Antigone, Oedipus the King, Electra (Oxford World's Classics)
Sophocles, Edith Hall, H. D. F. Kitto
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Love and loyalty, hatred and revenge, fear, deprivation, and political ambition: these are the motives which thrust the characters portrayed in these three Sophoclean masterpieces on to their collision course with catastrophe.
Recognized in his own day as perhaps the greatest of the Greek tragedians, Sophocles' reputation has remained undimmed for two and a half thousand years. His greatest innovation in the tragic medium was his development of a central tragic figure, faced with a test of will and character, risking obloquy and death rather than compromise his or her principles: it is striking that Antigone and Electra both have a woman as their intransigent 'hero'. Antigone dies rather neglect her duty to her family, Oedipus' determination to save his city results in the horrific discovery that he has committed both incest and parricide, and Electra's unremitting anger at her mother and her lover keeps her in servitude and despair.
These vivid translations combine elegance and modernity, and are remarkable for their lucidity and accuracy. Their sonorous diction, economy, and sensitivity to the varied metres and modes of the original musical delivery make them equally suitable for reading or theatrical peformance.
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in Thebes;* For, as ivy grows on a tree, Strangling it, so she slowly turned to Stone on a Phrygian mountain-top. Now the rain-storms wear her away— So does the story run—and Snow clings to her always: 830 Tears fall from her weeping eyes for Ever and ever. Like to hers, the Cruel death that now awaits me. CHORUS. But she was a goddess, and born of the gods;* We are but mortals, of mortals born. For a mortal to share in the doom of a god, That brings her renown while yet she lives,
Antigone from her rock-hewn dungeon, 1100 And lay the unburied body in a tomb. CREON. Is this your counsel? You would have me yield? CHORUS. I would, and quickly. The destroying hand Of Heaven is quick to punish human error. CREON. How hard it is! And yet one cannot fight Against Necessity.*—I will give way. CHORUS. Go then and do it; leave it not to others. CREON. Just as I am I go.—You men-at-arms, You here, and those within: away at once Up to the hill, and take your implements.
destroy your sight! How could you bring Yourself to do it? What god* incited you? OEDIPUS [sings]. It was Apollo, friends, Apollo. He decreed that I should suffer what I suffer; 1330 But the hand that struck, alas! was my own, And not another’s. For why should I have sight. When sight of nothing could give me pleasure? CHORUS [speaks]. It was even as you say. OEDIPUS [sings]. What have I left, my friends, to see, To cherish, whom to speak with, or To listen to, with joy? Lead me away
fulfilment. 1390 Antistrophe The minister of the gods,* with stealthy foot, Ushered within the palace, The ancient home of his fathers, Holds in his hand a keen whetted sword, With Hermes to guide him,* To shroud his designs in darkness And lead him straight to vengeance. Enter ELECTRA ELECTRA. My friends, keep silent; wait. It will not be For long. Their hands are ready; soon they’ll strike. CHORUS. What are they doing now? ELECTRA. She has the urn, 1400 Preparing it for burial;
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