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The Complete Plays of Sophocles: A New Translation [Paperback]


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Book Description

20 Aug 2011
Award-winningpoet-playwrights Robert Bagg and James Scully presenta gripping new translation of Western literature’s earliest treasures in TheComplete Plays of Sophocles. In the tradition of Robert Fagles’bestselling translations of The Iliad and The Odyssey, andretaining the textual authenticity of Richmond Lattimore’sAeschylus, Bagg and Scully render Sophocles’ dramasaccessible and exciting for the modern reader. Students new to Athenian drama,readers of classical literature, and anyone wishing to kindle anew theirpassion for Greek tragedy will find no more captivating entrance to thesemilestones of world literature than in Bagg andScully’s The Complete Plays of Sophocles.

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The Complete Plays of Sophocles: A New Translation + Prometheus Bound and Other Plays: The Suppliants; Seven Against Thebes; The Persians (Classics) + The Oresteia (Agamemnon, The Libation Bearers, The Eumenides) Classics S.
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“Bagg and Scully’s renderings strike me as the most performable versions of Sophocles I’ve ever encountered…if you’re looking for the translation that best reflects the emotional force and expressive range of the original plays, you would be hard pressed to do better.” (Philadelphia Inquirer)

From the Back Cover

The most celebrated plays of ancient Athens in vivid and dynamic newtranslations by award-winningpoets Robert Bagg and James Scully

The dominant Athenian playwright in fifth-century-BCE Athens, Sophocles left us seven powerful dramas that still shock as they render the violence that erupts within divinity and humankind. Oedipus the King, Oedipus at Kolonos, and Antigone trace three generations of a family manipulated by the inscrutably vindictive god Apollo to commit patricide, incest, and kin murder. Elektra and Women of Trakhis begin as studies of women obsessed with hatred and desire but become dissenting critiques of the Greeks’ enthusiasm for revenge and ego-crazed heroics. Two hard-hitting dramas set in war zones, Aias and Philoktetes, use conflicts among Greek warriors at Troy to thrash out political and ethical crises confronting Athenian society itself.

These translations, modern in idiom while faithful to the Greek and already proven stageworthy, preserve the depth and subtlety of Sophocles’ characters and refresh and clarify his narratives. Their focus on communities under extreme stress still resonates deeply for us here and now. This is Sophocles for a new generation entering the turbulent arena of ancient Greek drama.

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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Back Cover
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 4.2 out of 5 stars  4 reviews
3 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Accessible and poetic 7 Jun 2012
By Reading Gal - Published on
Often, Greek tragedy is unaccessible for the laymen, full of word choice that makes translation a primary goal, rather than a task already completed. Alternatively, translation is so dumbed down that I no longer feel I am reading text meant for a scholar. So Hurray! to Bob Bagg and James Scully, for providing the perfect balance. I found the choral odes to sing to me, and was captured while reading, imaging the production in live format in the expanse of my living room, perched from my all-too-casual reading chair. While partial to Elektra, I share love equally with Oedipus the King. Aias was new to me, and I found surprise within. Certainly not my typical summer reading text, but a wonderful way to start the season!
0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Making Sophocles Cool Again 8 Nov 2012
By Tgurley - Published on
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
"The Complete Plays of Sophocles" by Robert Bagg and James Scully is perhaps one of the best translations of Greek tragedy that I have read. I am an art history student and this semester took a Greek Tragedy course in which we read sixteen Greek tragedies. Many of the other translations I have read are well-written, absolutely. I feel, though, what Robert Bagg and James Scully have done in "The Complete Plays of Sophocles" represents the future of classical translation.
Particularly, I found myself completely enveloped in Scully's translation of "Phiolktetes". Yes, I had found Greek tragedy interesting up until reading this play but with this work, I was actually hooked. It became a page-turner. Mind you, I am a 24 year old, female college student who has never studied Greek tragedy before. The way this version of "Philoktetes" was translated made it approachable, intriguing, and relevant. Greek tragedy should not only be reserved for Classicists who study Greek literature in the confines of academia. It should be available to the widest of audiences. I do not believe Sophocles would have wanted his works hidden from the view of the public.
Both Bagg and Scully's translations bring Sophocles into the modern age. I find this to be very important. The Greeks have much to teach our society. Translations like this one ensure that their messages will not be lost.
1 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Inpsiring 25 July 2013
By C. Davison - Published on
I picked up my copy at Joseph Fox Bookshop down the street on a whim. The translation has caught what I imagine to be "the spirit" of the original. An artistic and masterful job was done bringing this very old text to life in english. I felt compelled to write this complementary review after reading the comments by the Negative Nancy below.
4 of 9 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars An Embellished Recreation of Sophocles's Seven Tragedies 29 April 2012
By Rodolfo Lazo de la Vega - Published on
Sophocles is one of the central giants of world literature. The great gulf that exists between the great Athenian poet's language and our modern English is vast, making a new translation very much welcome for those hoping, while ignorant of Classical Greek, to bridge the linguistic divide. Having read many translations in the past, I very much looked forward to this one. Unfortunately, the news is not quite what I hoped for. For one, both translators add ridiculous and completely uncalled for stage directions and parentheticals whenever they desire. When the blind and bleeding Oedipus asks Creon to promise him to expel him from the city, Bagg's stage direction reads 'Creon touches Oedipus' hand.' We are told that "Antigone is out of breath" and that "Ismene raises her voice." We are also told that the Choral Leader should speak "sotto voce" to his fellow chorus-members. In Bagg's translation, Oedipus exits into the palace mid-way through Teiresias' revelation rather than at the end. There is absolutely no textual evidence for this reading. Less problematically, the Corinthian is incorrectly called the 'Messenger' although he is not an official messenger from Corinth. Teiresias is made to say something close to (I do not have the words before me), "I will not leave until I have said what you brought me here to say," rather than the more accepted "I will go when I say what I came here to say." The endnotes do not explain this choice.

