Electra and Other Plays (Penguin Classics)
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Four seminal tragedies by the master Greek dramatist, in sparkling new translations
Of the more than one hundred plays Sophocles wrote over the course of his long life, only seven survive. This volume collects four of them, all newly translated. Electra portrays the grief of a young woman for her father, Agamemnon, who has been killed by her mother's lover. Ajax depicts the enigma of power and weakness vis-àvis the fall of the great hero. Women of Trachis dramatizes the tragic love and error of Heracles's deserted wife, Deianeira; Philoctetes examines the conflict between physical force and moral strength.
For more than seventy years, Penguin has been the leading publisher of classic literature in the English-speaking world. With more than 1,700 titles, Penguin Classics represents a global bookshelf of the best works throughout history and across genres and disciplines. Readers trust the series to provide authoritative texts enhanced by introductions and notes by distinguished scholars and contemporary authors, as well as up-to-date translations by award-winning translators.
They praise her because she does not have forethought: Nor does she think 23 INTRODUCTION to fear dying, no! (1430-33) They end their song with an emphatic use of a word that means a great deal to Electra: you are the one who kept faith with the living laws, kept faith in the clear reverence of Zeus. (1462-66) The word "reverence," which has been so important one for Electra, is the entrance cue for Orestes. It is the moment of reversal, surely. But as soon as he enters, we realize that he
the best.' There must, indeed, be no such seeming; for if his character were apparent, his reputation would bring him honours and rewards, and then we should not know whether it was for their sake that he was just or for justice's sake alone. He must be stripped of everything but justice, and denied every advantage the other enjoyed. Doing no wrong, he must have the worst reputation for wrong-doing, to test whether his virtue is proof against all that comes of having a bad name; and under 23.
Other translators have preferred to cast dialogue in more regular five-beat or six-beat lines, and in these cases Greek and English numerations will tend to converge. Durham, N.C. PETER BURIAN Chapel Hill, N.C. ALAN SHAPIRO 2000 vii This page intentionally left blank CONTENTS Introduction, 3 Translator's Foreword: Screaming in Translation 14 Characters, Electra, 50 51 Notes on the Text, 113 Glossary, 121 ix This page intentionally left blank ELECTRA This page intentionally
e n ! Instead they call you mother's girl, they think you base. Your own dead father, your own loved ones, you do betray. [351-375] 480 490 500 CHORUS N o anger I pray. T h e r e is profit for both if you listen to o n e another. CHRYSOTHEMIS Her talk is no surprise to m e , ladies. I'm used to this. And I wouldn't have bothered to speak at all, except — for the r u m o r I heard. T h e r e is very great evil coming this way, something to cut her long laments short. 64 510 ELECTRA
content. In Aeschylus she dreamed that she gave birth to a snake, put it to her breast, and it drew out blood mixed with milk. Here, Agamemnon returns to the light, sticks his scepter into the earth beside the hearth, and the scepter puts forth a branch that overshadows all of Mycenae. Aeschylus' version of the dream emphasized the violation of nature implicated in matricide; Sophocles' emphasizes the return of natural process when the heir returns. In Sophocles' play, it is Electra, not Orestes,