2-3), and then insists that despite being alive, her life is “heavy and sorrowful” (5). She laments that Heracles’ war against the chthonians has been difficult: “This has been his life, that only brings him home / to send him out again, to serve some man or other” (34-5), the oikos placed at the service of the polis. She is advised, “if it is proper that the free should learn / from the thought of slaves” (52-3), that she should “use” her sons to sound out the “absent” father. (“This woman is / a slave, but what she says is worthy of the free” (62-3).) His latest resulted in his own taking of slaves: “he selected them when he sacked the city of Eurytus / as possessions for himself and a choice gift for the Gods” (244-5). The war resulted from Heracles’ wanting revenge for his own reduction to servitude (255 et seq.). Others argue that “love alone who bewitched him into this violence” (355), “inflamed with desire” (368). It is that “her city was completely crushed through desire for her” (431-2). Though “he has had other women before” (460), it is un decidable whether “he suffers from this sickness, / or that woman” (446-7), the same undecidability as in Garcia Marquez’s Love in the Time of Cholera and elsewhere, apparently a common refrain, becoming more arguably foundational the more often we trip over it, eros as less a solicitation of the constitutional order but a solicitation that is the constitutional order. Thereafter follows a lover’s revenge poisoning plot: “for this Justice who punishes / and the Fury will requite you” (808-9). Heracles himself appears late in the play, lamenting the lovecraftian problem of confronting “this inexorable flowering of madness” (999). His grievance is not unwarranted: “O most ungrateful of the Greeks, where are all you / for whom I destroyed myself purging so many beasts / from all the seas and woods?” (1011-13). His torment is “a woven, encircling net / of the Furies” (1051-2). “Neither the spear of battle, not the army of / the earth-born Giants, nor the violence of beasts, / nor Greece, nor any place of barbarous tongues, not / the landsi came to purify could ever do this. / woman, a female, in no way like a man, / she alone without even a sword has brought me down” (1058-63). “Long ago my father revealed / to me that I should die by nothing that draws breath / but by someone dead, an inhabitant of Hell” (1159-61). Elektra An equivocation of ‘justice’ (37) and ‘revenge’ (34). “no word is base when spoken with profit” (61). Orestes comes as “purifier” to his father’s oikos (68-9). Elektra angry that “like some dishonored foreigner / I tenant in my father’s house in these ugly rags” (188-9). Atreides have problems back to Pelops at least: “for never a moment since / has destruction and ruin / ever left this house” (510-2), the oikos as bearer of the curse. For her part, Clytemnestra thinks “justice it was that took him” (527), citing specifically the sacrifice of Iphigenia, a matter of the oikos—justice ergo a matter of household concern—hence coinciding without remainder in vendetta. Reading the lock (932). “must I then follow your conception of justice?” (1038)—which is to “yield to authority” (396). Tragic dilemma in “it is terrible to speak well and be wrong” (1039)? “no body of Orestes—except in fiction” (1217). “spare me all superfluity of speech” (1288). Matricide is in the oikos but resounds in the polis (1400 ff). “must this house, by absolute necessity, / see the evils of the Pelopidae” (1497). And yet: “justice shall be taken / directly on all who act above the law-- / justice by killing” (1505-7).

  6. 5 out of 5

    Amy

    Sophocles...he is great...:)

  7. 4 out of 5

    وائل المنعم

    It's very sad that from 123 plays written by the great master of Greek Tragedies Sophocles only 7 complete plays survived. In this collection we know how Sophocles can make a great drama from a small tiny event as in Ajax, We know he is the real master of The Greek tragedies compared to Aeschylus and Euripides reading his version of Electra, We know his charm in presenting characters even if they are silent, with only two sentences "Iole in Women of Trachis ", Finally we see in a Greek play a wel It's very sad that from 123 plays written by the great master of Greek Tragedies Sophocles only 7 complete plays survived. In this collection we know how Sophocles can make a great drama from a small tiny event as in Ajax, We know he is the real master of The Greek tragedies compared to Aeschylus and Euripides reading his version of Electra, We know his charm in presenting characters even if they are silent, with only two sentences "Iole in Women of Trachis ", Finally we see in a Greek play a well presented psychological struggle "Neoptolemus in Philoctetes". I liked all his seven plays "complete works" which is very rare. Here's my review about each play

