Classics Sophocles
by
Ruth Scodel
  • LAST MODIFIED: 14 December 2009
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780195389661-0063

Introduction

Sophocles won his first victory as a tragedian in 468 BCE (according to the ancient tradition, with his first production) and died in 405. He produced about 120 plays: 90 tragedies and 30 satyr plays. Seven complete tragedies of Sophocles survive. The principles on which these were selected are not known, but the three plays involving Oedipus and his family were probably chosen to form a pseudo-trilogy. He particularly favored plots drawn from the stories of the Trojan War.

Biography and Dating

We can be reasonably confident of some aspects of Sophocles' life, since his acquaintance Ion of Chios wrote a book that included anecdotes about him, and since he had a public career. Like other ancient biographies of poets, however, the Life of Sophocles (translated in Lefkowitz 1981) is more valuable as a reflection of how people imagined the author than of what they knew about him. The ancient biography stresses Sophocles' piety. It even says that he “received” the god Asclepius and was honored with a cult after his death. All the ancient evidence for Sophocles' life is collected in Radt 1999. Although the results of the tragic competitions were a matter of public record, we have dates for only two of the seven extant plays, Philoctetes in 409 and Oedipus at Colonus, produced after Sophocles' death in 401. Reinhardt 1979 (first published in 1933) influentially argued that Sophocles developed greater dramatic flexibity through his career. There is general consensus that Electra was produced in the decade before Philoctetes, while Women of Trachis, Ajax, Antigone are earlier. Antigone is often put in the 440s because the ancient biography attributes Sophocles' election as general to its success. The anecdote is unlikely, but the chronology could be right. Many attempts have been made to date individual plays on the basis of apparent allusions to recent events or borrowings from other plays of known date. For the dating of each tragedy, consult the recent commentaries.

General Overviews

For a long time, interpretation of Sophocles emphasized the hero and his relation to the gods, although studies giving attention to plot construction, dramatic structure, and characterization, such as Kirkwood 1958 and Gellie 1972, also appeared. Easterling 1977 reflects a new awareness that modern categories cannot simply be applied to ancient texts. Blundell 1989 brought a new approach to Sophocles' ethics. More recent English-language scholarship has reflected the concerns of literary studies more generally; Segal 1981 and Segal 1995 show the influence of contemporary theory. The New Historicism in particular has been influential since the early 1990s.

  • Blundell, Mary Whitford. 1989. Helping friends and harming enemies: A study in Sophocles and Greek ethics. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.

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    An important study of Sophoclean ethics, particularly the Greek norm of “an eye for an eye.”

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  • Easterling, P. E. 1977. Character in Sophocles. Greece and Rome 24: 121–129.

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    Reprinted in Oxford readings in Greek tragedy, edited by Erich Segal, 138–145 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1983), and in Greek tragedy, edited by I. McAuslan and P. Walcot, 58–65 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1993) Available online. Distinguishes Sophoclean from modern psychological characterization while showing that Sophocles' characters are distinct and vivid.

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    • Gellie, George Henry. 1972. Sophocles: A reading. Melbourne, Australia: Melbourne University Press.

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      Accessible to Greekless students, this study emphasizes plot construction and dramatic effect.

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    • Griffin, Jasper, ed. 1999. Sophocles revisited: Essays presented to Sir Hugh Lloyd-Jones. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

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      Excellent essays, including Griffin's “Sophocles and the democratic polis,” R. Parker's “Sophocles and the divine,” and M. L. West's “Ancestral curses.”

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    • Kirkwood, G. M. 1958. A study of Sophoclean drama. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press.

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      Updated edition published in 1994. Organized thematically rather than by plays; its most influential sections are those on structure and character portrayal.

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      • Segal, Charles P. 1981. Tragedy and civilization. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

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        A structuralist analysis emphasizing the tension between nature and culture.

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      • Segal, Charles P. 1995. Sophocles' tragic world: Divinity, nature, society. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

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        Essays by a leading scholar.

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      Bibliographies and Surveys

      Friis Johansen's 1962 report on Sophoclean scholarship is invaluable. L'Annee philologique lists everything published in the field of classics, and can be searched by a number of modes, including ancient author. The scholar David Hester has published articles that provide extensive doxographies on the main issues in the tragedies he discusses (Hester 1971, Hester 1977).

      Reference Works

      The Thesaurus linguae graecae can be used to search the complete works of Sophocles. Consult Ellendt and Genthe 1965 for a lexicon, Moorhouse 1982 for syntax and grammar, and Pohlsander 1964 for a study of Sophoclean meter.

      Texts

      Lloyd-Jones and Wilson (Sophocles 1990) is the standard text of the seven extant plays; Radt 1999 contains the fragments. There are a few fragments of non-dramatic poetry collected in Page 1962 and West 1972.

      Recent English Translations

      There are many translations of Sophocles serving different purposes—teaching, theatrical production, reading, or scholarship. This is a selection of recent translations of different types. The Focus translations (Sophocles 1990 by Blundell, Sophocles 2003a by Schein) are literal and generously annotated, intended for students. Oxford's series Greek Tragedy in New Translations provides versions by poet-scholars or poet and scholar in collaboration and seek to convey poetic qualities (see Carson's Sophocles 2001). Meineck and Woodruff (Sophocles 2003b and Sophocles 2007) are aimed at the stage as well as the classroom. The Loeb Classical Library edition (Sophocles 1994–1996) is Lloyd-Jones's translation of his and Wilson's text. Many translations of Sophocles put the two Oedipus plays and Antigone together as a trilogy, which is potentially misleading (Sophocles 2004). Sophocles 1892–1900 is a useful place to check translations online.

