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Far from carelessness on her part, one might argue the hand of a good editor here, faced with a play which the author himself never had a chance to revise in rehearsal. As it happens, the presence of the baby Historical Perspectives 31 Orestes with Clytemnestra has a strong dramatic purpose throughout which, perhaps, Jane fails to see, but her motives for cutting seem, if anachronistically, to be those of any dramaturg.

Sophocles’ „Electra“ in Performance

Her changes are logical and consistent with a search for decorum, clarity and directness. This is most obvious in the handling of the physical features of the death of Iphigenia. The crueller aspects are played down or removed. It is the logical outcome of a shift in the emphasis of the play which owes little or nothing to Erasmus.

Iphigenia has a long speech where she resolves the problem faced by Achilles, Clytemnestra and Agamemnon by volunteering to die. In the original Euripides her argument is carefully structured. They are born to be slaves; we to be free.

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Consider I praie you mother, for what a lawfull cause i shalbe slaine. Dothe not bothe the destruction of Troie and also the welthe of grece, [my italics] which is the mooste frutefull countrie of the world hange upon my deathe? Again remember how I was not borne for your sake onlie, but rather for the comodite of my countrie, [again my italics] thinke you therfore that it is mete, that such a companie of men beinge gathered together to reuenge the greate iniurie, which all grece hathe suffered should be let out of their iournye for my cause.

As it happens, it does point to the current historical view that the thousand ships were more likely to have been launched to secure trade routes to the Black Sea than to rescue a single face. Lady Jane deserves some rehabilitation. Much of her Iphigenia does read like the work of a sometimes distracted child, but her version is a more mature and a more conscious act of translation than has usually been assumed.

Nevertheless, the infelicities have to be acknowledged. Up to twenty or, in one instance twenty-seven, may be used for a mere ten in the Greek. Out with it, old man. Avaunt the story, ancient! Almost certainly she did. Even if she made extensive use of it; even if she simply translated Erasmus direct from the Latin into English; even if she had no access to the original Greek at all, her Iphigenia is still an original and remarkable piece of work. She may not have shown the way to others but she seems to have known where that way might lead. George Gascoigne aka Gascoygne was a little older than Lumley.

Though an original poet of some note and an avid translator from the Italian, he lived a wastrel, if picturesque life, which included a couple of years as an MP and a period of detention under the Spanish in the Low Countries. His more prestigious dramatic efforts involved creating entertainments for the Queen at Kenilworth. Clearly too it was intended for performance, as it includes a number of stage directions.

The characters enter and the scenes follow one another in more or less the same order as in Euripides. There any resemblance ends. There is a review of the troops by Antigone and her Tutor which suggests that Shakespeare knew the scene when writing his Troilus and Cressida. What these effectively do is establish that, whether or not the authors knew the Euripides in other than the Italian translation, what they are writing is an Elizabethan play.

The third of these dumbshows gives a fair indication of how far they deviate from Euripides: Before the beginning of this. Act did sound a very dolefull noise of cornettes, during the which there opened and appeared in the stage a great Gulfe. This done, blinde Tyresias the devine prophete led in by hys daughter, and conducted by Meneceus the son of Creon, entreth by the gates Electrae, and sayth as followeth. The Greek context virtually disappears. The Cadmus chorus in Euripides ll. The expository prologue, in Euripides at 87 lines one of the longest speeches in Greek tragedy, is expanded by Kinwelmershe to lines in a one-way dialogue to which Jocasta contributes all but In a modern translation this reads as: Mark me, you Thebans!

I am Oedipus — Oedipus who read the famous riddle, Who was the greatest among you. Look at me now! And yet.


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Since every man must beare with quiet minde, The fate that heavens have earst to him assignde. His unfortunate Infancy. His execrable Actions. This is a remarkable political document which has few, if any, parallels. The Lady Elizabeth was the second daughter of Charles I. Wase seems to be advising her to Historical Perspectives 37 take Electra as a role-model but she was herself to die, a prisoner in Carisbrooke Castle, the following year.

The translation itself has little to recommend it: orestes: O Body wickedly and basely rent! O Doleful course! O how dismall! Oh me! These, and the further translation of the Plutus by HB H.

Burnell in , represent the sum of Greek, or near-Greek, drama to emerge in the whole of the seventeenth century. Eurydice and Haemon both put in an appearance before Oedipus turns up with Adrastus, King of Argos, in tow whom he has just defeated in battle.

