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A landmark anthology of the masterpieces of Greek drama, featuring all-new, highly accessible translations of some of the world's most beloved plays, including Agamemnon, Prometheus Bound, Bacchae, Electra, Medea, Antigone, and Oedipus the King Featuring translations by Emily Wilson, Frank Nisetich, Sarah Ruden, Rachel Kitzinger, Mary Lefkowitz, and James Romm The great A landmark anthology of the masterpieces of Greek drama, featuring all-new, highly accessible translations of some of the world's most beloved plays, including Agamemnon, Prometheus Bound, Bacchae, Electra, Medea, Antigone, and Oedipus the King Featuring translations by Emily Wilson, Frank Nisetich, Sarah Ruden, Rachel Kitzinger, Mary Lefkowitz, and James Romm The great plays of Ancient Greece are among the most enduring and important legacies of the Western world. Not only is the influence of Greek drama palpable in everything from Shakespeare to modern television, the insights contained in Greek tragedy have shaped our perceptions of the nature of human life. Poets, philosophers, and politicians have long borrowed and adapted the ideas and language of Greek drama to help them make sense of their own times. This exciting curated anthology features a cross section of the most popular--and most widely taught--plays in the Greek canon. Fresh translations into contemporary English breathe new life into the texts while capturing, as faithfully as possible, their original meaning. This outstanding collection also offers short biographies of the playwrights, enlightening and clarifying introductions to the plays, and helpful annotations at the bottom of each page. Appendices by prominent classicists on such topics as "Greek Drama and Politics," "The Theater of Dionysus," and "Plato and Aristotle on Tragedy" give the reader a rich contextual background. A detailed time line of the dramas, as well as a list of adaptations of Greek drama to literature, stage, and film from the time of Seneca to the present, helps chart the history of Greek tragedy and illustrate its influence on our culture from the Roman Empire to the present day. With a veritable who's who of today's most renowned and distinguished classical translators, The Greek Plays is certain to be the definitive text for years to come. Praise for The Greek Plays "Mary Lefkowitz and James Romm deftly have gathered strong new translations from Frank Nisetich, Sarah Ruden, Rachel Kitzinger, Emily Wilson, as well as from Mary Lefkowitz and James Romm themselves. There is a freshness and pungency in these new translations that should last a long time. I admire also the introductions to the plays and the biographies and annotations provided. Closing essays by five distinguished classicists--the brilliant Daniel Mendelsohn and the equally skilled David Rosenbloom, Joshua Billings, Mary-Kay Gamel, and Gregory Hays--all enlightened me. This seems to me a helpful light into our gathering darkness."--Harold Bloom


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A landmark anthology of the masterpieces of Greek drama, featuring all-new, highly accessible translations of some of the world's most beloved plays, including Agamemnon, Prometheus Bound, Bacchae, Electra, Medea, Antigone, and Oedipus the King Featuring translations by Emily Wilson, Frank Nisetich, Sarah Ruden, Rachel Kitzinger, Mary Lefkowitz, and James Romm The great A landmark anthology of the masterpieces of Greek drama, featuring all-new, highly accessible translations of some of the world's most beloved plays, including Agamemnon, Prometheus Bound, Bacchae, Electra, Medea, Antigone, and Oedipus the King Featuring translations by Emily Wilson, Frank Nisetich, Sarah Ruden, Rachel Kitzinger, Mary Lefkowitz, and James Romm The great plays of Ancient Greece are among the most enduring and important legacies of the Western world. Not only is the influence of Greek drama palpable in everything from Shakespeare to modern television, the insights contained in Greek tragedy have shaped our perceptions of the nature of human life. Poets, philosophers, and politicians have long borrowed and adapted the ideas and language of Greek drama to help them make sense of their own times. This exciting curated anthology features a cross section of the most popular--and most widely taught--plays in the Greek canon. Fresh translations into contemporary English breathe new life into the texts while capturing, as faithfully as possible, their original meaning. This outstanding collection also offers short biographies of the playwrights, enlightening and clarifying introductions to the plays, and helpful annotations at the bottom of each page. Appendices by prominent classicists on such topics as "Greek Drama and Politics," "The Theater of Dionysus," and "Plato and Aristotle on Tragedy" give the reader a rich contextual background. A detailed time line of the dramas, as well as a list of adaptations of Greek drama to literature, stage, and film from the time of Seneca to the present, helps chart the history of Greek tragedy and illustrate its influence on our culture from the Roman Empire to the present day. With a veritable who's who of today's most renowned and distinguished classical translators, The Greek Plays is certain to be the definitive text for years to come. Praise for The Greek Plays "Mary Lefkowitz and James Romm deftly have gathered strong new translations from Frank Nisetich, Sarah Ruden, Rachel Kitzinger, Emily Wilson, as well as from Mary Lefkowitz and James Romm themselves. There is a freshness and pungency in these new translations that should last a long time. I admire also the introductions to the plays and the biographies and annotations provided. Closing essays by five distinguished classicists--the brilliant Daniel Mendelsohn and the equally skilled David Rosenbloom, Joshua Billings, Mary-Kay Gamel, and Gregory Hays--all enlightened me. This seems to me a helpful light into our gathering darkness."--Harold Bloom