      Recent Adaptations

      In antiquity and since the Renaissance, Sophocles' tragedies have inspired new plays and several operas. These are some recent free translations or new works based on Sophoclean texts. Heaney 2004, Heaney 1991, and Müller 1975 take a political approach. Breuer and Telson 1989 transform Oedipus into a church service.

      • Breuer, Lee, and Bob Telson. 1989. The gospel at Colonus. New York: Theatre Communications Group.

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        The story of Oedipus as the service at a Pentecostal church. Lyrics (by Breuer) can be found online. Also available on DVD.

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      • Fugard, Athol, John Kani, and Winston Ntshona. 1986. Statements. New York: Theatre Communications Group.

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        The Island is a two-man play in which two prisoners on Robben Island prepare to perform Antigone in a prison “concert.”

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      • Harrison, Tony. 1990. The trackers of Oxyrhynchus: The Delphi text 1988. Boston: Faber and Faber.

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        Harrison uses the papyrus fragments of Sophocles' satyr-play Ichneutae (Trackers) to comment on claims to cultural authority.

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      • Heaney, Seamus. 1991. The cure at Troy: A version of Sophocles' Philoctetes. London: Faber and Faber.

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        A beautiful and moving version in which the healing of Philoctetes stands for the healing of Ireland.

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      • Heaney, Seamus. 2004. The burial at Thebes: A version of Sophocles' Antigone. New York: Farrar, Straus, and Giroux.

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        Heaney's clear and beautiful version directly evokes contemporary issues (Creon has similarities to George Bush). It has been successful on the stage, although an operatic version was not well received.

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      • Müller, Heiner. 1975. Stücke/Heiner Müller; mit einem Nachwort von Rolf Rohmer. Berlin: Henschelverlag Kunst und Geschichte.

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        Müller's intensely political adaptation of Philoctetes has been widely performed. It is available in English translation in Philoctetes and the fall of Troy, edited by Oscar Mandel (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1981).

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        • Pound, Ezra. 1956. Women of Trachis. London: N. Spearman.

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          An eccentric, colloquial version.

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          Commentaries

          There are two series of English commentaries on all the extant plays. Richard C. Jebb's series (available via Index of Sophocles) was first published from 1892 to 1900. Although the approach to Greek meter of Jebb's time has been superseded, his understanding of Sophocles makes his commentaries still a basic resource. They have been reprinted with new introductions by Bristol Classical Press, but earlier editions, including reprints by Hakkert of Amsterdam in the 1960s, are available in libraries and in the used book market. Abridged versions for schools, without the translations, are also in circulation and should not be confused with the full-scale commentaries. Kamerbeek published his commentaries from 1953 to 1984. These do not offer a text or translation. Kamerbeek is textually conservative and unexciting as an interpreter, but he is useful for advanced undergraduates and beyond. The Cambridge Greek and Latin Classics were originally aimed at advanced secondary students and undergraduates; recent ones are livelier and of more interest for graduate students and scholars. The Bryn Mawr Commentaries provide basic help for students who may be reading a tragedy in Greek for the first time.

          Ajax

          Jebb (Sophocles 2004) and Kamerbeek 1963 are for advanced students and scholars. Garvie (Sophocles 1998) is intended for those with limited or no Greek but is valuable for all readers. Stanford (Sophocles 1981) is intended for students, but scholars need to consider his views.

          Electra

          Finglass (Sophocles 2007) and Kaibel (Sophocles 2008) are for scholars; Jebb (Sophocles 2004) and Kamerbeek 1974 for all readers with advanced Greek. Kells (Sophocles 1973) is primarily for advanced/intermediate students, while March (Sophocles 2001) is accessible for those with little or no Greek.

          Oedipus the King

          Rusten (Sophocles 1991) is aimed at those who need basic help with Greek, while Dawe (Sophocles 2006) is for students who are further along. Jebb (Sophocles 2004) and Kamerbeek 1967 are most valuable for advanced Greek students and scholars, while Bollack 1990 is for those studying the play intensively.

          • Bollack, J. 1990. L'Œdipe roi de Sophocle: Le texte et ses interprétations. 4 vols. Villeneuve d'Ascq, France: Presses Universitaires de Lille.

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            This is a postmodernist commentary that does not so much try to establish a meaning as to explore the history of the meanings that have been found. It contains extensive summaries of the opinions of scholars about particular lines and passages.

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          • Kamerbeek, Jan C. 1967. Plays of Sophocles: Commentaries IV. The Oedipus Tyrannus. Leiden, the Netherlands: Brill.

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            Pedestrian but useful; essential for serious scholarship.

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            • Sophocles. 1991. Oedipus tyrannos. Edited by Jeffrey Rusten. Bryn Mawr Commentaries. Indianapolis, IN: Hackett.

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              For intermediate students, with emphasis on help with the Greek.

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            • Sophocles. 2004. Oedipus tyrannus. Edited and translated by Richard C. Jebb; general editor, P.E. Easterling; introduction, Jeffrey Rusten. Bristol, UK: Bristol Classical Press.

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              Reprint of 1893 Cambridge University Press edition. The most important commentary.

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            • Sophocles. 2006. Oedipus rex. Edited by Roger D. Dawe. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.

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              Revision of a commentary originally published in 1982. It is eccentric, responding to Freud but ignoring most modern interpretations. Dawe believes that the final scene is spurious, having been rewritten for a production after Sophocles' death as part of a trilogy with Oedipus at Colonus and Antigone.

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            Antigone

            Gross (Sophocles 1988) is for students who need basic help with Greek, while Griffith (Sophocles 1999) is aimed at more advanced students and is very broadly useful. Jebb (Sophocles 2004) and Kamerbeek 1978 are most valuable for advanced Greek students and scholars, and Müller 1967 is for those carefully studying the play.

