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The Cure at Troy: A Version of Sophocles' Philoctetes Paperback – December 4, 1991

4.8 out of 5 stars 16 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

“A purifying play, in the great tradition of modern Irish drama: think of Synge's Playboy of the Western World, O'Casey's early work, or even some of Yeats's Cuchulain plays.” ―John Peters, The Sunday Times (London)

About the Author

Seamus Heaney (1939-2013) received the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1995. His poems, plays, translations, and essays include Opened Ground, Electric Light, Beowulf, The Spirit Level, District and Circle, and Finders Keepers. Robert Lowell praised Heaney as the "most important Irish poet since Yeats."
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 96 pages
  • Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux; REPRINT Edition edition (December 4, 1991)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0374522898
  • ISBN-13: 978-0374522896
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.3 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (16 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #62,638 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
Seamus Heaney pulls through again with his brilliant translation of Sophocles' Philoctetes. The tragic story of the forgotten hero, Philoctetes, provides a unique insight into the conflicts between personal moral beliefs and political calling. Odysseus persuades the heroic Neoptolemus into tricking the mamed Philoctetes into giving up the bow of Hercules. This act challenges the admired traits of the ancient world and draws into question the importance of personal beliefs. As each character represents a different aspect of the Greek world, a fight for beliefs - fidelity, pity, piety - endures. As for the translation itself, Heaney provides a beautiful interpretation of the story as seen in the words of the chorus:
History says, Don't hope
On this side of the grave.
But then, once in a lifetime
The longed-for tidal wave
Of justice can rise up,
And hope and history rhyme.
This enriched translation strays slightly from the ancient text in order to enhance the understanding of the modern reader. Overall, this fast-moving play entices and enchants through a lyrical harmony like no other. Bravo, Seamus. Bravo.
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Format: Paperback
Seamus Heaney's version of trials for the Greek archer entrusted with Hercules' infallible bow and arrows gives us affirmation and points of reflection. Heaney does not dash the ancient dialogue style on the rocky island; rather it is enriched for the modern reader. Honoring the timelessness of Sophocles, Heaney allows today's reader to make comparisons of private nature and choices with the public need and will. The hero, Achilles' son, Neoptolemus, finds that the strategy to take Troy for the Greeks runs counter to his nature of honesty and integrity. We wrestle with him over the choices. We tumble with him when he loses his grip. We crawl back to sure footing along side the hero. I found myself understanding the characters based on different experiences in my life. Philoctetes bemoans his ill-fated injury which leaves him abandoned and full of vengeance. Human empathy allows him to examine his tight grip on his woundedness without denying what he has endured. Odysseus, the pragmatic lieutenant of war, is shown for his utility and foibles. As in all Greek plays, the chorus calls the characters and the reader to reflection, "...For my part is the chorus, and the chorus is more or less a borderline between the you and the me and the it of it." Heaney got the "it of it" for us to take our own measure.
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Format: Paperback
Other reviewers have noted that Heaney's translation, like any literary translation, serves a different purpose for its audience than the original work did for its audience. I just wanted to add that this translation is not _just_ a modernization of Sophocles' work. As an Irish unionist, Heaney subtly refigures the drama as a political treatise on modern Ireland, which was prominently expressed when former Irish President Mary Robinson cited The Cure at Troy in her inaugural speech in 1994. Leave it to a master like Heaney to produce a layered work with several valid levels of interpretation.
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Format: Paperback
Seamus Heaney's translation is concise and jewel-like in its structure and clarity. There are really only three characters and they each represent well-known and universally experienced situations. For Philoctetes was abandoned by his fellow Greeks due to a painful stinking wounded foot. But he was abandoned in possession of Hercules' bow an arrows that are necessary for the completion of the war at Troy. Odysseus is the ever cunning politically expedient pragmatist who only wishes to obtain the bow and arrows and move forward with his mission. Neoptolemus, the son of Achilles, is the voice of personal morality and character that recognizes one lie only leads to another. The complexity increases as Neoptolemus decides he cannot continue to betray and mislead Philoctetes only to realize that Philoctetes gains meaning and purpose from his suffering and martyrdom, which he may not be willing to give up to seek the cure at Troy. The warning is clear that moral action does not lead to simple solutions. Odysseus is not so much evil as he is expedient. Philoctetes is not so much good as he is totally wrapped up in his role as victim. This is more than a historic or political dilemma but rather applies to many human interactions. The clarity of language in this translation is superb and I found myself racing through the dialogue at breakneck speed. It is highly recommended.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I saw the Cure at Troy at the American Players Theater in Spring Green, WI this September and fell in love. I've been a Heaney fan for years and the power and deceptive simplicity of his poetry comes through in his re-write of Sophocles' Philoctetes. I was so moved that I taught it instead of Julius Cesar in my 10th Grade English class. And I'm so glad I did. Students were hit head-on by the language. Instantly inside the story, they then could live in the moral dilemma fully and really wrestle with the plights of the characters.

The story of a man with justified, entrenched anger who will not budge from his stable, injured position speaks to adolescents as much as it speaks to the senators on Capitol Hill. So what to do? What to hope for? Seamus Heaney gives us poetry: words that can help us see beyond the walls of the present.
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