Electra and Other Plays

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Penguin Books Limited, Apr 24, 2008 - Drama - 309 pages
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Demonstrating Sophocles' aptitude for humanising figures from Greek myth and transforming simple fables into complex high tragedy, Electra and Other Plays is translated by David Raeburn with an introduction and notes by Pat Easterling. The plays collected in this volume show Sophocles' ability to create complex human characters struggling with profound moral issues. In Women of Trachis the agonizing death of the mighty Heracles is brought about by a tragic mistake made by his jealous wife Deianeira, as she attempts to regain his love. Set in the aftermath of the Trojan War, Ajax depicts a warrior driven into a homicidal rage that leads to his undoing, and Electra shows the grief-stricken children of the murdered Agamemnon and their plot to avenge him, while Philoctetes portrays the cunning Odysseus' attempt to convince a famed archer to rejoin the Greek expedition against Troy, undermined by the honesty of his young comrade Neoptolemus. David Raeburn's translation captures the rhythms of the original Greek, while remaining accessible to modern readers. Pat Easterling's general introduction discusses Athenian dramatic festivals, and the structure and tensions of the plays and their characters. This edition also includes a chronology, further reading, prefaces to each play and notes. Sophocles (496-405 BC) was born at Colonus, just outside Athens. 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. The leader of a literary circle and friend of Herodotus, Sophocles wrote over a hundred plays, drawing on a wide and varied range of themes, and winning the City Dionysia eighteen times; though only seven of his tragedies have survived, among them Antigone, Oedipus Rex, Ajax and Oedipus at Colonus. If you enjoyed Electra and Other Plays, you might like Sophocles' The Three Theban Plays, also available in Penguin Classics.

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About the author (2008)

Sophocles was born at Colonus, 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. The leader of a literary circle and friend of Herodotus, he was interested in poetic theory as well as practice, and he wrote a prose treatise On the Chorus. He seems to have been content to spend all his life at Athens, and is said to have refused several invitations to royal courts.

Sophocles first won a prize for tragic drama in 468, defeating the veteran Aeschylus. He 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. A substantial part of The Searches, a satyr play, was recovered from papyri in Egypt in modern times. Fragments of other plays remain, showing that he drew on a wide range of themes; he also introduced the innovation of a third actor in his tragedies. He died in 406 BC.

David Raeburn is a lecturer in classics at Oxford University. He has translated Sophocles and directed numerous school and university productions of Greek tragedies.


David Raeburn is a lecturer in classics at Oxford University. He has translated Sophocles and directed numerous school and university productions of Greek tragedies.


David Raeburn is a lecturer in classics at Oxford University. He has translated Sophocles and directed numerous school and university productions of Greek tragedies.

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