30 review for The Greek Plays: Sixteen Plays by Aeschylus, Sophocles, and Euripides

  1. 5 out of 5

    Elle (ellexamines)

    Poor thing! Now sing your reckless mouth to sleep. Greek tragedy is a genre I did not expect to find so utterly enthralling before now. Yet the complexity, emotion, and gravitas presented within these plays has me enraptured. Here is a very long review. On the Use of Tragedy The Greek concept of tragedy is a fascinating one and one easy to misunderstand. I have actually been in a Greek Tragedy class now and read fifteen greek plays (a long review can be found here), so I feel more qualified to Poor thing! Now sing your reckless mouth to sleep. Greek tragedy is a genre I did not expect to find so utterly enthralling before now. Yet the complexity, emotion, and gravitas presented within these plays has me enraptured. Here is a very long review. On the Use of Tragedy The Greek concept of tragedy is a fascinating one and one easy to misunderstand. I have actually been in a Greek Tragedy class now and read fifteen greek plays (a long review can be found here), so I feel more qualified to talk about this now. As given by Aristotle, the definition of a tragedy is not actually in its sad ending: it is in experiencing human suffering. (Most of the extant plays, not by coincidence but by generations of selection, end negatively.) Catharsis, by his definition, is a type of cleaning: "we experience, then expurgate these emotions". Tragedy can attempt to make the worst experiences consumable. It is not the ending, but the process. Aristotle said a tragedy should focus on a great man and his fall—not a good or wicked man, but one in between. His wording was 'hamartia', interpreted as flaw. This may have been oversymplified. A separate theorist, Bernard Knox, said something I prefer: that a hero makes a decision rooted in personal nature, and follows it to personal destruction. (This is especially relevant to Sophoclean drama.) Heroes can be everything: admirable in their steadfast natures, flawed in pride and violence. The Greeks did not admire every hero; rather, they thought of heroes as a way to explore both the benefits & the drawbacks of certain traits. At the heart of every Greek tragedy comes a moment of 'recognition' and 'reversal'. In the best, according to him, these are the same: this is catharsis. In case you were curious, my favorite plays of the sixteen I've read would be, ranked: 5. Medea, Euripides 4. Libation Bearers, Aeschylus 3. Hippolytus, Euripides 2. Agamemnon, Aeschylus 1. Antigone, Sophocles These are all contained within this collection. Reviews of Plays Notes: As this was my central textbook for a Greek Tragedy course, I’ve mentioned essentially three plays by the Big Three that I actually read via separate volumes. →Persians ★★★★☆ Aeschylus← (472 BCE) A play of a great amount of grief. Review to come, TBD. →Agamemnon ★★★★★ Aeschylus← (458 BCE) Reviewed here. This is my favorite Aeschylus and one of my favorite Greek plays. →Libation Bearers ★★★★★ Aeschylus← (458 BCE) The brilliance of this play is that no character goes to their grave unsympathetic. When we see Clytemnestra speak of the death of her daughter at the hands of her own father, of the relationship with her daughter she has tried to mend, we are entirely on her side. When we hear Electra speak of the murder of her father by a woman who has become a tyrant in her land, we are entirely on her side. When we see Orestes' love for his sister, his doubt at whether he should commit this ultimate crime, we are entirely on his side. The death of Clytemnestra is heartbreaking because we cannot decide whose side we are on; we mourn for her while sympathizing with her killer. On a side note, Electra's allegiances are fascinating - she has sided with her father, the murderer of her sister, as have the women slaves (the so-called Libation Bearers) who make up the chorus. The women disagree rather than uniting, and their conflict, though partially given to Orestes, makes up the central conflict of the play. (This was a paper topic I had written down and did not write.) Interestingly, Clissa, Electra's nurse, serves as more of a motherly figure than Clytemnestra. Without her, the plot could hardly function; it is she who tells Aegisthus to come to Orestes, who forms such a central piece. Just as in Oedipus, a barely-named character decides the solution to the tragedy, but here, it is even more significant; a mother kills a mother. Notable Lines (Sarah Ruden translation): ORESTES: The male's female inside, or if he's not, he'll prove it soon. (305) ELECTRA: We are suppliants and refugees alive at your tomb; it must take us in. (337-338) ELECTRA: A raw-minded wolf is the soul our mother gave him. (421-422) CHORUS: The house must keep its wounds open. (472) ELECTRA: Persephone, give me triumph in its beauty. (490) CHORUS: Nobody honors what the gods revile. Which of these stories am I wrong to bring together? (638-639) CLYTEMNESTRA: We'll die the way we killed, by trickery. (889) →Eumenides ★★★★☆ Aeschylus← (458 BCE) Eumenides means 'The Kindly Ones', and refers to the fates that prey upon Orestes for the entirety of this play, until he receives an Athena-run trial. Though the trial is for Orestes, murderer of his mother and breaker of laws of the earth, the one truly on trial here may be Apollo. This is a play of the old gods vs. the new; one that begins with horror, and ends with unexpected forgiveness. Notable Lines (Sarah Ruden translation): CHORUS: There is a fitting place for terror: the overseer of the mind must sit there constantly. (517-519) CHORUS: The gods, who win every match, have wrenched me away from my vulnerable post. (838) ATHENA: Are the goddesses shrewd enough to find the path of merciful words for the people? (989) →Prometheus Bound ★★★★☆ Aeschylus (?)