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The Complete Greek Tragedies: Sophocles II [Paperback]

Sophocles , David Grene , Richmond Lattimore
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)

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Book Description

May 15 1969 0226307867 978-0226307862 Second Edition
"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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About the Author

David Grene (1913–2002) taught classics for many years at the University of Chicago. He was a founding member of the Committee on Social Thought and coedited the University of Chicago Press’s prestigious series The Complete Greek Tragedies.



Richmond Lattimore (1906–1984) was a poet, translator, and longtime professor of Greek at Bryn Mawr College.

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great!!! :) Nov. 22 2001
When I entered college, I was surprised to hear that there were so few Greek tragedies extent in the world today. I was also surprised that Sophocles actually had more plays than the Oedipus cycle. After debating whether to buy this translation of the texts (I am trying to collect all the Greek tragedies in this series), I finally checked it out of the library. Personally, I think that these plays are better than Oedipus, possibly because I think that Oedipus is rather overdone by high schools and colleges all over.
Ajax: It was good. I was kind of annoyed that the translator decided to mark each choral ode by its parts, which wasn't necessary. This play is about Ajax, one of the heroes of the Trojan War; this tale goes past the Trojan War portrayed in the Iliad, however. In the Odyssey, Odysseus meets Ajax in the underworld who is upset because Odysseus won the contest against him for Achilles armor. This play expands on the outcome of this contest. Ajax, disgraced, desperately turns himself against the Greek warriors, especially Odysseus. At the end, he kills himself because of his loss of honor.
The Women of Trachis: Definately climbing near Medea for my favorite Greek tragedy. This play is about Deianeira, a wife of Heracles. When Heracles returns from a city with a new mistress, Deianeira decides to take action against the man he loves. She uses a potion that was given to her by a Centaur, whom Heracles killed when the Centaur attempted to rape her. The Centaur gave her some of his blood and told her it is a love potion to give to Heracles, so if his attention ever wanders, she could bring it back to her. When Heracles brings home the new woman, Deianeira decides to use it.
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5.0 out of 5 stars The four non-Theban plays of Sophocles. June 16 1999
"Ajax" is probably the earliest extant play of Sophocles. Sophocles is the earliest known playwright to use painted scenery. He also decreased the importance of the chorus, added a third actor, and abandoned the trilogy format (each play is complete by itself). Ajax is the classical Greek tragedy about the downfall of a man who is sinned against and has a tragic flaw; in this case, insolence and pride. Ajax becomes enraged when Achilles' armor is awarded to Odysseus instead of to him. Agamemnon and Menelaus also exhibit insolence when they refuse to bury Ajax after his suicide. But, Odysseus changes their minds. This play is probably the earliest known example of a play containing a scene of violence on the stage instead of offstage. In "The Women of Trachis," considered my many critics to be the poorest of the seven extant plays of Sophocles, the wife of Heracles, Deianira, unknowingly sends a poisoned robe to her husband who has finally completed his labors. She is also concerned that she has allowed a rival for the affections of her husband to enter her household. Hercules has sent the captive Iole to Deianira. As Hercules lies dying, he orders his son Hyllus to marry Iole. Does Hercules truly love Iole? Even when dying, he is concerned for her future. In "Electra," the daughter of Agamemnon and Clytemnestra awaits the return of her brother Orestes so that he can avenge the murder of their father. I think that many scholars have tended to misread this play. It is a play about Electra, not about Orestes or Clytemnestra or Aegisthus. And, it is a tragedy. Should one allow hatred to rule their own lives to such an extent as seen in Electra, even when one is in the right? Read more ›
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Amazon.com: 4.8 out of 5 stars  5 reviews
17 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The four non-Theban plays of Sophocles. June 16 1999
By R. D. Allison (dallison@biochem.med.ufl.edu) - Published on Amazon.com
"Ajax" is probably the earliest extant play of Sophocles. Sophocles is the earliest known playwright to use painted scenery. He also decreased the importance of the chorus, added a third actor, and abandoned the trilogy format (each play is complete by itself). Ajax is the classical Greek tragedy about the downfall of a man who is sinned against and has a tragic flaw; in this case, insolence and pride. Ajax becomes enraged when Achilles' armor is awarded to Odysseus instead of to him. Agamemnon and Menelaus also exhibit insolence when they refuse to bury Ajax after his suicide. But, Odysseus changes their minds. This play is probably the earliest known example of a play containing a scene of violence on the stage instead of offstage. In "The Women of Trachis," considered my many critics to be the poorest of the seven extant plays of Sophocles, the wife of Heracles, Deianira, unknowingly sends a poisoned robe to her husband who has finally completed his labors. She is also concerned that she has allowed a rival for the affections of her husband to enter her household. Hercules has sent the captive Iole to Deianira. As Hercules lies dying, he orders his son Hyllus to marry Iole. Does Hercules truly love Iole? Even when dying, he is concerned for her future. In "Electra," the daughter of Agamemnon and Clytemnestra awaits the return of her brother Orestes so that he can avenge the murder of their father. I think that many scholars have tended to misread this play. It is a play about Electra, not about Orestes or Clytemnestra or Aegisthus. And, it is a tragedy. Should one allow hatred to rule their own lives to such an extent as seen in Electra, even when one is in the right? Finally, "Philoctetes," a member of a group of plays that won first prize in Athens, is concerned with a man who has been left marooned on an island several years earlier (because of his disease) under orders of Agamemnon and Menelaus. But, the two kings later discover that Troy cannot be conquered without Philoctetes and his bow, a bow given to him by Heracles. Odysseus and Neoptolemus (the son of the late Achilles) arrive at the island to persuade or trick Philoctetes to return with them. Neoptolemus wants to be noble in his actions; yet, his commander, Odysseus, wants to use guile. At the end, a deus-ex-machina device is used to resolve the conflict. All four plays should be required reading for any educated person.