            Women of Trachis

            Jebb (Sophocles 2004) and Kamerbeek 1959 are most valuable for advanced Greek students and scholars. Easterling (Sophocles 1982) is accessible for students, while Davies (Sophocles 1991) is mainly for scholars and those studying the play carefully.

            Philoctetes

            Ussher (Sophocles 1990) is accessible for readers with little or no Greek; Toretti (Sophocles 1997) is for students who need help with basic Greek. Webster (Sophocles 1974) is intended for students who have basic Greek but still need grammatical help, while Jebb (Sophocles 2004) and Kamerbeek 1980 are most valuable for advanced Greek students and scholars.

            Oedipus at Colonus

            Rose (Sophocles 1988) is intended for students who need help with basic Greek. Jebb (Sophocles 2004) and Kamerbeek 1984 are most valuable for advanced Greek students and scholars.

            Fragments

            Fragments present complex problems. For the plays in Sommerstein, et al. (Sophocles 2004), their help is immensely valuable. Pearson (Sophocles 1917) is often outdated, but it is a useful start for examining the evidence for lost plays.

            • Sophocles. 2004. Fragmentary Plays I. Edited and translated by Alan Sommerstein, David Fitzpatrick, and Thomas Talboy. Warminster, UK: Aris and Phillips.

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              Translations of the fragments and hypothetical reconstructions of Hermione, Niobe, Polyxene, Syndeipnoi, Tereus, Troilos, Tyro A, Tyro B, and Phaidra, accessible to students.

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            • Sophocles. 1917. The Fragments of Sophocles. Edited and translated by A. C. Pearson. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press,.

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              This is the completion of Jebb's edition and follows its format. Where new discoveries have not made it completely outdated, its English commentary and translation may be easier for students than Radt.

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              Scholia

              The “old” scholia on Sophocles (those encapsulating scholarship of the Hellenistic and Roman periods) have not been edited in full since the 19th century. Christodoulou 1977 and De Marco 1952 have edited those for Ajax and Oedipus at Colonus.

              • Christodoulou, Georgios. 1977. Ta archaia scholia eis Aianta tou Sophokleous. Athens, Greece: Ethnikon kai Kapodistriakon Panepistemion Athenon Philosophike Schole.

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                This is the edition used by the Thesaurus linguae graecae, the online database of Greek literature. Since the Thesaurus does not have an apparatus criticus, serious scholars need the print editions.

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                • De Marco, Vittorio. 1952. Scholia in Sophoclis Oedipum Coloneum. Rome: Bretschneider, 1952.

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                  This is the edition used by the Thesaurus linguae graecae, the online database of Greek literature. Since the Thesaurus does not have an apparatus criticus, serious scholars need the print editions.

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                  • Papageorgius, Petros. 1888. Scholia in Sophoclis tragoedias vetera. Leipzig, Germany: Teubner, 1888.

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                    This edition is based exclusively on ms. L, as its title page announces. For the five remaining tragedies, it is the edition used by the Thesaurus linguae graecae. the online database of Greek literature. Since the Thesaurus does not have an apparatus criticus, serious scholars need the print editions.

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                    Transmission and Textual Criticism

                    Scholars have disagreed about whether all interesting readings in later manuscripts are Byzantine conjectures. Turyn 1952 examined a large number of manuscripts and created a stemma; Dawe 1973–1978 then showed that there is horizontal transmission or contamination (borrowing of readings from manuscripts of other branches). The preface to the Oxford Classical Texts edition of Lloyd-Jones and Wilson 1990 (in English) offers a brief introduction to the manuscripts. This edition places new value on ms. K, which Wilson 1983 has redated to the 12th century. Sophocles' idiosyncratic Greek makes textual criticism especially difficult.

                    • Dawe, Roger D. 1973–1978. Studies in the text of Sophocles. Leiden, the Netherlands: Brill.

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                      Vol. 1 deals with manuscripts and textual problems in the “Byzantine triad” (Ajax, Electra, Oedipus the King; these were copied and studied more than the other four in the Byzantine period); vol. 2 gives the results of Dawe's manuscript collations; vol. 3 addresses issues in the other four plays. Dawe responded to Turyn by showing that the tradition is “contaminated,” so not all readings that appear in later manuscripts are conjectures.

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                    • Finglass, Patrick J. 2008. Laurentianus 31.10 and the text of Sophocles Classical Quarterly 58: 441–451.

                      DOI: 10.1017/S0009838808000530Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                      A close study of the value of K.

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                      • Fraenkel, Ernst. 1977. Due seminari romani di Eduard Fraenkel: Aiace e Filottete di Sofocle. a cura di alcuni partecipanti; premessa di L. E. Rossi. Rome: Edizioni di Storia e Letteratura.

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                        A reconstruction after Fraenkel's death of his seminars in Rome (in Italian), focusing largely though not exclusively on textual and stylistic issues.

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                        • Lloyd-Jones, Hugh, and Nigel G. Wilson. 1990. Sophoclea: Studies on the text of Sophocles. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

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                          A companion to their Oxford Classical Text edition, explaining their decisions in difficult passages.

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                        • Lloyd-Jones, Hugh, and Nigel G. Wilson. 1997. Sophocles: Second thoughts. Göttingen, Germany: Vandenhoeck and Ruprecht.

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                          Some changes of mind, some debates with reviewers, and some further textual issues.

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                        • Turyn, Alexander. 1952. Studies in the manuscript tradition of the tragedies of Sophocles. Urbana: University of Illinois Press.