← (unk) This is a play of dubious authorship due to its oddness: the language, the lack of choral ode, and the technical elements all seem to place it in a later century. Still, it is not without its merits. Zeus, depicted here as a tyrant, chains Prometheus to a rock until he gives up a prophecy. Indeed, Prometheus holds the secret of Zeus' downfall, if he can only keep it. There is a strong contrast between Io, doomed into constant movement, and Prometheus, doomed to constant stillness. Prometheus stands on the edge of the world, on the vista of time; he talks only to Io and to the daughters of Oceanus, the oceans circling the world. This is a strange little play of seeming stagnancy, but in reality, it is dynamic. Notable Lines (James Romm translation): PROMETHEUS: All art is weaker than necessity. (514) IO: One wretch to another. (595) IO: I'm off the track, beyond what's sane. (884) PROMETHEUS: You young gods, new in rule—you think you dwell in towers that never topple. Have I not seen tyrants twice already hurled from them? (955) PROMETHEUS: Perhaps, but I choose punishment like mine over servitude like yours. (968) PROMETHEUS: Majesty of my mother Earth, bright sky that lets the common light whirl round, you see me here, and see my lot: injustice. (1092) →Antigone ★★★★★ Sophocles← (442 BCE) Reviewed here. I think this is still my favorite ever Greek Tragedy. Loved this translation; feel like I can say this now as it’s the fourth I’ve read. →Oedipus the King ★★★★★ Sophocles← (c.430 BCE) Reviewed here. →Oedipus at Colonus ★★★★☆ Sophocles← (406 BCE) Reviewed here. I did not do a detailed reread of this one as it was not on our syllabus. →Electra ★★★★★ Sophocles← (unk) Reviewed here. →Medea ★★★★★ Euripides← (431 BCE) Technically, this was my first-ever greek tragedy, in eighth grade. Reviewed here. →Electra ★★★☆☆ Euripides← (420-410 BCE) Aeschylus' Oresteia was already a classic by the time of both Sophocles and Euripides, so each shifted their focuses. In Libation Bearers, Aeschylus had focused on motherhood; in Sophocles, focus had shifted further to Electra, making Clytemnestra more villainous than anything else. Euripides, a constant bringer of further darkness, leans the opposite direction. In his adaptation, Clytemnestra is sympathetic. In Aeschylus' adaptation, the audience has no problem sympathizing with Electra and Orestes, even with their sympathies sticking by Clytemnestra. In this adaptation, it is harder. Clytemnestra's visceral grief over Orestes, her clear love for even Electra, outweighs even her earlier crime. When Electra herself is vicious and hateful to Clytemnestra, and she joins in on the killing, our sympathy becomes more difficult to place. I actually honestly struggled to sympathize with her at times, which is not a problem I've had with either previous Electra. The focus here is not on criminal fates, but on the status of outsider. The poor man who treats Electra well is the hero of this play, not royalty. Interestingly, this play also contains a lot more misogyny? There is a huge negative focus on Clytemnestra and Aegisthus for failing to play into gender roles; Aegisthus is essentially called bad for being too feminine, allowing a woman to dominate him, and Clytemnestra for being the dominant. This is the most prominent theme of the play and I really didn't vibe with this; it's actually somewhat strange given how interesting I generally find Euripides' view of gender. I can't tell to what degree this is Electra's character and to what degree this is Euripides' view, and I'd be interested to know. Notable Lines (Emily Wilson translation): ELECTRA: My hands, my tongue, my heavy-hearted mind. (335) ORESTES: He's now your slave, the man whom once you had to call your master. (898) ELECTRA: You thought your wealth and power made you someone. For me, I'd rather a man for husband—you looked like a girl. (939) CHORUS: You've spoken fairly, with an ugly fairness. (1051) →Trojan Women Euripides← (415 BCE) *TBR Review to come, TBD. →Hippolytus ★★★★★ Euripides← (428 BCE) Reviewed here. This is one of my favorites. →Alcestis ★★★★☆ Euripides← (438 BCE) Reviewed here. →Helen ★★★★☆ Euripides← (412 BCE) This is an interesting play, written as an exoneration of Helen from the hated version of her in the Trojan war myths (though I always enjoy her). It’s an interesting play in terms of plot, and a bit protofeminist: Helen has more agency within the narrative than any other character, and very literally takes back her agency. A way-less-evil Medea. Though not quite as vicious and memorable. Notable Lines (Emily Wilson translation): HELEN: Among barbarians, all are slaves but one. (285) CHORUS: What mortal can think it all through and explain what is god, what is not god, and what’s in between? (1140) →The Bacchae ★★★☆☆ Euripides← (406 BCE) A tragicomedy of sorts, about disrespect for the gods and the fluid nature of gender. Very harsh and at times, almost cold: it feels torturous, voyeuristic of pain. Definitely interesting to analyze on the topic of Euripides in general. I did not write down any lines from this. Not In This Collection →Ajax ★★★☆☆ Sophocles← (c.445 BCE) (from a diff. volume) Reviewed here. →Women of Trachis Sophocles← (unk) Reviewed here. →Philoctetes Sophocles← (409 BCE) *TBR Reviewed here. →Orestes ★★★★★ Euripides← (408 BCE) Reviewed here. →Hecuba ★★★★★ Euripides← (424 BCE) Reviewed here. →Heracles ★★★☆☆ Euripides← (421-416 BCE) Reviewed here. Not Yet Read →The Suppliants Aeschylus← (463 BCE) →Seven Against Thebes Aeschylus← (467 BCE) →The Suppliants Euripides← (414 BCE) *TBR →Andromache Euripides← (unk) *TBR →The Cyclops Euripides← (unk) *Only extant satyr play →Heracleidae Euripides← (430 BCE) →Ion Euripides← (unk) →Iphigenia At Aulis Euripides← (410 BCE) →Iphigenia in Tauris Euripides← (unk) →The Phoenissae Euripides← (c.408 BCE) →Rhesus Euripides← (unk) Blog | Twitter | Instagram | Spotify | Youtube | About |

