- Series: Bloom's Major Dramatists
- Library Binding: 106 pages
- Publisher: Chelsea House Publications (September 30, 2002)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0791063542
- ISBN-13: 978-0791063545
- Product Dimensions: 9.5 x 6.1 x 0.5 inches
- Shipping Weight: 11.7 ounces
- Average Customer Review: 8 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #7,487,070 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Sophocles (Bloom's Major Dramatists) Library Binding – September 30, 2002
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About the Author
Sophocles was an ancient Greek playwright, the writer of Oedipus Rex and Antigone, among other classic works.
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In Don Taylor's translation of "Antigone," published in the book, Sophocles, The Theban Plays, there are indeed too many notes, i.e., words. The defect does not lie in the art of Sophocles, nor in the requirements of translation. Taylor wrote with a contract for television performance already in hand. He fashions lines that are easy for actors to play and for audiences to understand. Having translated a character's thought, he often expands, supplements or restates the material. Thus, the audience is given a second and third bite at the apple of understanding. But this is more like a college lecturer who fears that his students won't get the point, than like Sophocles, who is famous for a clear, solid, succinct style.
Sophocles peppers his scenes, usually dialogues between two persons, with extended series of one-line "zingers," which the characters alternately thrust and counterthrust. The power and excitement of the exchanges lie in economy and pointedness of expression. To illustrate, here is a segment from the first scene between Creon and the soldier who tells him that Polynices' body has been partly buried. The first translation is by Dudley Fitts and Robert Fitzgerald, available in their book, The Oedipus Cycle, and also in Greek Plays in Modern Translation, both listed on Amazon.com. The second translation is Taylor's.
SENTRY: King, may I speak?
CREON: Your very voice distresses me.
SENTRY: Are you sure that it is my voice and not your conscience?
CREON: By God, he wants to analyse me now!
SENTRY: It is not what I say, but what has been done, that hurts you.
CREON: You talk too much.
SENTRY: Maybe, but I've done nothing.
CREON: Sold your soul for some silver: that's all you've done.
SENTRY: How dreadful it is when the right judge judges wrong.
SOLDIER: Am I allowed to speak, sir?
Why should you speak? Every word you say
Is painful to me.
SOLDIER: Well, it can't be earache,
Can it sir, not what I said!
It must stick in your gullet. Or further down
Maybe, a sort of pain in your conscience.
CREON: Do you dare to answer me back: and make jokes
About my conscience?
SOLDIER: Me sir? No sir!
I might give you earache; I can see that.
I talk too much, always have done.
But the other pain, the heartburn as it were,
It's the criminal causing that sir, not me.
CREON: You're not short of a quick answer, either.
SOLDIER: Maybe not. But I didn't bury the body.
Not guilty to that sir.
CREON: But maybe guilty
Of selling your eyes for money, eh sentry,
Of looking the other way for cash?
SOLDIER: I think it's a shame sir, that an intelligent man
And as well educated as you are
Should miss the point so completely.
The Fitts/Fitzgerald translation has 9 lines and 86 words; compared to Taylor's 24 and 160. Sophocles had used 9 lines and only 69 words. All the one-liner segments, occurring in almost every scene, undergo a similar transformation at Taylor's hand. But they are not alone. The same translating style appears in the major speeches of the play. Listen to part of the condemnation of Creon by the prophet, Teiresias, from Taylor first this time, then from Fitts/Fitzgerald.
TEIRESIAS: Listen Creon. This is the truth!
Before many more days, before the sun has risen
- Well, shall we say a few more times -
You will have made your payment, corpse
For corpse, with a child of your own blood.
You have buried the one still living: the woman
Who moves and breathes, you have given to the grave:
And the dead man you have left, unwashed,
Unwept, and without the common courtesy
Of a decent covering of earth. So that both
Have been wronged, and the gods of the underworld,
To whom the body justly belongs,
Are denied it, and are insulted. Such matters
Are not for you to judge. You usurp
Ancient rights which even the gods
Themselves don't dare to question, powers
Which are not in the prerogative of kings.
Even now, implacable avengers
Are on their way, the Furies, who rise up
From Hell and swoop down from Heaven,
Fix their hooks into those who commit crimes,
And will not let go. The suffering
You inflicted upon others, will be inflicted
Upon you, you will suffer, as they did.
Have I been bribed, do you think? Am I speaking
For money now? Before very long,
Yes, it will be soon, there will be screaming
And bitter tears and hysterical crying
In this house. Men, as well as women.
TEIRESIAS: Then take this, and take it to heart!
The time is not far off when you shall pay back
Corpse for corpse, flesh of your own flesh.
You have thrust the child of this world into living night,
You have kept from the gods below the child that is theirs:
The one in a grave before her death, the other,
Dead, denied the grave. This is your crime:
And the Furies and the dark gods of Hell
Are swift with terrible punishment for you.
Do you want to buy me now, Creon? Not many days,
And your house will be full of men and women weeping.
Box score, lines and words. Taylor 29:223. Fitts/Fitzgerald 11:106. Sophocles 16:94.
Are all these words really necessary? Taylor claims that his approach helps to make the text not only more dramatic and intelligible, but also more poetic. I agree that his version is easier to grasp by first-time viewers or readers. But in the process much of the Sophoclean clarity, solidity and reality are lost.