Monday, December 20, 2004

Seven Famous Greek Plays

Including Prometheus Bound and Agamemnon by Aeschylus, Oedipus the King and Antigone by Sophocles, Alcestis and Medea by Euripides, and The Frogs by Aristophanes.

I think Antigone was my favorite. This is the story of a sister, Antigone, who defies the mandate of her king, Creon, and gives the corpse of her brother a decent burial. Creon prohibits anyone from doing so, allowing the brother’s corpse, Polyneices, to lay exposed in the sun to be eaten by wild dogs and maggots, because he had risen in insurrection against his other brother, Eteocles, who was then king. Both brothers died in the battle, leaving Creon sitting on the vacant throne. Antigone disobeys Creon’s command and is put to death as punishment, which for Creon only results in the death of his own son, Haemon, who was betrothed to Antigone, and his wife, Eurydice, both a result of suicide over the grief of losing one so dear to them. The lesson, of course, is that there is a natural law that supercedes the law of earthly rulers, and those who brazenly oppose it will suffer the consequences.

Why do I like it? Apart from the dialogue being the most readable to my modern and untrained eyes, it does a really good job of making the larger point, of illustrating the moral of the story, through the simple interplay of characters going through the mechanics of the story. The message is not heavy-handed, but it is clearly there for all to see.

Another thing I’m dying to know. When verse is translated from a foreign language into English, how much do they change the meaning to make sure it rhymes? I mean, the same words that rhyme in Greek won’t necessarily rhyme in English, so if the verse rhymed in Greek, how did they get it to rhyme in English without changing it? Wouldn’t it be better to just translate it word for word and not worry about making it rhyme?

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