  2. 5 out of 5

    Donald

    The book has decent paper and binding. I am confused by some of the layout choices (what is the system for indentation? is it random?), but there's nothing too crazy or confusing. Sarah Ruden's Oresteia is great. I'm not sure it would be good for reading the trilogy for the first time. The basic plots might not be clear to someone who hasn't read them before, but her choices are more beautiful and interesting than the standard Lattimore/Grene edition in the UChicago Press tragedies series. The The book has decent paper and binding. I am confused by some of the layout choices (what is the system for indentation? is it random?), but there's nothing too crazy or confusing. Sarah Ruden's Oresteia is great. I'm not sure it would be good for reading the trilogy for the first time. The basic plots might not be clear to someone who hasn't read them before, but her choices are more beautiful and interesting than the standard Lattimore/Grene edition in the UChicago Press tragedies series. The footnote apparatus is more thorough than the typical reader wants or needs, but it doesn't get in the way. Enjoyed Sophocles' Theban plays. Very happy with all the translations, especially Antigone. Now onto Euripides... I bought this because it features translations of Euripides by an old professor of mine. Euripides, bless his heart, is just not as good a tragedian as Sophocles and Aeschylus. Reading the Hippolytus after reading Antigone is tough. But the Bacchae is a helluva play, and my old professor did a fine job of it. Reading it brought back memories of a performance we held when her translation was still a manuscript. If you've always wanted to read the Greek tragedies - and you should, really - buy this book, and you'll be set.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Anand