  8. 4 out of 5

    Antti Värtö

    I've only read one Sophocles' tragedy before (Antigone), but that was top-rate, so my expectations were high. Sophocles didn't disappoint: these were very entertaining and interesting plays that still have relevance, 2500 years after they were written. Women of Trachis told the story of Heracles' suicide by funeral pyre. I was pretty unfamiliar with the mythos around Heracles, so the twists and turns of the story managed to surprise me. Not bad. Ajax was the best of these four plays. Ajax was a he I've only read one Sophocles' tragedy before (Antigone), but that was top-rate, so my expectations were high. Sophocles didn't disappoint: these were very entertaining and interesting plays that still have relevance, 2500 years after they were written. Women of Trachis told the story of Heracles' suicide by funeral pyre. I was pretty unfamiliar with the mythos around Heracles, so the twists and turns of the story managed to surprise me. Not bad. Ajax was the best of these four plays. Ajax was a hero of the Trojan war who got royally pissed when Achilles' weapons were handed to Odysseus instead of him. So pissed, in fact, that he decides to torture-kill all the leaders of the expedition. Sounds reasonable to me. Athene casts a confusion over him, so Ajax ends up killing only pack animals. When Ajax realizes his error, he gets ashamed of his actions - not the torture-killing bit, but the fact that he killed helpless animals, which is unbecoming of a warrior. He gets so ashamed, in fact, that he decides to kill himself. Once again, most reasonable logic. The play has unusual structure: Ajax's suicide happens in the middle of the play, and then the story turns into Antigone part 2: for the rest of the play the conflict revolves around the burial of Ajax. Odysseus acts as a voice of reason, so the play ends on a more of less peaceful note. In Philoctetes, on the other hand, Odysseus is depicted as a crafty and amoral manipulator. According to a prophecy the Trojan war can't be won without Philoctetes and his invincible bow. Odysseus comes up with a deceitful plan to get Philo back to Troy. The only trouble is that he drafts young Neoptolemy to lure Philoctetes, but Neo feels sorry for the poor man and decides to come clean and confess the whole plot. Philoctetes decides to have nothing to do with the whole war, Greeks be damned - but changes suddenly his mind after literal deus ex machina: Heracles descends from Olympos to tell Philoctetes to stop his whining and get back on board with the war business. Philoctetes obeys, and the play ends - happily. Zero suicides, zero murders. Extremely unexpected. With Electra we get back on the proper Greek tragedy track: here we have murders aplenty. This play tells the same story as The Libation Bearers by Aeschylus. Sophocles focuses more on Electra than Orestes. The most interesting bit was the dialogue between Electra and her sister Crysothemis. They are both living with their murderous mother, who they both hate, but Cryso has decided to accept her fate for the time being and submit to her mother's will. Therefore she lives in luxury. Electra, on the other hand, is relentless in her hate and isn't afraid to show how much she despised her mother. Thus she wears only rags and is treated like a slave. Both sisters try unsuccesfully to convert the other to their point of view. The audience is left to draw their own conclusions as to which way is actually better.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Marquise

    The two-volume edition of all of Sophocles' plays by Grene & Lattimore is one of the bes out there, better than Delphi's collection. This second volume contains "Electra," one of my favourite plays ever. The two-volume edition of all of Sophocles' plays by Grene & Lattimore is one of the bes out there, better than Delphi's collection. This second volume contains "Electra," one of my favourite plays ever.

  10. 5 out of 5

    S'hi

    Note: This is a joint review with Jean-Paul Sartre's The Flies (which is in his Two Plays, with In Camera being the second) Although there are four plays in this book I didn’t get much out of the first one as I began it, so jumped across and just decided to read Electra. I found this very interesting for the use of deception to give oneself an advantage about the situation one is entering before admitting one’s alliance with another. But this is an example given by the gods in some plays, just as Note: This is a joint review with Jean-Paul Sartre's The Flies (which is in his Two Plays, with In Camera being the second) Although there are four plays in this book I didn’t get much out of the first one as I began it, so jumped across and just decided to read Electra. I found this very interesting for the use of deception to give oneself an advantage about the situation one is entering before admitting one’s alliance with another. But this is an example given by the gods in some plays, just as it is with humans in others. Here we have Athena reporting to Odysseus – oops, that’s the Ajax story. Let that one go – it is just that I then went on to reading Sartre’s The Flies, and he uses Zeus with Orestes, Electra and Clytemnestra in his play, whereas Sophocles has Orestes, Electra and her sister Chrysothemus, with a reference to a dead sister who is unnamed but sacrificed by their father for a transgression he made against a god. This seems to be partly why the wife Clytemnestra decides to have an affair with another man who kills him and becomes king beside her. But this new king has also sent her young son off to be killed, but those charged with the task could not bring themselves to kill the boy, and thus Orestes is believed to still be alive by the loyal daughter Electra, wishing for vengeance for her fathers’ demise. In both plays Electra is portrayed as an outcast of sorts in her own home. Because she is so outspoken about the death of her father she has been imprisoned by her mother in the palace (in Sophocles) or treated as a slave doing menial tasks all year (in Sartre) but allowed to be a show princess for the Day of the Dead (which Zeus rules, and thus his presence). The ancient play uses a chorus to act as the voice of the common people, and as the voice of conscience which backs up Electra. She trusts them, and they expect that she will eventually see through the plan she has to free them all from the tyrant and the false queen. Sartre on the other hand, has Electra caught in the same chimera as the townfolk, who are all deceived by the King’s annual pageant of drawing forth the ghosts of the dead to shroud them all in shadows. Although Electra knows of this farce, when her brother turns up and carries out the deed which she has long hoped he would do, she goes into shock over his actions and denies her own complicity in it. Although she takes 15 years in dreaming of the return of her brother Orestes to take revenge, when he arrives he is not the type of character she has envisioned. Instead he appears as a pacifist from his easy upbringing away from the social milieu of his home town. He tells Electra that there is another way to live, not as a promising fantasy, but as a reality he has already experienced. She uses this image to spur herself on, and claim that she will do the deed if he is not strong enough. But when her passion ignites compassion within him and he transforms into the character she expected him to be, she then pulls back again and doubts that it was indeed justice to follow through. Thus we have quite different issues arising from the same story. And these issues are about the society within which the plays themselves were written and performed. The one is merely the carrying out of ‘destiny’ or what has been prescribed to be the remedy for a particular transgression against a family and its society. The other is the freeing up from prescription for choice to be made based upon one’s own principles and one’s own interpretation of them. And this is determined to be a higher ideal than living by prescription. but the real question is: who is writing the script. For Orestes makes much of his own freedom, then sways and responds to the terms his sister seems to place upon him. Yes, he can change his mind. But what is the real basis then for his decisions and actions? Is freedom enough of an ideal that it overrides being influenced by others who do not seem to know of let alone believe in such an ideal? It is an interesting twist in this play. But it is a twist which also demonstrates the power within the individual to work through their own stance on issues. And it is the acceptance within oneself of the consequences of one’s own thinking and choices and actions. Rather than awaiting the judgement of any other, the judgment made of oneself is the force by which all forward movement can occur. And then it becomes an invitation to others to also step clear of their own shadows and doubts and find their own freedom also.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Keeley

