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.
Chrysothemis' position in her own terms. She has lost the property, and can never have children. In terms of benefit, little is left to her. Chrysothemis' reply is equally strong. Her first argument, that they will fail if they try to kill Aegisthus, will only convince those so dis22 INTRODUCTION posed. But failure is not the only prospect here, and Chrysothemis refers to two more: Death itself is not the worst thing. Worse is to live when you want to die. So I beg you, before you destroy us
evil of the house of Atreus as if it were a trap that has closed around her life. She believes that nothing except her voice can penetrate the walls of this enclosure. "My cries are wings, they pierce the cage," is how I translated the verse, losing the sound effect of the Greek but retaining the aggressivity of the cries and also the terrible sense of stuckness that characterizes Electra's selfdescriptions. For example at v. i32f. she summarizes her own stuck situation in the double negative
look to you —shattered by grief? Heartbroken mother bewailing h e r only son? N o —you saw her —she went off laughing! 0 TALAIN'EGO. Orestes beloved, as you die you destroy me. You have torn away the part of my mind where hope was — my one hope in you to live, to come back, to avenge us. N o w where c a n I go? Alone I a m . Bereft of you. Bereft of father. Should I go back into slavery? Back to those creatures w h o c u t down m y father? What a fine picture. No. 1 will not go back inside that
plan. You know, I think, our present contingent of allies: zero. Death took them. W e two are alone. U p to now, while I heard that my brother was living I cherished a hope that h e ' d arrive o n e day to avenge his father. But Orestes no longer exists. I look to you. 86 1250 E L E C T RA You will not shrink back. You will stand with your sister and put to death the man who murdered your father: Aegisthus. After all, what are y o u waiting for? Let's b e blunt, girl, what h o p e is left?
necessary to consider not only the meaning of these passages but also the way they fit into the play's full context.5 The play begins in a manner that suggests it will follow the same course taken by Aeschylus in the Libation Bearers. Orestes enters with the Old Man, his former tutor, and says that he inquired of Apollo at Delphi how to exact justice from the murderers and that the god gave this answer: Take no weapons. No shield. No army. Go alone —a hand in the night. Snare them. Slaughter