The Complete Greek Tragedies: Sophocles I

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The Complete Greek Tragedies: Sophocles I [Paperback]

Sophocles , David Grene , Richmond Lattimore
4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (28 customer reviews)

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Book Description

August 15, 1991 0226307921 978-0226307923 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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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.

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 (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (28 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #29,744 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

4.6 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
161 of 162 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Translations March 19, 2006
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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36 of 40 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Good For an Introduction to Sophocles November 24, 2002
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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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Plays to Die For April 2, 1998
By A Customer
"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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5.0 out of 5 stars great seller
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Published 5 months ago by Mistuhk0n
4.0 out of 5 stars Four Stars
A great compilation of plays. Was delivered in excellent condition, and in a timely fashion. Recommend.
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Used it for my greek Mythology class. Small and easy to carry book with easy to read print.
Published 11 months ago by Alex Ruscher
5.0 out of 5 stars Great and Approachable Translation
The three tragedies of Oedipus - Oedipus Rex, Oedipus at Colonus and Antigone are contained in this book - with all three translated by David Greene. Read more
Published 14 months ago by Edward J. Barton
4.0 out of 5 stars Reference
I pick this book up and put it down a few times a year - its part of my personal reference library. Its a well put together book which is why it has a spot in my library.
Published 15 months ago by b00kll0vr
5.0 out of 5 stars A comparison of the Fagles and Grene translations of "Oedipus the...
Last June I read the three classical masterpieces of Sophocles as translated by Robert Fagles and published by Penguin Classics (under the title "The Three Theban Plays"). Read more
Published 15 months ago by R. M. Peterson
5.0 out of 5 stars product review
I have been wanting to read this series for awhile. The stories are amazing and sad. The book was in good condition.
Published 19 months ago by amanda
5.0 out of 5 stars Great experience
this book came with no problem. There was nothing wrong with it, in great condition as promised. I received it with no issues and in a timely manner. Read more
Published 23 months ago by Katie
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