    For most people, the name Sophocles is synonymous with Oedipus. Yet, both as a reader of literature and a classical educator, I prefer the non-Oedipus plays of Sophocles, the Ajax in particular. These translations of the plays dealing with Ajax, Hercules, Electra and Philoctetes, edited by Richmond Lattimore and David Grene, are accessible, intelligible, and faithful to the original. I have used this translation many times with students and highly recommend it to someone who wants to read Sophoc For most people, the name Sophocles is synonymous with Oedipus. Yet, both as a reader of literature and a classical educator, I prefer the non-Oedipus plays of Sophocles, the Ajax in particular. These translations of the plays dealing with Ajax, Hercules, Electra and Philoctetes, edited by Richmond Lattimore and David Grene, are accessible, intelligible, and faithful to the original. I have used this translation many times with students and highly recommend it to someone who wants to read Sophocles, whether from a literary, mythological or historical perspective. I would not recommend it for dramatic performance; you can find translations that do a lot better job of poetic interpretation and foreground the plays' continuing resonance (one example might be Seamus Heaney's The Cure at Troy: A Version of Sophocles' Philoctetes for the Philoctetes).

  12. 5 out of 5

    Oneflwover

    You cannot count on tomorrow until you've survived today. (945-946) You can't engage in a boxing match with Love Who'd be such a fool? Love governs even the gods At his own sweet will. He certainly governs me. (441-443) -Sophocles from Women of Trachis You cannot count on tomorrow until you've survived today. (945-946) You can't engage in a boxing match with Love Who'd be such a fool? Love governs even the gods At his own sweet will. He certainly governs me. (441-443) -Sophocles from Women of Trachis

  13. 5 out of 5

    Zoe

    Great translation of the text. Very readable. Introductions to each play were helpful. Would have preferred footnotes or endnotes to expand, but great translations.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Meghan