Although the translators are poets the choral odes are dull. There is no poetry or rhythm to them. The lines during these moments are presented in truncated lines as if this were a substitute for rhythm. The sense of stchomythia is not very strong. Scully's translation of "Aias" adds obscenities which I found unintentionally humorous. We are at one point told that this is done because modern Western society has lost the negative cultural connotations which come with the word 'fox,' but Scully's Aias' suggestion that Odysseus fornicates with foxes isn't a very effective way of re-introducing that cultural connotations. The translators ultimately seem to believe that they are co-creators with the playwright rather than translators. I find little in these translations to recommend them.

Before I come across as completely dismissing this volume I will say that there are numerous aspects which I do very much like. This translation is heavy on endnotes. Sometimes they offers a little more than I thought was needed but I am grateful for what they explain. In a few of the plays I made new discoveries by reading the endnotes (although I found the notes to "Women of Trakhis" lackluster). This volume's "Antigone" contains a MAJOR improvement over other translations of this magnificent play. For that I am very, very glad, ultimately, that this translation exists. Bagg presents an entirely new (to me) reading of an important line. What was once completely perplexing now makes perfect sense. The word 'phusis' means 'nature.' But Bagg, citing the work of Lloyd-Jones and N.G. Wilson, reminds us that it can also be understood to means 'birth.' Antigone's famous line is thus NOT "It is not my nature to join in hate but only to love." The way this version translate that line is now closer to: "I made no enemies by being born; I made my 'philia' at birth." Many readers have no doubt found themselves perplexed by that line in its former reading but now, thematically, the new reading makes PERFECT sense to me. In the opening line, Antigone refers to Ismene as 'autadelphon' - 'born like me of the self-same womb.' For Antigone the 'womb' means everything. She fights for the family. Creon's wife, Eurydice, is the "All-Mother" of Haemon. She kills herself in front of an alter cursing Creon for killing her two sons. Thus, "I made no enemies by being born; I made my 'philia' at birth" means just that, her loyalty is to the womb. Those from the womb MAY become enemies later (like Ismene) but only 'philia' originates from the womb. Creon represents the state. Antigone the family. Around and inside both of them, the themes of Love and Death play their part.

Ultimately, these adaptations of Sophocles's plays take too many liberties. The addition of invented stage directions and parentheticals are ridiculous. The language is a bit on the casual side for my taste. The Lattimore and Grene translations, despite their weaknesses, including an almost complete lack of contextual material and endnotes, remain my preferred version of Sophocles.
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