    This will always be a treasured collection to me for introducing me to a wide range of Athenian tragedy and drama. I love Greek tragedy, and I am grateful for the great translation work of Frank Nisetich on the Oedipus plays, Sarah Ruden for Aeschylus Oresteia, and Emily Wilsons translations of Trojan Women, Helen, and The Bacchae. Some of the plays like Sophocles and Euripides Electra are nice, as is Aeschylus Persians for its focus on the defeated Persians lamentations This will always be a treasured collection to me for introducing me to a wide range of Athenian tragedy and drama. I love Greek tragedy, and I am grateful for the great translation work of Frank Nisetich on the Oedipus plays, Sarah Ruden for Aeschylus’ Oresteia, and Emily Wilson’s translations of Trojan Women, Helen, and The Bacchae. Some of the plays like Sophocles’ and Euripides’ Electra are nice, as is Aeschylus’ Persians for its focus on the defeated Persians’ lamentations

  4. 5 out of 5

    Sahdia

    read so far (and loved): -Medea

  5. 5 out of 5

    Erik

    I truly enjoyed many of these plays. Aeschylus' Persians is fascinating. Who would have guessed one of the first recorded plays in history would engender sympathy for a mortal enemy and be written from their point of view. While many attributes of the play belie the art form's lack of maturity (essentially one set, few characters, mostly dialog with "the chorus"), the point of view seems like something that would not have been tried for centuries. The Oresteia was interesting when taken as a I truly enjoyed many of these plays. Aeschylus' Persians is fascinating. Who would have guessed one of the first recorded plays in history would engender sympathy for a mortal enemy and be written from their point of view. While many attributes of the play belie the art form's lack of maturity (essentially one set, few characters, mostly dialog with "the chorus"), the point of view seems like something that would not have been tried for centuries. The Oresteia was interesting when taken as a trilogy. The first two plays--Agamemnon and The Libation Bearers, about the murders of Agamemnon and Clytemnestra, respectively--seem rather barbaric, but the way the third, Eumenides, ends in a trial dismissing blind Justice and binding the gods to the city (Athens) is fascinating. The last play from Aeschylus is Prometheus Bound, another discussion on justice and a plea to get mankind out from under whimsical gods (fate). It would be interesting to find the rest of this trilogy. From Sophocles, we get his entire classic trilogy of Oedipus Rex, Antigone, and Oedipus at Colonus, with Electra thrown in to close his take on the story of the house of Atreus. I was surprised how dramatic this felt despite everyone knowing the "twist" in Oedipus' story. Fate is an obvious theme to start, but justice comes up again as Oedipus stands between the struggle of his sons for power in Thebes in the end. The book ends with quite a few works from Euripides. I have to admit I did not enjoy these nearly as much as those by Sophocles and Aeschylus. They are so odd. Alcestis is about a king, Admetus, who can live only if someone sacrifices their life for him, and it turns out to be his wife, Alcestis. Certainly an indecent bargain. This is followed by the barbaric Medea. I am not saying she was treated fairly, but to fulfill her vengeance on her sons just made me sick (and she seemed to be partly to blame for her situation, too). It was one of those stories that I found gripping but really did not want to see, like a Darren Aronofsky film. Hippolytus was not much better. This man tries so hard to be upright, and instead of being corrected, he is destroyed along with those around him by Aphrodite. This is where the gods seem so capricious. Are life, love, and the world in which we live really so tragic? His Electra isn't so bad, but I just read that one twice before. I am not sure how it is any better. I appreciate that Trojan Women calls out just how much women were pawns in this world of men, and for that, it is admirable, but in terms of dialogue, it seems to be 1300 lines of whining I did not enjoy reading. Helen is an interesting romantic intrigue, where Menelaus runs across Helen in Greece and makes a daring escape with her, but to me, limited in my exposure to ancient literature, it is a bit jarring, rewriting the storyline set out by Homer, claiming that Helen in Troy was nothing but an image made by the gods. Finally, I affirmed my dislike for Bacchae. Yuk. I do not like anything about this one. King Pentheus of Thebes seems to want to keep his city clear-headed. True, he could be said to be defying a god, but he seems less in defiance of the gods and more in doubt of the hype. Once again, as with Hippolytus, he does not learn to balance faith and reason and to respect the new gods but is instead shamed and destroyed, literally ripped apart--by his mother, no less--for his mistake. Is Dionysus in the right? Look as his mother, Agave, in the end, who is so proud of her independent work as a hunter until she realizes she is holding her own son's head. The entire city is brought low. Who is in the right here? What is the lesson? Should Dionysus receive any honor? I am confused. All in all, though, this is a collection of sixteen works of great importance to the development of drama. Well worth the read. I have no idea how the translations stack up against others, but they generally read well and have copious footnotes. Also included are an introductory essay for each play and, in an appendix, five long essays (which I did not read) on Greek drama in general.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Alison