    AJAX The story of Ajax, one of the warriors at Troy, who got angry he was not awarded the armor of the dead Achilles. Instead the armor was awarded to Odysseus his rival. Athena, forever on the side of Odysseus, saves Odysseus from the attack Ajax planned on the leaders of the Greek army. She made Ajax mad and he shames himself by slaughtering a herd of cattle and sheep whom he believes to be his enemies. After his delusions passed, he contemplates suicide. Ajax: “Long life? Who but a coward would AJAX The story of Ajax, one of the warriors at Troy, who got angry he was not awarded the armor of the dead Achilles. Instead the armor was awarded to Odysseus his rival. Athena, forever on the side of Odysseus, saves Odysseus from the attack Ajax planned on the leaders of the Greek army. She made Ajax mad and he shames himself by slaughtering a herd of cattle and sheep whom he believes to be his enemies. After his delusions passed, he contemplates suicide. Ajax: “Long life? Who but a coward would ask for it, Beset by endless evil? Can he enjoy Counting the days that pass; now a step forward, Now a step backward, on the way to death? Who’d be that man? To huddle over the coals Of flickering hope. Not I. Ajax’s wife and the chorus try to persuade him to live. He tells them they are right and he must go to the sea to cleanse himself of the filth, but he has tricked them so he may be alone and so have the opportunity to die. Then we learn from the prophet Calchas that Ajax had broken the bounds of mortal modesty. His father told him as he left for Troy “Go out to win, but win with God beside you” and Ajax replied “Any fool can win with God beside him; I intend to do win glory and honour on my own account”. During battle Athena came to Ajax to urge him on and he told Athena “Holy One, give your assistance to some other Greeks; the line won’t break here where I am in command.” Ajax was doomed to meet Athena’s wrath. Ajax kills himself on Hector’s sword. Teucer, Ajax’s half brother, finds him dead. Teucer: “You see, it had to be Hector after all That did this thing, although he died before you. By heaven, what a fate has bound these two Together! The girdle Ajax gave to Hector Became the rope that lashed him to the chariot And dragged him to his death. Now Hector’ssword, His gift to Ajax, has laid Ajax low. Who but some Fury could have forged the sword, What cruel craftsman but the God of Death Devised the girdle? These, like all things ever, I must believe are engines of the gods Designed against mankind. If this be error, Then he who thinks it so must go his way As I go mine. The leaders of the Greek army learn Ajax is dead. For punishment they try to decree Ajax will not have burial rites. We must remember to the Greek’s if you are not properly buried you are doomed to misery in the life to come. Teucer stands up for Ajax and is willing to defy them. The argument between Teucer and the leaders, Menelaus and Agamenmon, is priceless. The following is only a part: Menelaus: “I’ve heard a man, A bully with his tongue, commanding sailors To put to sea in dirty weather; aboard And in the thick of the storm, you’d always find him Speechless, hiding his head beneath his cloak, And letting any man walk over him. That’s you, and your bold language; come a gale – A little cloud may bring it – and your bluster Will soon be silenced.” Teucer: “I have seen a fool, Mocking his friends’ misfortunes. One who stood by, As it might be me, feeling as I do now, Said to this person: ‘Never insult the dead; You’re bound to suffer for it.’ So he warned The wretched fellow to his face. I think, Nay I am sure, he stands before me now, And you are he. Is that a riddle for you? Odysseus comes on the scene. Odysseus: “For the love of all the gods, think twice Before you do so rash and vile a thing. You cannot leave this man to rot unburied. You must not let your violent will persuade you Into such hatred as would tread down justice. There was a time when I too hated him; From the time I won the armour of Achilles, He was the bitterest enemy I had; and yet, Such though he was, I could not bring myself To grudge him honour, or refuse to admit He was the bravest man I ever saw, The best of all that ever came to Troy, Save only Achilles. It is against all justice For you to treat him with contempt. God’s laws, And not the man himself, you would annihilate. Even if you hate him, it is against all justice To lift your hand against a good man dead. Menelaus allows the burial of Ajax. The play ends with the chorus saying these words: “Many are the things that man seeing must understand. Not seeing, how shall he know what lies in the hand of time to come? I really enjoyed this play. Can you see this sort of conflict in everyday life? Not necessarily over burying the dead, but over what is perceived as right and wrong. Sophocles is said to portray man as he ought to be. This play exemplifies that concept nicely. Odysseus could easily have nursed the wrongs Ajax served him, but instead he takes the higher path of right. ELECTRA Backstory: Helen went with Paris to Troy. Menelaus, Helen’s husband, offended, orchestrated an alliance between Greek nations and gathered an army at Aulis ready to sail for Troy. They waited and waited for any wind, but none came. Finally a prophet announced that the god Artemis required a virgin to be sacrificed in order for the army to sail. Agamemnon as leader of the army sacrificed his daughter on the altar. He lured her there with the guise of a marriage to Achilles. After the sacrifice, the army went to Troy and was gone 10 years. Meanwhile, Clytaemnestra, Agamemnon’s wife, had taken a lover (Aegisthus) and plotted to kill Agamemnon when he returned. She cites the wrong done to their daughter at Aulis as her reason. At the time of Agamemnon’s murder, Electra (daughter of Clytaemnestra and Agamemnon) saves her baby brother Orestes by sending him away with his tutor. Clytaemnestra lives in fear Orestes will someday come back to avenge the death of his father. Electra: “Forgive me; what else can I do? Would it not belie My birth and breeding to see the things I have seen Happening in my father’s house, and not complain? Day in, day out, an endless summer of sorrow – Hating and hated by my mother – beholden to them For everything I may or may not do. Imagine, Imagine what it means to see, day after day, Aegisthus sitting in my father’s chair, wearing The clothes he wore, pouring the same libations At the altar where he killed him: and, last outrage, The murderer going to his bed with her – Must I still call her mother? – with his mistress. For she still lives with the criminal, unashamed, Unafraid of retribution; on the contrary, proud Of the thing she did, she marks the happy day, The day she treacherously killed my father, With music and sacrifice, as each month comes round, To thank the saving gods. And I must watch And weep alone at the foul ceremonies That keep his name alive – but weep in silence, Not as my heart would have me weep. In Sophocles version of this story Electra has another sister, Chrysothemis. She and Electra are in disagreement: Chrysothemis: “Electra! Why are you here again, out of doors, And holding forth in this fashion? Have you not learnt After all this time to restrain your useless anger, Not make a vain parade of it? I’m sure I feel our position as bitterly as you do, And if only I had the strength to do it, I’d show Where my real feelings lie. But as it is, My policy is to bow before the storm, Not make a show of pluck, when powerless To strike a blow. I wish you’d do the same. O yes, it’s true that what you think is right, Not what I say. And yet, to keep my freedom, I know I must obey.” Clytaemnestra has a dream: Chrysothemis: “I was told she saw our father returned to life, Standing beside her; and he took the scepter That once was his, which now Aegisthus carries, And planted it near the altar, where it sprouted Into a leafy bough, casting a shadow Over all Mycenae.” She decides to send Electra away. They engage in an argument. Clytaemnestra defends herself in the murder of Agamemnon and Electra rebuts: Clytaemnestra: “This father of yours, whom you never stop weeping for, did a thing no other Greek had dared to do, when he so ruthlessly sacrificed your sister to the gods – the child whom he had begotten, at little cost of course compared to mine who bore her. No doubt you can tell me why he did this, and for whose sake? For the Greeks, maybe? And who gave them the right to take my daughter’s life? … Or for Menelaus? Is that any reason why he should not be brought to justice for killing what was mine? Had not Menelaus two children of his own? And should not they have been the ones to die, the children of that father, that mother, the cause of the whole enterprise? Was my child’s blood sweeter to the stomach of Death than Helen’s? …No, I’ve nothing to regret. You think I’m heartless. You would do well to make sure of your own ground before condemning others.” Electra: “This is my case. You admit you killed my father; And that is the most monstrous admission you could make, whether you had justice on your side or not. I say you had not; you were drawn on and cajoled by the wiles of the miscreant whom you are living with now. Ask Huntress Artemis what fault she punished by withholding the winds that blow on the straits of Aulis. I’ll tell you, since we cannot question her. I have heard how my father, in an idle moment, walking in a demesne of the goddess, startled a stag, a dappled full-antlered beast, and thoughtlessly with a rash triumphant cry he shot it dead. It was this that provoked the