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                          Turyn's work has been superseded in a number of important ways, but he offers a vast store of information about the manuscripts. Photographs of sample pages of the important mss.

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                          • Wilson, Nigel G. 1983. A mysterious Byzantine scriptorium: Ioannikios and his colleagues. Scrittura e Civiltà 7: 161–176.

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                            Redates ms. K.

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                            Language

                            Campbell (Sophocles 1871) is the most useful of these works for students. Budelmann 2000, Long 1968, and Sullivan 1999 are all studies of particular themes, while de Jong and Rijksbaron 2005 is a collection of essays that treat a variety of topics in Sophoclean language.

                            • Budelmann, Felix. 2000. The language of Sophocles: Communality, communication and involvement. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.

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                              “Language” broadly defined—how Sophocles brings a heterogeneous audience into a shared experience.

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                            • Sophocles. 1871. The plays and fragments. Edited by Lewis Campbell. 2 vols. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

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                              Pages 1–98 of Campbell's edition introduce Sophocles' peculiarities of language and style. Available online

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                              • de Jong, Irene J. F., and Albert Rijksbaron. 2005. Sophocles and the Greek language: Aspects of diction, syntax and pragmatics. Leiden, the Netherlands: Brill.

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                                All the essays are valuable, though some are quite technical. Especially good are M. Griffith on the style of satyr-play and the element of romance in Sophocles' satyr-plays and M. Lloyd on politeness.

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                              • Long, A. A. 1968. Language and thought in Sophocles: a study of abstract nouns and poetic technique. London: Athlone.

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                                Despite the narrow-seeming theme, a revealing study of Sophocles' mode of expression.

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                                • Sullivan, Shirley D. 1999. Sophocles' use of psychological terminology: Old and new. Ottawa: Carleton University Press.

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                                  Following similar studies on Aeschylus and Euripides; a careful study of traditional and innovative uses of Sophocles' deployment of the developing Greek vocabulary for the mind.

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                                Hero Worshippers and Pietists

                                Whitman 1951 developed Reinhardt's 1979 (originally 1933) emphasis on the isolation of the Sophoclean protagonist but argued more aggressively than others that the lonely Sophoclean hero is admirable. Much criticism of the next thirty years debated Sophocles' attitudes to the gods and to his stubborn main characters; Winnington-Ingram 1980 called the two sides “pietists” (those who insist on divine justice in Sophocles) and “hero worshippers” (who argue that the audience identifies with the defiant hero). This debate has ceased to be the focus of interest in the English-speaking world, but it is still influential in German scholarship. See Knox 1957 and Lefèvre 2001 for the pietist approach.

                                • Knox, Bernard M. W. 1957. Oedipus at Thebes: Sophocles' tragic hero and his time. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press.

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                                  Reprinted in 1999. A careful discussion of how Oedipus the king alludes to contemporary intellectual developments, as well as an influential general interpretation (moderately “pietist”).

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                                  • Knox, Bernard M. W. 1964. The heroic temper: Studies in Sophoclean tragedy. Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press.

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                                    Reprinted in 1983. Emphasizes the difficult qualities of the Sophoclean protagonist, with two chapters on Antigone, one on Philoctetes, one on Oedipus at Colonus. Ajax is also discussed several times.

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                                    • Lefèvre, Echard. 2001. Die Unfähigkeit, sich zu erkennen: Sophokles' Tragödien. Mnemosyne Supplement 227. Leiden, the Netherlands: Brill.

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                                      An intensely “pietist” book—Sophocles' characters should be judged by the extent to which they know their mortal limits.

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                                    • Lurje, Michael. 2004. Die Suche nach der Schuld: Sophokles' Oedipus Rex, Aristoteles' Poetik und das Tragödienverständnis der Neuzeit. Beiträge zur Altertumskunde 209. Munich and Leipzig, Germany: Saur.

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                                      Polemic against the pietist treatment of Oedipus the king and tragedy generally.

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                                    • Reinhardt, Karl. 1979. Sophocles. Translated by H. Harvey and D. Harvey. Oxford: Blackwell.

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                                      Originally published 1933. Important for dating, the book looks especially at the exceptional Sophoclean heroes in their struggles with the divine. Its German existentialist style may be difficult for some undergraduates.

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                                    • Whitman, C. H. 1951. Sophocles: A study of heroic humanism. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

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                                      The hero worshippers' case.

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                                      • Winnington-Ingram, R. P. 1980. Sophocles: An interpretation. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.

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                                        In many ways transcended the pietist/hero worshipper division, stressing Sophocles' relation to Aeschylus and the difficulty of understanding Sophocles' gods. Many close readings, especially of lyrics.

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                                      Dramatic Technique, Metatheater

                                      Wilamowitz-Moellendorff 1917 argued that Sophocles did not seek coherence or dramatic unity, and this has been an ongoing topic of discussion. See Lloyd-Jones 1972 for an introduction to Wilamowitz-Moellendorff 1917. Recently there has been new interest in stagecraft (see Ringer 1998, Seale 1982, Taplin 1978, and Taplin 1983).

                                      Chorus

                                      The central issue is to what extent the chorus is a character whose views are as limited as those of other characters (Gardiner 1987), and to what extent it has special authority, as Henrichs 1995 implies. Kitzinger 2008 points to differences among different plays in the treatment of the chorus.

                                      Narratology

                                      Narratology is the study of how a series of events, real or imagined, becomes a narrative; its application to drama, apart from narratives embedded in drama, is controversial. Barrett 2002 examines messenger-speeches, which are pure narrative. Roberts 1989 looks at the varying stories of Philoctetes. Goward 1999 applies the narrative theories of Greimas to tragedy.

