Review: Sophocles II: Ajax/Women of Trachis/Electra/Philoctetes (Complete Greek Tragedies 4)
Sophocles II: Ajax/Women of Trachis/Electra/Philoctetes (Complete Greek Tragedies 4) by Sophocles
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Heady stuff. Greeks put in hard places by the events of the Trojan war. They are on the periphery, and the main guys like Odysseus play cameo roles in these plays. They are like spinoffs of Homer's great works, the Iliad and Odyssey, hundreds of years later, in the 400s before Christ.
Fate and loss of honor are big themes. What do we do when fate turns against us so that we lose our reputation, stumble and fall? For Ajax, it led to cynicism. "Most men have found friendship a treacherous harbor." Suicide was the answer.
Echoes of Job come through, when they consider the injustice of their suffering. Electra's murderer is her stepfather, and her sister acquiesces: "justice is not on my side but on yours." Electra cannot: "Have your rich table and your abundant life. All the food I need is the quiet of my conscience."
The gods are always the ones pulling the strings, and life is pain. "None can foresee what is to come... and there is nothing here which is not Zeus." "Nothing painless has the all-accomplishing King dispensed for mortal men." Philoctetes says, "How can I praise, when praising Heaven I find the gods are bad?"
It's quite a dismal worldview, when you step back and look at it. Electra sums up the Greeks well: "It is terrible to speak well and be wrong." Of course, they capture glimpses of wisdom, too, like in that quote.
Here are a few more.
"Harsh words, however just, still rankle."
"You win the victory when you yield to friends."
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