    Many people have that thing you studied in high school that just clicked, that opened worlds and brought passion. For me, that was Greek drama. Something about the intensity, the poetry, the surprise that humanity could be so recognisable over millennia - that a poet living so long ago on the other side of the world could see into me. Fast forward a few decades, I finally travel to Athens, and to prep go looking for this love of my youth. I landed on this volume because of the emphasis on Many people have that thing you studied in high school that just clicked, that opened worlds and brought passion. For me, that was Greek drama. Something about the intensity, the poetry, the surprise that humanity could be so recognisable over millennia - that a poet living so long ago on the other side of the world could see into me. Fast forward a few decades, I finally travel to Athens, and to prep go looking for this love of my youth. I landed on this volume because of the emphasis on accuracy, context and the use of Greek words. I majored in Greek at uni, meaning I had read all of the plays in volume before, in original or translation, sand connecting to the Greek was important. I also re-read Thucydides, an unexpectedly tedious experience - so entered the book with the fear that the magic had gone. I shouldn't have worried. From the opening lines of Aeschylus' Persians, I was hooked. These plays demand your attention. There is no need to elucidate meanings through stilted prose - characters lay their emotions out in articulate, raw, boastful verse that speaks straight to your own emotions. There is complexity for the reader/viewer aplenty, which comes from trying to sort through what it all means - who is right and who is not, and how can everyone be right when they are trenchantly opposed? The Gods appear onstage at times, but are often most powerful when absent: forces to which humans surrender, fight or adapt to (The Bacchae, in which Dionysus is remarkably human, is an exception not rule). This ensures a delicate balance of agency and inevitability, where serves somehow to place more emphasis, not less, on that agency. It is a treasure to have so many plays in a single volume, all with decent translations. I took it to Greece with me, read Hippolytus as the plane descended, sat in the Theatre of Dionysus and read Medea's main monologue in the heat, returning to consume Oedipus at Colonus in a cooler early evening. I dipped into Eumenides while watching over Aeropagus Hill, and ran through Antigone tucked up in bed. My beloved Bacchae I left until last when I was home and processing. To adolescent me, the Bacchae was the greatest literary work ever. I read it over and over. I remember trying to explain how real the intensity of emotion, the tragedy, the stupid arrogance felt. As I got older, its glory faded, replaced by an appreciation for the shading of Antigone and the rest of Sophocles' Oresteia, of Prometheus Bound, and in Euripides work, the strong anti-war message of Trojan Women* and the possible feminist readings of Medea and Alcestis. To my pleased surprise, I rediscovered an appreciation for the Bacchae, without the same identification with emotion, but recognising the greatness of the structure, the mingling of ecstasy, despair, grandeur, pettiness, awe and the crash to reality. Sure Euripides is not subtle in his messaging, but he paints in a flurry of colours with detail that can be obscured if you don't take your time with it. The extra detail here is mostly excellent. The short essays at the end cover key topics succinctly - and if you are thinking of taking this to Greece, the performance details help the imagining-how-theatres-actually-looked thing. But the footnotes - well - many of the footnotes are excellent, especially those relating to translation issues and meter. But many are just irritating, repeating definitions already given or just explaining very basic mythology (which was often clear from context in any case). If these had been distinguished between, it would have solved the problem, but I found myself continuously yanked out of the text uselessly, eventually being forced to choose between losing the interesting textual info or severely disrupted reading. On the whole, however, I would highly recommend this volume to Greek drama newbies and oldies alike. *One advantage at least of having just reread Thucydides was that I had the timeline of the Peloponnesian War fresh, and could appreciate the timing of the plays - and their undoubted critique of Athenia war atrocities -  better.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Nemo