                                      • Barrett, James. 2002. Staged narrative: Poetics and the messenger in Greek tragedy. Berkeley: University of California Press.

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                                        A study of messenger-speeches in all of tragedy, with detailed studies of Oedipus the king and Electra.

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                                      • de Jong, Irene J. F. 2004a. Sophocles. In Narrators, narratees, and narratives in ancient Greek literature: Studies in ancient Greek narrative, volume 1. Edited by Irene J. F. de Jong, René Nünlist, and Angus Bowie. Mnemosyne Supplement 257. Leiden, the Netherlands: Brill, 255–268.

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                                        This and de Jong 2004b examine Sophocles' narratives (such as messenger-speeches) using the categories of formal narratology.

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                                      • de Jong, Irene J. F. 2004b. Sophocles. In Time in Greek literature: Studies in ancient Greek narrative, volume 2. Edited by Irene F. de Jong and René Nünlist. Mnemosyne Supplement 291. Leiden, the Netherlands: Brill, 2007, 275–292.

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                                        A companion chapter to de Jong 2004a.

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                                      • Goward, Barbara. 1999. Telling tragedy: Narrative techniques in Aeschylus, Sophocles and Euripides. London: Duckworth.

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                                        The section on Sophocles emphasizes “narrative loops,” where deceptive actions make the dramatic circle on itself.

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                                      • Markantonatos, Andreas. 2002. Tragic narrative: A narratological study of Sophocles' Oedipus at Colonus. Berlin: de Gruyter.

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                                        Emphasizes how much of the play is story-telling and Oedipus' control of his own story.

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                                      • Roberts, D. 1989. Different stories: Sophocles' narratives in the Philoctetes. Transactions of the American Philological Association 119: 161–176.

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                                        Each character has a different story, and each story has difficulties and omissions.

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                                        Relation to Contemporary Thought

                                        Since Nestlé 1910 there has been a consensus that Sophocles was hostile to sophistic thought and to the contemporary “Enlightenment” more generally, though he shows the clear influence of Herodotus, who is often linked to the Pre-Socratics. For Knox 1957, Oedipus the king is in part a critique of contemporary rationalism. Rose 1976 is an important step toward a more nuanced view of Sophocles' engagement with his intellectual surroundings.

                                        • Altmeyer, Markus. 2002. Unzeitgemäßes Denken bei Sophokles. Hermes Einzelschriften 85. Stuttgart, Germany: Steiner.

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                                          Claims that Sophocles' thought is typically “out of sync” with contemporary developments.

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                                        • Arp, M. J. 2006. Pre-Socratic thought in Sophoclean tragedy. Diss., University of Pennsylvania.

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                                          Argues that Sophocles was receptive to Pre-Socratic philosophy, particularly Heraclitus. Chapters on Philoctetes, Women of Trachis, and Antigone.

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                                          • Bers, Victor. 1994. Tragedy and rhetoric. In Persuasion: Greek rhetoric in action. Edited by Ian Worthington, 176–195. London: Routledge.

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                                            Most studies of rhetoric in tragedy emphasize Euripides, but this chapter examines Sophoclean rhetoric.

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                                          • Knox, Bernard M. W. 1957. Oedipus at Thebes. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press.

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                                            A careful discussion of how Oedipus the king alludes to contemporary intellectual developments, as well as an influential general interpretation.

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                                            • Nestlé, Wilhelm. 1910. Sophokles und die Sophistik. Classical Philology 5: 129–157.

                                              DOI: 10.1086/359382Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                              The article that established the standard view that Sophocles was hostile to sophistic thought.

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                                              • Rose, Peter. 1976. Sophocles' Philoctetes and the teachings of the sophists. Harvard Studies in Classical Philology 80: 44–105.

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                                                An important paper on how the play alludes to sophistic anthropology (the play follows theories of the development primitive humanity) while endorsing “nature” over sophistic “custom.”

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                                                Women

                                                Women in Sophocles have been a focus of intense interest. Foley 2001 is the most accessible study; Wohl 1998 and Ormand 1999 are both theoretically sophisticated and provocative.

                                                • Foley, Helene. 2001. Female acts in Greek tragedy. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.

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                                                  Chapters on Antigone and Electra, emphasizing women as moral actors.

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                                                • Ormand, Kirk. 1999. Exchange and the maiden: Marriage in Sophoclean tragedy. Austin: University of Texas Press.

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                                                  Considers whether Sophoclean women become true subjects, and examines the plays in the context of the citizenship law of 451, which required citizens to have two citizen parents.

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                                                • Wohl, Victoria. 1998. Intimate commerce: Exchange, gender, and subjectivity in Greek tragedy. Austin: University of Texas Press.

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                                                  A close study of three Attic tragedies, including Women of Trachis, using psychoanalytic theory and considering especially Iole as a possible site of resistance to male control.

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                                                Politics

                                                Scholars continue to debate how Sophocles' plays comment on contemporary affairs and on the democracy. Knox 1983 and Griffin 1999 are skeptical about political readings. Meier 1993 is a broader study of tragedy and Athenian democracy, while Vickers 2008 sees political allegory in Sophocles.

                                                • Bushnell, Rebecca W. 1988. Prophesying tragedy. Sign and voice in Sophocles' Theban plays. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press.

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                                                  Argues that the hero's defiance of prophecy represents a struggle for power over speech based in a contemporary ambivalence about the political use of omens and oracles.

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                                                • Griffin, Jasper. 1999. Sophocles and the democratic polis. In Sophocles revisited: Essays presented to Sir Hugh Lloyd-Jones. Edited by Jasper Griffin. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 73–94.