goddess, Leto’s daughter, to detain the Greeks and make my father pay for the creature’s life by offering up his daughter. … It was not done to humour Menelaus. Even if it were, as you maintain, even if that were his object, to help his brother, would that entitle you to take his life? What kind of law is that? … If life for life be the rule, Justice demands your life before all others. …” Sophocles does a wonderful job of helping the reader be sympathetic to both sides. I really like Aeschylus’ Orestes story because he in the end condemns the life for a life policy for a better system of Justice. Here Electra condemns her mother for taking her father’s life for taking his daughter’s life, yet will ruthlessly follow that same policy with Orestes to take her mother’s and Aegisthus’ life. Her logic is lacking. Sophocles does not reconcile this at the end of his play other than to show the furies begin to torment Orestes. Maybe this embodies the nature of this play being a tragedy? Electra and Orestes got what they wanted, but in the end paid for it dearly (at least Orestes does, Electra seems to get by fine). Overall not my favorite mythological story and I think Aeschylus’ version was better. WOMEN OF TRACHIS As with the Oedipus trilogy (term loosely used), Women of Trachis demonstrates the genius of Sophocles. The audience knows this story, but it is the rendering of HOW the story comes to its inevitable end that is so wonderful. It is the weaving of circumstance, of righteous intent, of historic events, of realization, of trying in vain to avoid a disastrous end that makes the tragedy so compelling. Women of Trachis is the story of Heracles (Hercules) and how he met his end. His death was caused by his wife, Deianeira, but entirely without intent. Trachis is a location in Greece where Deianeira lives and awaits the return of her husband Heracles. Deianeira: “Heracles chose me for his wife; and since that day I have had no moment’s rest from fear On his account. Each night’s new terror drives away The terror of the night before. We had children … but he never sees them Except as a farmer sees a distant field On the edge of his estate, visiting it Now and again, at planting or at harvest. That’s what his life has been, Home one minute and away the next, A slave to his employer.” A year and three months ago, Heracles left Trachis again, but told his wife the following: Deianeira: “Fixing the exact time – a year and three months From the day of his going out; that day, he said, Would be either his last on earth, or else the beginning Of peaceful days for the rest of his mortal life. Thus, he said, it was the will of the immortal gods That the labours of Heracles should be brought to an end; Thus it had been spoken at Dodona by the ancient oak Long ago, by the voice of the two dove-priestesses. And now that moment is here, and the fulfillment must come.” Messengers come and tell Deianeira that Heracles is alive and is on his way home. The messengers bring in a group of women who were awarded to Heracles after he sacked their city. Deianeira asks who they are and one messenger says he doesn’t know. When that messenger leaves, another messenger comes forward telling Deianeira he lied. One of the women was the daughter of King Eurytus, whom Heracles had fallen in love with. Deianeria: “I know, I see how it is: the one with youthful beauty Ripening to its prime, the other falling away. The eye must ever enjoy the flower, the feet Turn from the withered stalk. This is my fear, Heracles to be called my husband, but her man…” Deianeria then decides to try a love potion on her husband. She saved the blood of a centaur as he was dying (after Heracles killed him). The centaur told her “this charm will bind the heart of Heracles if ever he should look upon a woman to lover her more than you”. Deianeria sends a tunic brushed with the salve by messenger to Heracles. Then Deianeria learns the tunic was killing her husband and his men were bringing him home to die. She kills herself before he comes. Her son found her dead. Nurse: “Her son cried bitterly at what he saw; he knew, Poor lad, it was his anger drove her to it. By now he had learnt, too late, from others here That what she had done was all a mistake – that spell The Centaur taught her. So the unhappy boy Wept bitterly, and could never make an end Of crying over her, clinging to her lips, Falling beside her, with his heart on hers. …. Only the foolish man Would reckon on the future – one day, two, Or more to come. Tomorrow – what is tomorrow? ‘Tis nothing, until today is safely past.” Heracles is brought in and wants to kill Deianeria. Their son, Hyllus tells him she didn’t mean to kill her. Then Heracles wants his son to do two things for him. First he wants his son to take him to Oeta, the mount of Zeus and lay his body on a pyre and kindle it. Hyllus: “It is too much. How can you ask me, father, To take your life – your blood upon my hands? Heracles: I do not ask it. I make you my physician: Your act alone shall cure me of my sickness. Hyllus: How? Heal your body by setting fire to it?” Hyllus agrees to build the pyre and lay Heracles upon it, but will not light the pyre. Heracles will do that himself. The second thing Heracles wants of his son is to marry Iole, the girl Heracles sent home and is in love with. Hyllus: “What can I say? I must not cross you in your agony. But this last fancy that possesses you – It is intolerable. Heracles: What are you saying? You mean to disobey me? Hyllus: Who could do it? That woman – the sole cause of my mother’s death, Of your condition too – take her to wife? No man could do it, unless the avenging fiends Had driven him from his wits. I’d rather die Than mate with my worst enemy.” After much hot debate with his father Hyllus agrees “I will do it. The gods be witness that it is your doing; It cannot be sin to obey my father’s charge.” The play ends with these words: Hyllus: “Let all men here forgive me, And mark the malevolence Of the unforgiving gods In this event. We call them Fathers of sons, and they Look down unmoved Upon our tragedies. The future is hidden from us. This is our present – Our grief, who see it; His untold agony, Who must endure it; And their reproach, Who let it be. Women of Trachis, you have leave to go. You have seen strange things, The awful hand of death, new shapes of woe, Uncounted sufferings; And all that you have seen Is God.” This is my introduction to Heracles as a character (besides Homer – and then I didn’t realize Heracles was Hercules!). He was full of command, pride, and short tempered. He didn’t come off well to me, the reader, due to his wanting to kill his wife, to make his son finish the job of killing him and then marry the girl with whom he cheated on his wife. I was more sympathetic towards Deianeira. Here she is continually waiting at home for a husband who comes only once in a while. She is patient and makes his home and raises their children for years and years. Then she is rewarded by the news of Heracles taking another to his bed. Instead of being angry, (is this where Sophocles portrays people as they should be, not as they are?) her only desire is to preserve Heracles’ love for her. Who wants to live the rest of their life rejected by the one they love? I guess you could say Heracles got what was coming to him, but Deianeira couldn’t live with her mistake or without Heracles. It is tragic. The end of this play is interesting. It portrays the gods as far off beings who are the authors of the pains in this life. “We call them fathers of sons, and they look down unmoved upon our tragedies” – could there be some scorn for religion coming from Sophocles? Or is this how the Greek religion viewed the gods? We must endure the agony of life and they who let the agony be, reproach us for it? What is with the title of this play? Women of Trachis? They are the chorus and are witness to all that happens, but they are not a main character. The play is not about them … or is it? Overall, a very compelling story with a good plot. PHILOCTETES Backstory: Heracles, at his death, gives Philoctetes his bow and arrows (“arrows that never miss, flying to kill”)I. Later, Philoctetes accompanies the Greek army to Troy, but on the way is bitten by a serpent. His companions are repulsed by his incurable wound and deserted him on the island of Lemnos, an uninhabited island. There he wretchedly lived until it was revealed to the leaders of the Greek army they could not take Troy without the help of Heracles’ bow and arrows. Odysseus and Noptolemus go to Lemnos to retrieve them. Odysseus wants Neoptolemus to trick Philoctetes into giving him the bow and arrows and the desert Philoctetes again. However, Neoptolemus has reservations about this plan. Odysseus: “I know it goes against the grain with you To lie, or act deceitfully; but then, Success is worth an effort, make it now. We shall be justified in the end; for the present Let honesty go hang, only for a day, I beg you; and then you can live for ever after A paragon of virtue. Will you do it?” Neoptolemus: “I’d rather beat this man By force than by deception. In any case, One against many, and with only one sound foot, He isn’t likely to get the better of us. I know I’ve been sent to help you in this mission. And I’d hate to fail you now; but really, sir, I’d rather lose by fair means than win by foul.” In the end, Neoptolemus succumbs to Odysseus’ persuasion (he is famed to be a master of words) and engages Philoctetes. Neoptolemus tells Philoctetes he went to Troy, but was wronged by Odysseus. Odysseus would not give Neoptolemus the armor of his