    Let no one think me weak, worthless, or docile. Let me be thought the opposite of these: harsh with my enemies, gentle with my friends. Such people live lives of great renown. Ive been wanting to read Greek tragedies since reading The Birth of Tragedy and Gardners Art Through the Ages. It is known for its depiction of madness and prompting great emotions, Greek mythology emphasises sensuality and bloody crimes in their plays. It is about parricide, incest, suicide... all the most shameful and “Let no one think me weak, worthless, or docile. Let me be thought the opposite of these: harsh with my enemies, gentle with my friends. Such people live lives of great renown.” I’ve been wanting to read Greek tragedies since reading The Birth of Tragedy and Gardner’s Art Through the Ages. It is known for its depiction of madness and prompting great emotions, Greek mythology emphasises sensuality and bloody crimes in their plays. It is about parricide, incest, suicide... all the most shameful and astonishing sins humanity could commit, the sorrow and woe channeled into rancour and insanity with the intervention of the Gods that somehow represent metaphorically that part in our lives which we cannot control or violate. The plays have been great with this modern translation which seems less distant and easier to understand. But it loses its original grandness and adornment of words in return.

  8. 5 out of 5

    March

    Okay new translations; not outstanding as poetry, rather flat footed and overly literal (as footnotes make clear); certainly they do not "breathe new life" into these plays as advertised, but they do the job. This edition is absurdly overannotated, however -- obvious plot points are overexplained, or things already discussed in the preface are re-explained, etc. The word "tyrant" is repeatedly footnoted in OEDIPUS, with each footnote referring back to an earlier footnote -- even though the Okay new translations; not outstanding as poetry, rather flat footed and overly literal (as footnotes make clear); certainly they do not "breathe new life" into these plays as advertised, but they do the job. This edition is absurdly overannotated, however -- obvious plot points are overexplained, or things already discussed in the preface are re-explained, etc. The word "tyrant" is repeatedly footnoted in OEDIPUS, with each footnote referring back to an earlier footnote -- even though the preface already discussed the tyrant issue anyway. It is quite maddening. And sometimes the footnotes draw out an implication that a more effective translation would convey without need for explanation. Lacunae and corruptions in the manuscripts, which really SHOULD be footnoted, are distractingly signalled throughout the texts,with angle brackets and such. Also why is this anthology called "The" Greek "Plays," when only tragedies have been included?

  9. 4 out of 5

    Natalie

    4 plays are translated by Emily Wilson (The Odyssey)

  10. 4 out of 5

    CJ Spear

    The Greek plays are a window into the culture of Athens in the fifth century BC. Two-thousand five hundred years separate us, but in reading these plays, I feel connected in a way that makes the time feel insignificant. These Greeks were undeniably human, and they clearly felt all the complex emotion we are capable of today. Though the technology, culture, and language are vastly different, there is so much of myself that I see in every single one of these plays. Aeschylus wrote plays in a bold The Greek plays are a window into the culture of Athens in the fifth century BC. Two-thousand five hundred years separate us, but in reading these plays, I feel connected in a way that makes the time feel insignificant. These Greeks were undeniably human, and they clearly felt all the complex emotion we are capable of today. Though the technology, culture, and language are vastly different, there is so much of myself that I see in every single one of these plays. Aeschylus wrote plays in a bold fashion and commented on society at large. His plays are grand and show what Athenians thought of themselves. His unique use of the gods in 'The Eumenides' gave a divine blessing to some of the democratic institutions that still live on to this day, such as a jury trial. It is fitting that the jury trial seems to have all the immortality the gods themselves once had. Sophocles, through Oedipus Rex, devised a plot and a character so complex, it is seldom matched in our current day. In Antigone, Sophocles managed to balance the paradoxical aspect of Athenian life, the idea that we are individuals and citizens. The laws and needs of the city, of the collective, still clash with the principles and desires of the individual. Whether we take a side, this paradox is still apart of all of us in the modern world. No other culture believed in the divinity of the individual quite like the Greeks did, even going as far as to allow some of their heroes to become gods. The gods themselves were modeled after these ancient Greeks. It is peculiar then that they too are the first to put the needs of the many above the needs of the few in their creation of the democracy. This is a worthwhile contradiction to consider. Euripides wrote the most imaginative plays, creating such visceral deaths in Bacchae and Hippolytus, and the sharpest dialogue as heard from Medea, Helen, or the Trojan widows. He didn't care much for the gods, often depicting their meddling as selfish and borderline evil. The worst of humanity manifested. The Greeks didn't see their gods as above human baseness, but Euripides' slandering of them carried a deeper message: Morality, justice, and fairness are human conceptions, and foreign to the gods. Of these plays, I recommend reading: 'The Oresteia' - 'Antigone' - 'Trojan Women' - 'Bacchae'