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                                                  Argues that Sophocles is less political than many have recently thought.

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                                                • Knox, Bernard M. W. 1983. Sophocles and the polis. In Sophocle: Sept exposés suivis de discussions. Edited by Bernard M. W. Knox and Jacqueline de Romilly, 155–174. Entretiens Hardt 29. Geneva, Switzerland: Fondation Hardt.

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                                                  Argues that the city is sometimes peripheral, sometimes ambivalent.

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                                                  • Meier, Christian. 1993. The political art of Greek tragedy. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press.

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                                                    A major work on tragedy and the democratic city. The sections on Sophocles deal with Ajax and Antigone.

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                                                  • Vickers, Michael. 2008. Sophocles and Alcibiades. Athenian politics in ancient Greek literature. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press.

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                                                    Argues for frequent allusions to contemporary issues and personalities, especially Alcibiades.

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                                                  Ajax

                                                  Topics of particular concern have been the guilt of Ajax and the relation between the two halves of the play (“diptych” structure). A particular focus of debate in this play has been Ajax's speech at 646–692, which Tecmessa and the chorus understand to mean that he has decided to seek reconciliation with his enemies, although it could be understood as a cryptic suicide announcement. Critics disagree about whether he intends to deceive. Knox 1961 argues that he does not; Taplin 1980 is a response. Hesk 2003 is a general introduction.

                                                  • Easterling, P. E. 1984. The tragic Homer. Bulletin of the Institute of Classical Studies 31: 1–8.

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                                                    An analysis of how much the Ajax owes to Hector's farewell to Andromache in the Iliad, concluding that Sophocles' originality is manifest precisely in how he borrows.

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                                                    • Heath, Malcom., Okell, Eleanor R. 2007. Sophocles' Ajax: Expect the unexpected. Classical Quarterly 57: 363–380.

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                                                      Demonstrates how often the play surprises the spectator.

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                                                      • Henrichs, Albert. 1993. The tomb of Aias and the prospect of hero cult in Sophokles. Classical Antiquity 12: 165–180.

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                                                        Argues that the play anticipates Ajax's future cult in Attica.

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                                                        • Hesk, Jon. 2003. Sophocles: Ajax. Duckworth Companions to Greek and Roman Tragedy. London: Duckworth.

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                                                          An introduction to the play for students, including a short discussion of its reception.

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                                                        • Knox, Bernard M. W. 1961. The Ajax of Sophocles. Harvard Studies in Classical Philology 65: 1–37.

                                                          DOI: 10.2307/310832Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                          This much-cited article argues that Ajax is talking to himself in the Deception Speech.

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                                                          • Taplin, Oliver. 1980. Yielding to forethought: Sophocles' Ajax. In Arktouros: Hellenic studies presented to Bernard M. W. Knox on the occasion of His 65th birthday. Edited by G. W. Bowersock, Bernard M. W. Knox, Walter Burkert, and Michael C. J. Putnam, 122–129. Berlin: de Gruyter.

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                                                            Denies that the speech is sarcastic, but reflects Ajax's understanding of his death.

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                                                          Electra

                                                          Critics of this tragedy largely divide into “optimists” and “pessimists”—the first group think that the play unproblematically endorses the matricide, the second that the play is darker than it superficially appears. A particular issue for this play has been its relationship to Euripides's tragedy on the same theme. Both evidently respond to Aeschylus and one answers the other, but scholars disagree about which was first. Neither has a date based on external evidence. Vögler 1967 is the most thorough treatment of the dating problem. Lloyd 2005 is an introduction to the play.

                                                          Oedipus the King

                                                          Discussion of this play has centered on whether Oedipus is guilty or somehow responsible for his misfortune, and on the implications of this question for divine justice. Griffith 1996 argues for a guilty Oedipus; Knox 1957 exculpates Apollo; Dodds 1966 argues that the gods are not just. Ahl 1991 argues that the patricide and incest are not really proven. Vernant 1981a links the play to Greek scapegoat ritual; Vernant 1981b in the same volume is a polemic against Freudian interpretation.

                                                          • Ahl, Frederick. 1991. Sophocles' Oedipus: Evidence and self-conviction. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press.

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                                                            Argues that Oedipus does not actually prove that he killed his father or that Jocasta was his mother, but jumps to this conclusion.

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                                                          • Dodds, E R. 1966. On misunderstanding the Oedipus Rex. Greece and Rome 13: 37–49.

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                                                            Reprinted in Dodds, The ancient concept of progress (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1973); in Oxford readings in Greek Tragedy, edited by Erich Segal (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1983); and in Twentieth century interpretations of Oedipus Rex, edited by M. O'Brien (Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, 1968). A famous paper that starts from typical student responses about whether the play “justifies the ways of God to man” to argue that Sophocles' gods are mysterious and not necessarily just.

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                                                            • Griffith, R. Drew. 1996. The theatre of Apollo: Divine justice and Sophocles' Oedipus the king. Montreal: McGill-Queen's University Press.

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                                                              Argues for Oedipus's guilt.

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                                                            • Knox, Bernard M. W. 1957. Oedipus at Thebes. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press.

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                                                              Argues for a strong distinction between divine foreknowledge and divine will (Apollo predicts but does not directly cause); sees Oedipus as representative of the Athenian character.

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                                                              • Vernant, Jean-Pierre. 1981a. Ambiguity and reversal: On the enigmatic structure of Oedipus rex. In Tragedy and myth in ancient Greece. Edited by Jean-Pierre Vernant and P. Vidal-Naquet, translated by Janet Lloyd, 87–119. Brighton, UK: Harvester.

