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Electra and Other Plays (Penguin Classics) Paperback – 24 Apr 2008

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Product details

  • Paperback: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Classics (24 April 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0140449787
  • ISBN-13: 978-0140449785
  • Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 2.2 x 19.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 137,750 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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About the Author

Sophocles was born just outside Athens, in 496 BC, and lived ninety years. His long life spanned the rise and decline of the Athenian Empire; he was a friend of Pericles, and though not an active politician he held several public offices, both military and civil. Sophocles wrote over a hundred plays for the Athenian theater, and is said to have come first in twenty-four contests. Only seven of his tragedies are now extant, these being Ajax, Antigone, Oedipus the King, Women of Trachis, Electra, Philoctetes, and the posthumous Oedipus at Colonus. He died in 406 BC.

Pat Easterling was Regius Professor of Greek in Cambridge from 1994 until her retirement in 2001; before that she taught in Manchester, Cambridge and London (UCL). Her main field of research is Greek literature, particularly tragedy; she also has a special interest in the survival of ancient texts and the history of performance; her most recent book is Greek and Roman Actors: aspects of an ancient profession (Cambridge 2002), which she co-edited with Edith Hall. She is currently writing a commentary on Sophocles' for the series Cambridge Greek and Latin Classics, of which she is a general editor.

Inside This Book

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First Sentence
Sophocles' audience would have been very familiar with the many stories of the strong man Heracles, the son of Zeus and Alcmena, persecuted throughout his life by Zeus' wife, Hera, and subjected to his famous labours by Eurystheus, king of Tiryns. Read the first page
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Miss Gillian Oman on 8 Mar. 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I run The Independent Theatre Workshop in Dublin and bought this as some of my Speech & Drama students are studying Greek Drama at the moment. I needed a copy of AJAX and this also has ELECTRA in it (which I already have in a translation by Frank McGuinness) this translation is very accessible for my students and it is great for them to see a different translation - it really makes it easier to follow! Also arrived in AS NEW condition and was extremely reasonably priced as a pre owned book!
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11 of 17 people found the following review helpful By Lawrance Bernabo HALL OF FAMEVINE VOICE on 15 Jan. 2004
Format: Paperback
The murder of Clytemnestra by her son Orestes is unique in Greek mythology in that it is the one story for which we have extant versions by all three of the great tragic poets. Consequently, it is insightful to notice how each tragedy privileges different parts of the story. In "Choephoroe" ("The Libation Bearers") by Aeschylus, the middle part of his "Orestia" trilogy, Orestes is obedient to the gods in avenging the death of his father and the pivotal scene is the confrontation between mother and son when Clytemnestra begs for her life. In "Electra" by Euripides the title character has to persuade Orestes to go through with the deed and the dramatic confrontation is now between mother and daughter. In the Sophocles version of "Electra" the emphasis is on the psychological dimensions of the situation; after all, it is from this play that Freud developed his concept of the Electra complex.
Towards that end Sophocles creates a character, Chrysothemis, another sister to both Orestes and Electra. The situation is that Orestes is assumed to be dead and the issues is whether the obligation to avenge the death of Agamemnon now falls to his daughters. There is an attendant irony here in that Clytemnestra justified the murder of her husband in part because of his sacrifice of their oldest daughter Iphigenia before sailing off to the Trojan War (the curse on the House of Atreus, which involves Aegisthus on his own accord and not simply as Clytemnestra's lover, is important but clearly secondary). The creation of Chrysothemis allows for Sophocles to write a dialogue that covers both sides of the dispute. Electra argues that the daughters must assume the burden and avenge their father while Chrysothemis takes the counter position.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful By C Passaglia on 20 Jan. 2015
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful By squiggles on 22 Jan. 2015
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 5 reviews
15 of 17 people found the following review helpful
Greeks with issues 9 Dec. 2003
By Bob Newman - Published on
Format: Paperback
In the USA there's a social category of people known as "airheads" for whom anything that happened before the year 2000 is "like, major antiquity, guy". What can we say, then, about plays that were written over 2,400 years ago ? For most of my life, the mention of Greek plays was on a par with cod liver oil. Probably good for me, but best avoided if possible. I admit, it was the airhead-lite approach. Recently, I finally buckled down and decided it was now or never. I'm not sorry I did.