  15. 5 out of 5

    Joshua Lister

    Order starting with my favorite below: 1. Electra 2. Philoctetes 3. Women of Trachis 4. Ajax

  16. 4 out of 5

    Ben Hartman

    I especially liked Philoctetes.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Keith

    Sophocles is a master of plot development and timing, an expert at building and releasing tension – even if the audience knows what is going to happen. That is immensely difficult to do. He is excellent at twisting the expectations of the audience and the characters. Compared to Aeschylus, Sophocles seems less ornate and more direct. (Although, of course, I’m reading a translation.) He uses few allusions, less imagery and plainer language. Sophocles cannot be accused, as Aeschylus is, of violenc Sophocles is a master of plot development and timing, an expert at building and releasing tension – even if the audience knows what is going to happen. That is immensely difficult to do. He is excellent at twisting the expectations of the audience and the characters. Compared to Aeschylus, Sophocles seems less ornate and more direct. (Although, of course, I’m reading a translation.) He uses few allusions, less imagery and plainer language. Sophocles cannot be accused, as Aeschylus is, of violence to the Greek language. I find, though, I’m not pulled into the plays intellectually. The plays I’ve read so far don’t address the compelling questions about life that interest me. They are well-plotted stories, but of a very particular character and a unique situation. Well told, well plotted, and even the characters are well formed, but the plays don’t touch on themes of the overall human condition. Oedipus the King – ***** Is there another play so perfectly plotted? Even though the audience knows the ending, the suspense builds as Oedipus gets a glimpse of the truth, but then it wanes, only to wax and wane several more times as Oedipus nears the catastrophic truth, before, finally, the crushing reality is revealed. It’s full of wonderful ironies. Yes, there are numerous preposterous coincidences, but Sophocles manages them brilliantly to create an incredibly intense, tight, claustrophobic drama. (09/14) Ajax – *** The speech where Ajax tells the chorus and his wife that he’s going to the shore to “bury his sword” is probably one of best ironic speeches ever written. Has he recovered his wits and is ready to accept his dishonor, or does he plan to do himself harm? It is a great passage and the pathos is palpable. Overall, the play is good, but I wouldn’t call it a “must read.” It covers a man dealing with his dishonor, but Ajax is a flawed character and his death ends his suffering but causes the suffering of many others. (That’s probably true of most suicides.) (09/14) Electra – *** This is not one of Sophocles’ stronger plays. It is long-winded and full of whining and kvetching. The play consists mostly of Electra complaining endlessly about her situation, broken up by a few mistaken-identify/recognition scenes (which also include Electra complaining). I prefer Aeschylus’ telling of this tale in The Libation Bearers. It is more emotionally and sexually charged, not to mention more ethically complex. Sophocles presents Electra’s and Orestes’ story as a simple revenge play, without much thought of the complexity of the crime nor consideration about the implications of killing your own mother. The end is quite strange with Aegisthus walking freely to his death. (As is Electra’s gleeful anticipation of her mother’s death.) (09/16) (re-read 09/17)

