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Sophocles (497/6–406 BCE), with Aeschylus and Euripides, was one of the three great tragic poets of Athens, and is considered one of the world’s greatest poets. The subjects of his plays were drawn from mythology and legend. Each play contains at least one heroic figure, a character whose strength, courage, or intelligence exceeds the human norm—but who also has more than ordinary pride and self-assurance. These qualities combine to lead to a tragic end.
Hugh Lloyd-Jones gives us, in two volumes, a new translation of the seven surviving plays. Volume I contains Oedipus Tyrannus (which tells the famous Oedipus story), Ajax (a heroic tragedy of wounded self-esteem), and Electra (the story of siblings who seek revenge on their mother and her lover for killing their father).
Volume II contains Oedipus at Colonus (the climax of the fallen hero’s life), Antigone (a conflict between public authority and an individual woman’s conscience), The Women of Trachis (a fatal attempt by Heracles’s wife to regain her husband’s love), and Philoctetes (Odysseus’s intrigue to bring an unwilling hero to the Trojan War).
Of his other plays, only fragments remain; but from these much can be learned about Sophocles’s language and dramatic art. The major fragments—ranging in length from two lines to a very substantial portion of the satyr play The Searchers—are collected in Volume III of this edition. In prefatory notes, Lloyd-Jones provides frameworks for the fragments of known plays.