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                                                                Oedipus is both “divine king” and ritual scapegoat. First published in Mythe et tragédie en grèce ancienne (1972).

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                                                              • Vernant, Jean-Pierre. 1981b. Oedipus without the complex. In Tragedy and myth in ancient Greece. Edited by Jean-Pierre Vernant and P. Vidal-Naquet, translated by Janet Lloyd, 63–86. Brighton, UK: Harvester.

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                                                                Freudian interpretation of the play is misguided. First published in Mythe et tragédie en grèce ancienne (1972).

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                                                              Antigone

                                                              Older discussion of this play has focused on whether Antigone or Creon is the “tragic hero,” and on whether Antigone is entirely in the right. Newer work takes a variety of approaches, from Oudemans and Lardinois' 1987 anthropology, to Sourvinou-Inwood's 1989 attempt at defining the assumptions of the original audience, answered by Foley 1996.

                                                              • Foley, Helene. 1996. Antigone as moral agent. In Tragedy and the tragic: Greek theatre and beyond. Edited by Michael S. Silk. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

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                                                                Also in Foley's Female acts in Greek tragedy (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2001), 172–200. In part a response to Sourvinou-Inwood 1989.

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                                                              • Oudemans, Th. C. W., and André Lardinois. 1987. Tragic ambiguity: Anthropology, philosophy and Sophocles' Antigone. Leiden, the Netherlands: Brill.

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                                                                A difficult book that claims we misunderstand the play by not recognizing that the play's world is “interconnected.” Human actions have cosmic results, and ambiguity cannot be resolved.

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                                                              • Sourvinou-Inwood, Christiane. 1989. Assumptions and the creation of meaning: Reading Sophocles' Antigone. Journal of Hellenic Studies 109: 134–148.

                                                                DOI: 10.2307/632037Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                Argues that Sophocles' original audience would have seen Antigone as a “bad woman.”

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                                                                Antigone 904–920

                                                                Scholars have often debated lines 904–920, in which Antigone explains that she would not have defied the edict for anyone but a brother. These lines often been regarded as interpolated, but recent work, such as Neuberg 1990 and Cropp 1997, contextualizes them.

                                                                Women of Trachis

                                                                Issues in this play include Deianeira's character, the diptych structure, what actually happened between Heracles and the family of Eurytus, the oracle (which changes each time it is cited), and the problem of whether the end hints at the apotheosis of Heracles. Levett 2005 is a general introduction. Easterling 1981 is a good treatment of the apotheosis; Stinton 1986 argues that interpretation should not go beyond the play. Kane 1988 addresses the structure, Halleran 1986 the difficult backstory. Heiden 1989 is an overall deconstructive reading.

                                                                • Easterling, P. E. 1981. The End of the Trachiniae. Illinois Classical Studies 6: 56–81.

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                                                                  Argues that the pyre hints at the apotheosis, but that the ambiguity of the end is the main point.

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                                                                  • Faraone, C. A. 1994. Deianira's mistake and the demise of Heracles: Erotic magic in Sophocles Trachiniae. Helios 21.2: 115–135.

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                                                                    Places Heracles's death in the context of classical Greek magical practices.

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                                                                    • Halleran, M. R. 1986. Lichas' lies and Sophoclean innovation. Greek, Roman, and Byzantine Studies 27: 239–247.

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                                                                      Points to the new motivation for Heracles's servitude to Omphale in Lichas's story, with its new emphasis on Zeus's dislike of stealth.

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                                                                      • Heiden, Bruce. 1989. Tragic rhetoric: An interpretation of Sophocles' Trachiniae. Hermeneutic Commentaries 1. New York: Peter Lang.

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                                                                        Sees no reliable source of truth in the play; there is only self-deceiving rhetoric.

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                                                                      • Kane, R. L. 1988. The structure of Sophocles' “Trachiniae”: “Diptych” or “Trilogy”? Phoenix 42.3: 198–211.

                                                                        DOI: 10.2307/1088343Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                        Argues for a tripartite structure.

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                                                                        • Levett, Brad. 2005. Sophocles: Women of Trachis. Duckworth Companions to Greek and Roman Tragedy. London: Duckworth, 2005.

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                                                                          An introduction to the play for students, including a very short discussion of its reception.

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                                                                        • Stinton, T. C. W. 1986. The scope and limits of allusion in Greek tragedy. In Greek tragedy and its legacy: Essays presented to D. J. Conacher. Edited by Martin Cropp, Elaine Fantham, and S. E. Scully, 67–102. Calgary, Alberta, Canada: University of Calgary Press.

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                                                                          An argument for confining interpretation to what the text requires, with a discussion of the end of Women of Trachis at pp. 84–91.

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                                                                        Philoctetes

                                                                        Critics disagree about whether the final epiphany of Heracles really solves the play's problems. An ongoing discussion concerns the meaning of the crucial oracle. Roisman 2005 is a general introduction. Easterling 1978 and Gill 1980 deal with the oracle, and Visser 1998 treats both the oracles and the epiphany. Nussbaum 1976–1977 and Blundell 1987 study the characters philosophically.

                                                                        • Blundell, Mary Whitford. 1987. The moral character of Odysseus in “Philoctetes.” Greek, Roman and Byzantine Studies 28: 307–329.

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                                                                          Argues (especially against Nussbaum 1976–1977) that Odysseus is an amoral opportunist, a politician who uses sophistic ideas for self-justification.

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                                                                          • Easterling, P.E. 1978. Philoctetes and modern criticism. Illinois Classical Studies 3: 27–39.

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                                                                            Reprinted in Oxford readings in Greek tragedy, edited by Erich Segal (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1983), 217–228. A sensitive treatment of the oracle and other issues in dramatic terms.