  18. 4 out of 5

    Rosie

    The plays are excellent, based on myths containing sensationalist material such as matricide, fratricide, revenge killings, suicide, adultery and deception. Sophocles definitely deserves his legendary status. The ability of these ancient dramatists to portray these stories with the limited resources and technology available at the time is ingenious. This edition contains good prefaces to the plays which includes an explanation of how the plays might have been staged. However, there is a good gen The plays are excellent, based on myths containing sensationalist material such as matricide, fratricide, revenge killings, suicide, adultery and deception. Sophocles definitely deserves his legendary status. The ability of these ancient dramatists to portray these stories with the limited resources and technology available at the time is ingenious. This edition contains good prefaces to the plays which includes an explanation of how the plays might have been staged. However, there is a good general explanation of the set up the Greek theatre in the appendix at the back of the book, which would have been better put at the front. The endnotes to the plays are copious and I found them a bit excessive. I prefer it if the notes are limited to an explanation of references that might be unknown to the general reader but the notes in this edition give quite extensive commentary on each scene. However, anyone who wished to stage the play might find these helpful. Electra: E's brother Orestes returns home and kills their mum & her lover in revenge for killing their dad. Ajax: A goes mad when dead Achilles' armour is given to Odysseus and kills some cows thinking he is killing the Greek generals. A kills himself. O makes sure his body is buried with honour. Women of Trachis: Heracles' wife Deianira gives H a poisoned robe after learning that H plans to take a mistress. Philoctetes: P has been stranded on a island with his magic bow for years because of a poisoned foot. Neoptolemus and Odysseus try to steal the magic bow by trickery.

  19. 5 out of 5

    David

    Sophocles wrote emotionally moving plays that depict powerful collisions between two conflicting views on honor and morality. With the exception of Electra, each play ends with the two warring sides transcending their polarized viewpoints and reaching a resolution together. This resolution is triggered by the counsel of an outside influence, be it another character who shows up fashionably late or a ghost come back from the dead. This exploration of conflict has a few recurring themes. Sometimes Sophocles wrote emotionally moving plays that depict powerful collisions between two conflicting views on honor and morality. With the exception of Electra, each play ends with the two warring sides transcending their polarized viewpoints and reaching a resolution together. This resolution is triggered by the counsel of an outside influence, be it another character who shows up fashionably late or a ghost come back from the dead. This exploration of conflict has a few recurring themes. Sometimes the point of contention is the burial rights over one's enemy (Ajax & Antigone), sometimes it's the returning of an exile to the group from which they were cast out (Oedipus at Colonus & Philoctetes), and sometimes it's over a character's well-meaning actions that yielded unintentionally tragic results (Oedipus Rex & Women of Trachis). I didn't find these stories to be as interesting as those in his Oedipus trilogy, however I still felt an empathy and at times an emotional connection made with the characters. His version of Electra was less interesting than those of Euripides and Aeschylus, yet it was perhaps easier to understand the emotional turmoil of Electra than in the versions penned by his contemporaries. I found Ajax to be the most moving and interesting of the bunch and was absent of the sort of afterthought intercession or slapdash story resolution that the endings of Women of Trachis and Philoctetes had. A variety of viewpoints mix together in the play Ajax, and the story flows and resolves naturally and owing more to good character than to any trick of the story.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Steve Hemmeke

    Heady stuff. Greeks put in hard places by the events of the Trojan war. They are on the periphery, and the main guys like Odysseus play cameo roles in these plays. They are like spinoffs of Homer's great works, the Iliad and Odyssey, hundreds of years later, in the 400s before Christ. Fate and loss of honor are big themes. What do we do when fate turns against us so that we lose our reputation, stumble and fall? For Ajax, it led to cynicism. "Most men have found friendship a treacherous harbor." Heady stuff. Greeks put in hard places by the events of the Trojan war. They are on the periphery, and the main guys like Odysseus play cameo roles in these plays. They are like spinoffs of Homer's great works, the Iliad and Odyssey, hundreds of years later, in the 400s before Christ. Fate and loss of honor are big themes. What do we do when fate turns against us so that we lose our reputation, stumble and fall? For Ajax, it led to cynicism. "Most men have found friendship a treacherous harbor." Suicide was the answer. Echoes of Job come through, when they consider the injustice of their suffering. Electra's murderer is her stepfather, and her sister acquiesces: "justice is not on my side but on yours." Electra cannot: "Have your rich table and your abundant life. All the food I need is the quiet of my conscience." The gods are always the ones pulling the strings, and life is pain. "None can foresee what is to come... and there is nothing here which is not Zeus." "Nothing painless has the all-accomplishing King dispensed for mortal men." Philoctetes says, "How can I praise, when praising Heaven I find the gods are bad?" It's quite a dismal worldview, when you step back and look at it. Electra sums up the Greeks well: "It is terrible to speak well and be wrong." Of course, they capture glimpses of wisdom, too, like in that quote. Here are a few more. "Harsh words, however just, still rankle." "You win the victory when you yield to friends."

  21. 4 out of 5

    Cate

    This was some pretty light reading. The stakes are always very high in Greek drama. They are fun to read, but after awhile all the wailing and gnashing of teeth can get a bit loud in my head. My husband accurately drew the conclusion that Greek drama is sort of like Japanese animation - always screaming, always the most intense of situations. While this is all true, this is the birth of theater and entertainment as we experience it today. It is also interesting that the gods are always causing s This was some pretty light reading. The stakes are always very high in Greek drama. They are fun to read, but after awhile all the wailing and gnashing of teeth can get a bit loud in my head. My husband accurately drew the conclusion that Greek drama is sort of like Japanese animation - always screaming, always the most intense of situations. While this is all true, this is the birth of theater and entertainment as we experience it today. It is also interesting that the gods are always causing such huge problems for people, who are just the victims of the gods' whims. Poor people. Why are their gods like that? I can't imagine being Greek going about my life (i.e. doing the laundry) and just waiting for Athena to f things up just because....

