**spoiler alert** When it comes to tragic irony, few ancient or modern playwrights come close to Sophocles and these are the three works that showcase...more**spoiler alert** When it comes to tragic irony, few ancient or modern playwrights come close to Sophocles and these are the three works that showcase his dark genius at its best. This particular edition is translated by the ever-dependable Robert Fagles, and contains the following plays, in the order they were first produced:
1 - ANTIGONE: Antigone is the daughter of Oedipus and heir to her family's persistent dark cloud of misfortune. She wants to bury her equally-unlucky brother but her loyalty to her doomed brethren may cost her. (Of course it will! It's Sophocles!)
2 - OEDIPUS THE KING: Oedipus is the best king for miles around and everyone knows it, including him.* Unfortunately an ominous stain is creeping into his idyllic kingdom; a plague is raging and it seems the gods are upset about something or other. The only person who seems to know what's up is a blind prophet and he's got some bad news for poor Oeddy.
3 - OEDIPUS AT COLONUS: The action in this place takes place between the events of Oedipus the King and Antigone. This the most philosophical of the trilogy, dealing with ideas of fate, guilt, and redemption. (I thought it was a bit boring.)
This is one of Shakespeare's problem plays, meaning it doesn't fit neatly into the category of tragedy or comedy, but occupies its own hybrid niche. "...moreThis is one of Shakespeare's problem plays, meaning it doesn't fit neatly into the category of tragedy or comedy, but occupies its own hybrid niche. "Black comedy" or "scathing satire" would probably be a fairly apt description for this outing. It's actually a lot of fun to read, especially if you like humor flavored with a heavy dose of cynicism.
The "romantic" leads of the play's title, Troilus and Cressida, are no Romeo and Juliet. Not even by a long shot. Troilus is a superficial lad, concerned only with glory and momentary pleasures, and his love for Cressida lasts only about as long as her maidenhood. Cressida is just as fickle as her lover, swiftly shifting her physical affections to the enemy camp when she gets traded for ransom.
This play is very anachronistic. It's not the sort of tale that resides in the ancient dusty battles of Greek times; it's very much a product of Shakespeare's era. This is what makes it such an interesting read for me. It reflects the rapidly changing world of a burgeoning global market, a place where chaos, hypocrisy, and corruption were rife. There are numerous references in the play to venereal disease, especially the notorious pox (syphilis), which was just beginning its lengthy reign in Europe.
I do love it when Shakespeare gets gross, and he obliges his disgusting side with unapologetic alacrity here. "Thou crusty botch of nature", "thou sarsenet flap for a sore eye", and so on.. Shakespeare is a demigod when it comes to heinous insults, and Troilus and Cressida is brimful of humdingers.
I also love Shakespeare plays for the treasure-trove of words, some of which should still be in use instead of being consigned to obscurity. Two words from this play that caught my fancy:
Oppugnancy - meaning opposition. I like its bouncy character, like a rubber ball on the tongue.
Gloze - a verb meaning to comment, make excuses for, or to use ingratiating language.
This book contains 3 plays: The Acharnians, a play dealing with the conflict between Athens and Sparta and the need for resolution; Clouds, a black com...moreThis book contains 3 plays: The Acharnians, a play dealing with the conflict between Athens and Sparta and the need for resolution; Clouds, a black comedy that mercilessly skewers Socrates and his school of philosophy; & Lysistrata, the raunchy classic in which the women of Greece refuse to grant any sexual favors until their men end the Peloponnesian War.
Anyone trying to translate the plays of Aristophanes has his work cut out for him. Puns are hard to convey from one language to another, and these plays are chock-full of them. Not to mention a host of inside jokes regarding politicians, other playwrights, and notable figures. Not to mention a Greek truckload of phallological and scatological humor (Seriously, the Farrelly brothers have nothing on Aristophanes). Despite these difficulties, Alan Somerstein does an admirable job with his translation and the notes are extremely helpful in clarifying some of the more obscure jokes. The only thing I really had trouble with is when the Spartans & Megarians take on Scottish accents. It just did not work for me. (less)
Classic trilogy of plays featuring highly-dysfunctional family dynamics, murder, wailing, and a heapload of vengeance. "Crush their skulls! Kill! Kill...moreClassic trilogy of plays featuring highly-dysfunctional family dynamics, murder, wailing, and a heapload of vengeance. "Crush their skulls! Kill! Kill!" It's violent, but it's literature.. and it goes well with death metal. What more could you ask for? Once various gods and furies become involved in the story, things get a lot more interesting (because a little bit of supernatural meddling is always fun). However, this particular translation is so glaringly British that I keep imagining the characters reciting their lines with Bertie Wooster accents, which doesn't go so well with death metal. Also, there is a big difference between this translation and another I've read. Bear with me here: THIS TRANSLATION: CASSANDRA: Murder. The house breathes with murder. Bloody shambles! LEADER: No, no, only the victims at the hearth. CASSANDRA: I know that odor. I smell the open grave.
OTHER TRANSLATION: CASSANDRA: The house reeks of death and dripping blood! CHORUS: How so? 'Tis but the odor of the altar sacrifice. CASSANDRA: The stench is like a breath from the tomb.
Which one do you like better? More importantly, which one goes better with death metal?(less)