OEDIPUS, KING OF THEBES

Most of the subplotters, including Creon, get killed off in one frantic scene. Oedipus then commits suicide by throwing himself out of a window onto the stage, a challenge at which even Olivier might have blenched. We know not what you can desire or hope, To please you more, but burning of a Pope. Theobald knew his Greek all right, drawing attention in his notes for Electra to the curiosity never satisfactorily accounted for of a reference to a living sister called Iphianassa and declining to equate her with Iphigenia.

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Give or take some uneasy rhymes in the choral odes, this is the only serious liberty he takes and he does display a sound enough awareness of Sophocles as a writer for performance for the play wrongly thought to have been staged at Drury Lane after his death see Chapter 4, note His translations are both in prose and prosy.

The revival of interest in the world of the Greek dramatists took wing in the second half of the eighteenth century.

Much of this, however, is partial. He produced all seven surviving plays in in an edition which was still being regularly reprinted a hundred years later. Translations are, in general, for people who cannot read the original. In a different language it may be the same tune, but it has not the same tone. Here, though, the modern age of translation is truly born.

By the end of the nineteenth century the theatre was undergoing a major change and the plays themselves began to return to the repertoire, offering a new and different challenge to translators. Not, at least, in the science I have to teach. Indicating his book. The Agamemnon. More exciting. After all she did kill her husband, sir.

With relish.

About this book

The title comes from a present of the Robert Browning translation of the Agamemnon which Taplow gives to his teacher, a present dismissed by the bitchy wife as a bribe for promotion. By choosing the Agamemnon as his example, Rattigan the playwright does point to the very special nature of Aeschylus and the unique problems that translating his work raise. Most readers and audiences today, and this includes in Greece, must approach a Greek play through translation. Already that offers one sort of collaboration with Aeschylus, a collaboration that is augmented in performance by other contributors to what is inevitably a collaborative art.

Rattigan knew, if his characters did not, that any collaboration includes the audience at the point of impact, bringing to their perception their own historical, political and cultural experience. Even what the eye sees, neuroscientists now tell us, is no more than an educated guess by the brain in response to the stimuli fed to it and previous experience.

Aeschylus and the Agamemnon 45 Classical theatre as a synthetic art may well have the text as a startingpoint, but the text as blueprint, the text as score. A well-constructed play, and most of the surviving Greek plays are constructed well, is as manyfaceted as a diamond, with a whole variety of possible interpretations.

Ancient Greek Theatre: Euripides

The same may be true to some extent of any work of literature, but a play has the major dimension of being created for performance: and, therefore, barely fashioned when merely in print. Any loss of substance from the original Alexandrine and lyric mix is compensated by an increase in overall number of lines from the of Aeschylus to Murray, that formidable Australian scholar who was awarded the Chair of Greek at the University of Glasgow at the age of twenty-three and became Regius Professor of Greek at Oxford in , had tackled Euripides, Sophocles and Aristophanes before turning in to Agamemnon.

Rattigan may offer the clue. The play was included as a linked narrative within the poem and, odd idea though this might seem, met the approval of the notable historian J. This Apology is a curious conceit in which a debate takes place, ostensibly between Aristophanes and Balaustion, about the merits of Euripides as a playwright, whose death in Thrace has recently been announced.

As Euripides was still alive and writing for another six years after , for some of the time in Thrace, something has gone wrong somewhere with the chronology. In the Introduction he set up a kind of challenge: Should anybody, without need, honour my translation by a comparison with the original, I beg him to observe that, following no editor exclusively, I keep to the earlier readings so long as sense can be made out of them, but disregard, I hope, little of importance in recent criticism so far as I have fallen in with it.

Browning goes in for a tortuous sentencestructure that is in places nigh on impenetrable. Elizabeth Barrett later Browning had come up with a far more acceptable Prometheus Bound — actually two see p. John Conington, whose translation of Agamemnon came out in asked the question in his Introduction: How can we be said to give a true copy of a Greek expression when we substitute for it one made up of English words indeed, but conveying no meaning at all, or perhaps a harsh meaning to English ears?

Perhaps too it gives some food for thought as to the reasons why Aeschylus remained neglected by translators for so long. The only consolation for Aeschylus might be that worse disservice was done by Murray to Euripides.


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Wish it were over, this waiting, this watching, twelve weary months, night in and night out, crouching and peering like a bloodhound, paws propping muzzle, up here on the palace, 50 Found in Translation the palace belonging the bloodclan of Atreus — Agamemnon, Menelaus, bloodkin, our clanchiefs. It is time to release me.