The four plays by Sophocles in this collection deal with Iliad spinoffs---events connected to that ancient epic with some of the Trojan War characters already known to the Greeks of the author's time---with legends of the gods (Hercules or Heracles, as they write it) or with both at once. Each play uses a chorus to reflect inner thinking or thinking by "other people", whoever they may be. The translation in this volume brings a modicum of modern English to the plays, rendering them very understandable. Purists might not appreciate that, but I, for one, found myself better able to follow the deeper meanings of the plays because I didn't have to wade through archaic English. (Remember how we struggled through Shakespeare?) AJAX, ELECTRA, WOMEN OF TRACHIS, and PHILOCTETES jolted me out of my neo-airhead tendencies and amazed me by their modernity. Their form may be ancient, stilted to modern eyes, and lacking much action, but the themes reveal human nature as if these plays all were written yesterday. The same dilemmas pose themselves, the same contrasts in human character---the straight and the crooked, the mean and the noble, the forgiving and the vengeful. Actions well meant turn out to have disastrous consequences. Greed and jealousy run rampant. AJAX, the earliest work here, is a little less dramatic than the other three, but does deal with "temporary insanity". I don't have the silver tongue and deconstruction abilities of a literary expert, but if these plays don't knock your socks off---just because of their relevance to 2003 if for no other reason---then I don't know what will. Don't wait 40 years. Delicious cod liver oil, no lie.
9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
very good translation 3 Feb. 1999
By A Customer - Published on
Format: Paperback
This version of Sophocles plays Electra, Ajax, Philoctetes and Women of Trachis is one of the best I"ve found. I was basicly looking for an acting version, and Waitings verse is both telling, beautiful and flowing. It tells the story without plodding or stumbling. Very good. By the way, the cover says Penguin Classic.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
A stunning examination of anger and bitterness 18 Mar. 2012
By jafrank - Published on
Format: Paperback
I found this to be much more satisfying than Aeschylus's Libation Bearers. Focusing on Electrca offers a much more nuanced examination of bitterness and what it means to be exiled from those one loves. It also ties up some of the loose ends about the murder that Libation Bearers sort of glosses over. Euripides gives a real sense of the grave magnitude of these crimes. The speech where Electra condemns her mother is one of the most powerful statements of personal anger I've ever read.
3 of 5 people found the following review helpful
Everyman for himself 19 Nov. 2007
By Luc REYNAERT - Published on
Format: Paperback
Sophocles shows dramatically his vision on man and religion in these four plays (Ajax, Electra, Women of Trachis, Philoctetes). The tragedies are also a `human' documentary on ancient Greece and its population.
The overall theme is `war': In 'Ajax', the warriors are fighting among themselves; Electra and Orestes in `Electra' revenge the sacrifice of his daughter by Agamemnon to win a war; in `Women of Trachis', Heracles conquered a new concubine in a war, and in `Philoctetes' the Greeks need a bow to win a war.
The consequences of this relentless fighting are death, destruction and enslavement: `battle and lust of blood move onward step by step to the inevitable end'. `Where is now the spear of victory?' `War never picks the worst men for victories, but always the best.' `sad sight, the poor unhappy exiles, homeless, fatherless, waifs in a strange land, daughters of free-born families now condemned to slavery.'
For Sophocles, man is a ballgame for the gods. `The future is hidden'. `The gods delight to turn away all deep-dyed villains from the door of death and hale in all good men.'
But Sophocles' vision on religion is extremely ambivalent. He sees around him `the malevolence of the unforgiving gods'. `God is an awful hand of death, new shapes of woe, uncontrolled sufferings.' Eros is destruction: `her beauty has been her ruin; she has brought her country down to slavery and destruction.'
So, `why then praise we gods, when we find them evil?' And ultimately, who is responsible? `Say that it was the while of heaven; but your hand did it.' Is it not `Everyman for himself': in Ajax, Teucer forces a human burial for his half-brother.

Of the four tragedies, the `Women of Trachis' are more a long meditation, `Philoctetes' ends with a deus ex machina, `Ajax' is the most lively, but `Electra' shines through the intensity of the head-on confrontations.
These formidable texts, written some 2500 years ago, are a must read for all those interested in highlights of world literature.
Five Stars 24 Jun. 2015
By richard estrada - Published on
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Great product. Very satisfied.
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