  22. 4 out of 5

    Laura

    I only read Ajax & coordinating intro. This was for a special bookclub called "Ancient Greeks & Modern Life". Ajax is a combat vet returning home & things don't go well. The connection to modern life is currently returning vets have the same troubles adapting to civilian life, perhaps more so since most their peers out of the combat zone have no idea, nor want to know what they've done to make it home. At least in ancient Greece, all (male) citizens served from 18 yrs to 60 yrs old, so peers out I only read Ajax & coordinating intro. This was for a special bookclub called "Ancient Greeks & Modern Life". Ajax is a combat vet returning home & things don't go well. The connection to modern life is currently returning vets have the same troubles adapting to civilian life, perhaps more so since most their peers out of the combat zone have no idea, nor want to know what they've done to make it home. At least in ancient Greece, all (male) citizens served from 18 yrs to 60 yrs old, so peers out of the combat zone knew what being at war was like & what it could do to a mind of even the bravest.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Eric

    When Aristotle talked about somebody who could write a good tragedy, he was talking about Sophocles. These plays (The 4 extant plays outside of the Theban Plays)are a testament to this fact. While the "Women of Trachis" is perhaps weak, the other three plays are all knockouts. Sophocles' treatment of the Electra myth is worth getting this copy of translations alone. Quite good, and highly recommended to people interested in Greek Tragedy. When Aristotle talked about somebody who could write a good tragedy, he was talking about Sophocles. These plays (The 4 extant plays outside of the Theban Plays)are a testament to this fact. While the "Women of Trachis" is perhaps weak, the other three plays are all knockouts. Sophocles' treatment of the Electra myth is worth getting this copy of translations alone. Quite good, and highly recommended to people interested in Greek Tragedy.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Jesse

    Sophocle's Electra is, I think, the worst version, but it has the virtue of examining the complacency of Electra's sister with Electra's revolutionary vigour. Sophocles is a very psychologically penetrating dramatist, and, I think, nowhere more so than in Philoctetes and Ajax. Jealousy is Sophocles' main theme, usually, and so I must recommend this especially to the cynical; truly great drama, all the same. Sophocle's Electra is, I think, the worst version, but it has the virtue of examining the complacency of Electra's sister with Electra's revolutionary vigour. Sophocles is a very psychologically penetrating dramatist, and, I think, nowhere more so than in Philoctetes and Ajax. Jealousy is Sophocles' main theme, usually, and so I must recommend this especially to the cynical; truly great drama, all the same.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Meagan

    I only had to read Electra for my Mythology class but I wish I had more time to read the other stories. This version was vastly more entertaining that the Orestia which I had previously and it was only a retake on the second play from the Trilogy. This one was much more to the point and fixed a lot of the loop holes present in the other stories.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Tasshin Fogleman

    Read Philoctetes for Freshman Seminar 2010. Read Ajax in 2011 before a performance of it at American Repertory Theater in Boston. Re-read Philoctetes for pre-lecture Seminar/lecture on 4/08/11. Re-read Philoctetes and Ajax in 2011. Wrote this essay on Philoctetes: http://mwfogleman.tumblr.com/post/189... Read Philoctetes for Freshman Seminar 2010. Read Ajax in 2011 before a performance of it at American Repertory Theater in Boston. Re-read Philoctetes for pre-lecture Seminar/lecture on 4/08/11. Re-read Philoctetes and Ajax in 2011. Wrote this essay on Philoctetes: http://mwfogleman.tumblr.com/post/189...

  27. 4 out of 5

    Johnnelle Walker

    Although I love Robert Fagles translations of the three Theban plays, I think penguin classics has found another great translator in David Raeburn. Philoctetes was excellent. And no matter who translates it, Sophocles' Electra cannot compete with Aeschylus' Orestia (probably not fair to compare a complete trilogy to a single tragedy, but it's what we've got.). Definitely recommend:) Although I love Robert Fagles translations of the three Theban plays, I think penguin classics has found another great translator in David Raeburn. Philoctetes was excellent. And no matter who translates it, Sophocles' Electra cannot compete with Aeschylus' Orestia (probably not fair to compare a complete trilogy to a single tragedy, but it's what we've got.). Definitely recommend:)

  28. 4 out of 5

    L S

    I confess, I don't know about plays like the Colonus but there's always time to warm up to it. Antigone, though, and Oedipus make claims that Euripides is the most modern of the playwrights sound exaggerated. I confess, I don't know about plays like the Colonus but there's always time to warm up to it. Antigone, though, and Oedipus make claims that Euripides is the most modern of the playwrights sound exaggerated.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Kent

    Poor Clytemnestra! Poor Heracles! Poor Ajax! Fate, it seems, is filled with justice, and it paid all them their due. But most of all, poor Philoctetes! It is a pathetic mind that would rather see a wound glorified than healed.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Nina

    Sophocles, I appreciate your ability to write dialogue that sounds like something an actual human being might say, without using ridiculous metaphors about animals and sickness and the need to be poetic about every statement you make. (I'm looking at you, Aeschylus.) Sophocles, I appreciate your ability to write dialogue that sounds like something an actual human being might say, without using ridiculous metaphors about animals and sickness and the need to be poetic about every statement you make. (I'm looking at you, Aeschylus.)

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