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                                                                            • Gill, Christopher. 1980. “Bow, Oracle, and Epiphany in Sophocles' ‘Philoctetes.’ “ Greece & Rome 27.137–146.

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                                                                              The oracle is not about a correct wording; it is a moral test.

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                                                                              • Greengard, Carola. 1987. Theatre in crisis: Sophocles' reconstruction of genre and politics in Philoctetes. Amsterdam: Hakkert.

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                                                                                Argues that the play mixes elements from different genres (Euripidean tragedy, comedy, satyr-play, romance) to respond to the difficulty of Athens's situation in 409. Little scholarly documentation.

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                                                                              • Nussbaum, M. C. 1976–1977. Consequences and character in Sophocles' Philoctetes. Philosophy and Literature 1: 25–53.

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                                                                                Argues that Odysseus is a utilitarian.

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                                                                                • Roisman, Hanna. 2005. Sophocles: Philoctetes. Duckworth Companions to Greek and Roman Tragedy. London: Duckworth.

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                                                                                  An introduction to the play for students, including a short discussion of its reception.

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                                                                                • Rose, Peter W. 1976. Sophocles' Philoctetes and the teachings of the sophists. Harvard Studies in Classical Philology 80: 44–105.

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                                                                                  Also in Rose's Sons of the gods, children of earth: Ideology and literary form in ancient Greece (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1992), 266–330. An important paper on how the play alludes to sophistic anthropology (Philoctetes's life is that of primitive humanity) as well as relativist ethics.

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                                                                                  • Taplin, Oliver. 1971. Significant actions in Sophocles' Philoctetes. Greek, Roman, and Byzantine Studies 12: 25–44.

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                                                                                    A study of four actions in particular: Neoptolemus's revelation of the truth to Philoctetes; Philoctetes's despairing exit; the return of the bow; Neoptolemus's and Philoctetes's move to exit together.

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                                                                                    • Visser, Tamara. 1998. Untersuchungen zum Soph Philoktet: Das auslösende Ereignis in der Stückgestaltung. Stuttgart and Leipzig, Germany: Teubner.

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                                                                                      A detailed discussion of the oracle problem.

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                                                                                    Oedipus at Colonus

                                                                                    Older discussion focused on the episodic structure and on the character of Oedipus. More recent studies, including Markantonatos 2007, have emphasized the political themes. Edmonds 1996 applies metatheatrical and deconstructionist theory, Travis 1999 is Freudian, while Markantonatos 2002 uses narratological theory.

                                                                                    • Burian, Peter. 1974. Suppliant and saviour: Oedipus at Colonus. Phoenix 28: 408–429.

                                                                                      DOI: 10.2307/1087546Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                      Compares the play to other dramas about the reception of suppliants.

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                                                                                      • Edmunds, Lowell. 1996. Theatrical space and historical place in Sophocles' Oedipus at Colonus. Lanham, MD: Rowman and Littlefield.

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                                                                                        A traditional discussion of the historical background combined with a highly theorized discussion in terms of metatheatricality and Derridean différance.

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                                                                                      • Linforth, Ivan M. 1951. Religion and drama in Oedipus at Colonus. University of California Publications in Classical Philology 14. Berkeley: University of California Press.

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                                                                                        One of several short monographs Linforth published on Sophoclean plays, arguing that the religious aspect has been exaggerated.

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                                                                                        • Markantonatos, Andreas. 2002. Tragic narrative: A narratological study of Sophocles' Oedipus at Colonus. Berlin: de Gruyter.

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                                                                                          An original treatment of the importance of narrative in the play and of Oedipus's control of his own story.

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                                                                                        • Markantonatos, Andreas. 2007. Oedipus at Colonus: Sophocles, Athens, and the world. Berlin: de Gruyter.

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                                                                                          Interprets the play politically as democratic and urging reconciliation, and examines its religious context. Argues that the structure is dramatically effective.

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                                                                                        • Seidensticker, Bernd. 1972. Beziehungen zwischen den beiden Oidipusdramen des Sophokles. Hermes 100: 55–274.

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                                                                                          Reprinted in Seidensticker's Über das Vergnügen an tragischen Gegenständen: Studien zum antiken Drama, edited by J. Holzhausen (Munich and Leipzig, Germany: Saur, 2005), 1–28. A careful reading of Oedipus at Colonus as a “sequel” to the earlier Oedipus play.

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                                                                                          • Travis, Roger. 1999. Allegory and the tragic chorus in Sophocles' Oedipus at Colonus. Lanham, MD: Rowman and Littlefield.

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                                                                                            A Freudian interpretation (using specifically Melanie Klein), arguing that through the chorus the play allegorizes the fantasy of overcoming separation from the mother.

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                                                                                          • Wilson, Joseph. 1997. The hero and the city: An interpretation of Sophocles' Oedipus at Colonus. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press.

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                                                                                            Argues that Oedipus is not a suppliant but a guest-friend (xenos).

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                                                                                          Fragments

                                                                                          Sommerstein 2003 consists of essays discussing lost plays and how the fragments affect a general view of the author.

                                                                                          • Sommerstein, Alan, ed. 2003. Shards from Kolonos: Studies in Sophoclean fragments. Bari, Italy: Levante.

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                                                                                            The papers by López Eire and Redondo on distinguishing satyr-play from tragedy are especially valuable, and Zacharia's points to the prominence of Italy and Sicily in the fragments.

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                                                                                          Reception

                                                                                          The afterlife of Oedipus the King in Freudian theory would require a separate bibliography. Interest in the history of reception and in modern productions has greatly increased in recent years. Flashar 2009 is the standard history of productions of Greek drama.

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