Electra and Other Plays (Penguin Classics)
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Four seminal tragedies by the master Greek dramatist, in sparkling new translations
Of the more than one hundred plays Sophocles wrote over the course of his long life, only seven survive. This volume collects four of them, all newly translated. Electra portrays the grief of a young woman for her father, Agamemnon, who has been killed by her mother's lover. Ajax depicts the enigma of power and weakness vis-àvis the fall of the great hero. Women of Trachis dramatizes the tragic love and error of Heracles's deserted wife, Deianeira; Philoctetes examines the conflict between physical force and moral strength.
For more than seventy years, Penguin has been the leading publisher of classic literature in the English-speaking world. With more than 1,700 titles, Penguin Classics represents a global bookshelf of the best works throughout history and across genres and disciplines. Readers trust the series to provide authoritative texts enhanced by introductions and notes by distinguished scholars and contemporary authors, as well as up-to-date translations by award-winning translators.
turning into her mother, it is also true that in this case both the girl and the mother are prodigious —the mother for her shamelessness, the girl for her shame. It is not until we hear Clytemnestra decline Electra's word lupe to its most fleshly and female connotation that we understand Electra's shame in its full human and sexual aspect. There is something unnatural, something radical and alien, for Sophocles and 46 TRANSLATOR'S FOREWORD his audience, about the way female shame has
hell! Furies, I call you! W h o watch w h e n lives are m u r d e r e d . W h o watch w h e n loves betray. C o m e ! H e l p m e ! Strike back! Strike back for my father m u r d e r e d ! And send my brother to m e . Because 150 alone, the whole poised force of my life is nothing against this. 160 Enter CHORUS CHORUS Your mother is evil but oh my child why melt your life away in mourning? Why let grief eat you alive? It was long ago she took your father: her hand came out of unholy dark and
standing here! ELECTRA You are m a d . You are joking. CHRYSOTHEMis By t h e hearth of o u r father, this is n o joke. H e is with us. H e is. ELECTRA You poor girl. W h o gave you this story? CHRYSOTHEMis N o o n e gave m e t h e story! I saw t h e evidence with m y o w n eyes. 1180 ELECTRA W h a t evidence? My poor girl, what has set you o n fire? CHRYSOTHEMis Well listen, for gods' sake. Find o u t if I'm crazy or not. ELECTRA All right, tell t h e tale, if it makes you happy. CHRYSOTHEMis
e r y o u are! O R E S T E S C o m e n o w , d o as I say. It is t h e right t h i n g . 97 1610 ELECTRA [1208-1222] ELECTRA No! In all reverence no please —don't take this away. It is all that I love. ORESTES I forbid you to keep it. ELECTRA O TALAIN'EGO SETHEN. Orestes! What if they take from me even the rites of your death! 1620 ORESTES H u s h , now. T h a t language is wrong. ELECTRA W r o n g to m o u r n m y o w n dead brother? ORESTES W r o n g for y o u to say that word. ELECTRA H
will come. 663—69 Vengeance . . . where marriage should never have happened! The Greek word for vengeance is Erinys (a Fury). Once again, the chorus uses archaic language. In the very difficult Greek of this passage, the marriage of Clytemnestra and Aegisthus is said to be "without a bed, without a bride" (alektra, anumpha). The pun on Electra's name is probably intentional. The same pun appears in 1266—67 w'hen Electra tells Chrysothemis that she will grow old "imbedded" (alektra) if Aegisthus