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The Complete Greek Tragedies: Sophocles I Paperback – August 15, 1991

ISBN-13: 978-0226307923 ISBN-10: 0226307921 Edition: Second Edition

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Product Details

  • Series: Complete Greek Tragedies
  • Paperback: 218 pages
  • Publisher: University of Chicago Press; Second Edition edition (August 15, 1991)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0226307921
  • ISBN-13: 978-0226307923
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.7 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7.2 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (28 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #28,937 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Language Notes

Text: English (translation)
Original Language: Greek

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.

Customer Reviews

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I received it quickly and the book is in great shape.
Fitts/Fitzgerald translation: Excellent as well, though a little less smooth than the Grene one.
S. Allen
The one caveat aside, this is a fine volume of Sophocles' Theban trilogy for those interested.

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

158 of 159 people found the following review helpful By S. Allen on March 19, 2006
Format: Paperback
Researching translations is never an easy task, and in this case, where you'll have to search on Amazon for the title and the translator to find what you want, it's particularly difficult.

Here's what I've found by comparing several editions:

1. David Grene translation: Seems to be accurate, yet not unwieldy as such. My pick. Language is used precisely, but not to the point where it's barely in English.

2. Fitts/Fitzgerald translation: Excellent as well, though a little less smooth than the Grene one. Certainly not a bad pick.

3. Fagles translation: Beautiful. Not accurate. If you are looking for the smoothest English version, there's no doubt that this is it. That said, because he is looser with the translation, some ideas might be lost. For instance, in Antigone, in the beginning, Antigone discusses how law compels her to bury her brother despite Creon's edict. In Fagles, the "law" concept is lost in "military honors" when discussing the burial of Eteocles. This whole notion of obeying positive law or natural law is very important, but you wouldn't know it from Fagles. In Grene, for example, it is translated to "lawful rites."

4. Gibbons and Segal: Looks great, but right now the book has only Antigone (and not the rest of the trilogy) and costs almost 3x as much. I'll pass. But, from a cursory review, I'm impressed with their work.

5. MacDonald: This edition received some good write-ups, but I wasn't able to do a direct passage-to-passage comparison.

6. Woodruff: NO, NO, NO. Just NO. It's so colloquial it makes me gag. Very accessible, but the modernization of the language is just so extreme as to make it almost laughable. You don't get any sense of the power of language in the play.
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35 of 39 people found the following review helpful By Ross Hunt on November 24, 2002
Format: Paperback
The Lattimore/Grene translations of Sophocles balance ease of reading with closeness to the original Greek text nicely. Hugh-Lloyd Jones's translation, which can be found in the Loeb edition of Sophocles's tragedies, is unquestionably superior at rendering the original Greek text, but it can come across as archaic and confusing to high school students or those unversed in Greek literature. Lattimore and Grene, unlike many modern translators, DO feel that they owe more to their readers than the loosest gist of the original text, and they deliver it.
All that said, I would advise readers to be cautious of these translations for the following reasons. First, the plays are presented in the chronological order according to the myths they portray - not in the order in which Sophocles wrote them. In other words, even though Antigone was one of the first plays Sophocles produced and Oedipus at Colonus was produced posthumously, they are presented in order of their dramatic events. This means that they are very likely translated without regard for any evolution of Sophocles's thought or any implicit commentary the poet might have made upon the works of his own youth.
Second, in his introduction, Grene states that he sees in Oedipus at Colonus Sophocles's clumsy attempt to cover over the inconsistencies of his Theban Cycle. While this is certainly not all Grene sees in Oedipus at Colonus, the judgement of anyone who takes so irreverent and shallow a view of the last work of the most technically savvy tragedian of the classic age must be called into question.
In summary: Buy this book, read it, enjoy it, but if you're going to write an important paper on Sophocles, look at his work in the Greek, or at least in the Lloyd-Jones translation of the Loeb edition.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on April 2, 1998
Format: Paperback
"Early on the Sunday morning of May 22, 1949, after copying out half of Sophocles' desolate poem 'The Chorus from Ajax' as a valediction ("'Woe, woe!' will be the cry . . ."), James Forrestal tied one end of his bathrobe sash to the radiator of the diet kitchen across the hall from his sixteenth-floor room, tied the other end around his neck, removed the screen from the window above the radiator and jumped."
This passage from Richard Rhodes' Dark Sun says less about Forrestal (U. S. Secretary of the Navy during the Second World War) than it does about Sophocles. It prompted me to read Sophocles' Ajax. I found Forrestal's valediction both powerful and terrifying:
". . . By painful stages came to his right mind.
And when he saw his dwelling full of Ruin,
He beat his head and bellowed. There he sat,
Wreckage himself among the wreck of corpses,
The sheep slaughtered; and in an anguished gripe
Of fist and fingernail he clutched his hair. . ."
This in turn prompted me to reread the three Oedipus plays. I remembered reading them in college. I thought that I knew the story, but to my surprise I had missed some of the best parts. Either I'm getting wiser or I'm reading a better translation. I don't recall feeling the excitement or seeing the incredible beauty of construction when I read these plays for the first time. Sophocles is much, much better than I remembered him.
Unlike Forrestal, I think that there is nothing better than a good Greek tragedy to cheer you up. David Green's superb translations reveal the Master's touch in readable, comprehensible, modern English.
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