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great!!! :) Nov. 22 2001
By Nicole Alger - Published on Amazon.com
When I entered college, I was surprised to hear that there were so few Greek tragedies extent in the world today. I was also surprised that Sophocles actually had more plays than the Oedipus cycle. After debating whether to buy this translation of the texts (I am trying to collect all the Greek tragedies in this series), I finally checked it out of the library. Personally, I think that these plays are better than Oedipus, possibly because I think that Oedipus is rather overdone by high schools and colleges all over.
Ajax: It was good. I was kind of annoyed that the translator decided to mark each choral ode by its parts, which wasn't necessary. This play is about Ajax, one of the heroes of the Trojan War; this tale goes past the Trojan War portrayed in the Iliad, however. In the Odyssey, Odysseus meets Ajax in the underworld who is upset because Odysseus won the contest against him for Achilles armor. This play expands on the outcome of this contest. Ajax, disgraced, desperately turns himself against the Greek warriors, especially Odysseus. At the end, he kills himself because of his loss of honor.
The Women of Trachis: Definately climbing near Medea for my favorite Greek tragedy. This play is about Deianeira, a wife of Heracles. When Heracles returns from a city with a new mistress, Deianeira decides to take action against the man he loves. She uses a potion that was given to her by a Centaur, whom Heracles killed when the Centaur attempted to rape her. The Centaur gave her some of his blood and told her it is a love potion to give to Heracles, so if his attention ever wanders, she could bring it back to her. When Heracles brings home the new woman, Deianeira decides to use it. What Deianeira didn't realize, though, is that the Centaur wanted revenge upon Heracles, and the blood was actually poison.
Electra: Unlike the Electra in Aechyllus' Oresteia, this Electra is focused on a bit more. She resembles the Electra of Euripides. Same story: Orestes returns to avenge his father Agamemnon's murder by his mother, Clytaemnestra, and Aegisthus, Agamemnon's cousin and Clytaemnestra's consort. Electra has been living with Clytaemnestra and Aegisthus, and she was the person who saved Orestes from Clytaemnestra's rage. (Why did she murder Agamemnon? She could have just been an evil wife, but Agamemnon did sacrifice their daughter Iphigenia when he sailed for Troy.) This play is about Electra's pain and desperate hope that Orestes will return.
Philoctetes: When the Greeks sailed for Troy, one of the Greeks was bitten by a venomous snake, and the Greek soldiers abandoned him on an island before reaching Troy. After the events of the Iliad, and after Achilles death, the Greeks capture a son of Priam who prophesized that the Greeks would not be able to take Troy without Philoctetes' bow and arrows. This bow was given to Philoctetes by Heracles. This play is about Odysseus and Neoptolemus' conspiracy to steel the bow. Neoptolemus is to pretend that his is bitter towards Agamemnon, Menelaus and Odysseus because of the contest of Achilles' armor (Neoptolemus is Achilles son). Neoptolemus befriends Philoctetes and no longer wants to deceive him, plus he realizes that the prophesy not only demands the bow and arrows, but Philoctetes himself. (These bow and arrows are fated to kills Paris, the "cause" of the Trojan War for abducting Helen.)
I definately recommend this collection of plays, especially if you are an Ancient Greek nut like me! :)
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Sophocles! Aug. 14 2009
By Christopher H. - Published on Amazon.com
This is the first edition of Sophocles in translation that I have read (in the old Modern Library edition). The three translators certainly do justice to Sophocles, though I take issue with the common practice of translators of Greek verse, as a whole, to render Greek metre in a misfit pastiche of faltering iambic hexametre and alexandrines and odd short lines, which one cannot half the time comfortably read as metre as all. Either write consistently good, readable verse (the better option), or, if you cannot write good verse, then render it as prose, which will be much more readable. But then, if you cannot write verse, you have no business translating it, which leaves me wondering just what these translators are up to. That aside, their rendering of Sophocles is usually strong and convincing, though sometimes a plague of contractions and like colloquialisms detracts from the mood of what should be rather more formal and ceremonial scenes. Striving to use 'modern' language (even for the 1950s) in a play two thousand five hundred years old may make it more accessible, but at the cost of rhetorical power, solemnity, and a sense of place and time.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Review of the Lattimore/Grene Sophocles II May 11 2009
By Ryan S. Mease - Published on Amazon.com
Verified Purchase
The translations in this volume are as livid and realisitic as those in the preceding (I'm reading the series Aeschylus->Sophocles->Euripides). I found 'Ajax' and 'Philoctetes' to be the most memorable. They capture the lively spirit of social conflict between individual characters that sets Sophocles apart from his predecessor.

One complaint is that the introduction in this volume were often more narrowly-focused than those in the early Aeschlyus volume. They are more brief, and seem to expect great knowledge by the reader of the play they are introducing. I reread them after reading the play, and only then were they interesting.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Lattimore for the Win Jan. 3 2011
By SMM - Published on Amazon.com
Verified Purchase
Once again, an excellent translation by Lattimore. The introductions prefacing each play were immensely helpful in understanding Sophocles' style. His unique strengths (compared to Aeschylus and Euripides) are especially seen in his characterization. I used this copy for my Honors class at Boston College. I specifically found Ajax and Philocetes most enjoyable. Both introduce a new side to Homer's beloved Odysseus and the role of the Greek gods.
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