  11. 5 out of 5

    Yousef M

    An excellent introduction to the three great Greek tragedians Aeschylus, Sophocles, and Euripides. There are 32 surviving plays (7 or 8 each for Aeschylus and Sophocles, the remaining attributed to Euripides) with about half them collected here. I finished all but three (a few Euripidean ones that I was already familiar with) and have separately reviewed them. The editors' choice of plays was spot on for someone like me venturing into Greek plays for the first time: from the famous, such as An excellent introduction to the three great Greek tragedians Aeschylus, Sophocles, and Euripides. There are 32 surviving plays (7 or 8 each for Aeschylus and Sophocles, the remaining attributed to Euripides) with about half them collected here. I finished all but three (a few Euripidean ones that I was already familiar with) and have separately reviewed them. The editors' choice of plays was spot on for someone like me venturing into Greek plays for the first time: from the famous, such as Aeschylus's Oresteia Trilogy, Sophocles's Theban Cycle, and Euripides's Medea to the less-well known such as the Persians and Alcestis. One play not included that is worth checking out is Euripides's Ion (I didn't read it, but the summary provided by Dr. Vandiver was intriguing especially as a contrast to Sophocles's famous Oedipus the King). All the plays have excellent footnotes and introductions giving a helpful summary and analysis. By chance, I read Ovid's Metamorphoses before turning to Greek tragedy and almost all of the tales which are the basis for each play or referenced within the plays were very familiar. In hindsight, I'm very glad I read Metamorphoses first as trying to grasp some of the background mythology would be confusing while going through each play. In addition to the plays, there are several excellent essays at the end of the book which touch on different topics such as the production of the plays to Greek audiences. Notable among these were two essays discussing Plato and Aristotle's views on theatre and tragedy, which were a great segue for me as I'm turning to Greek philosophers next, and an essay on post-classical reception of the Greek tragedies, which give a very thoroughly researched account of all film, plays, literature, and musical works over the last several centuries which have either adapted or been inspired by Greek plays.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Drew

    An excellent collection of some of the best Greek tragedy. (It's Modern Library, so you know it would be good! 😀). Before reading this collection, I read a great deal of Euripides and fell back in love with his writing. This volume did not change that opinion. I also enjoyed the selections of Sophocles and Aeschylus, noting that some that I liked in college but don't like now and vice versa. I found Aeschylus's Orestia trilogy just okay but his Persians good. I found "Prometheus Bound" to be An excellent collection of some of the best Greek tragedy. (It's Modern Library, so you know it would be good! 😀). Before reading this collection, I read a great deal of Euripides and fell back in love with his writing. This volume did not change that opinion. I also enjoyed the selections of Sophocles and Aeschylus, noting that some that I liked in college but don't like now and vice versa. I found Aeschylus's Orestia trilogy just okay but his Persians good. I found "Prometheus Bound" to be excellent. I didn't realize that it is only possibly by Aeschylus. In antiquity, it was assigned to him but more modern critics found it might have been by someone else, and later. This would make sense with my reading and my overall feelings on Aeschylus. I didn't enjoy his plays as much in college or now, but I was blown away by Prometheus Bound. I felt it was so much more powerfully written than his other works. Turning to Sophocles, I found his "Oedipus the King" and Antigone to be very good while "Oedipus at Colonus" was just good. I thought his Electra was more "meh". Closing with Euripides, I found Alcestis and Medea to be most excellent, especially the Alcestis. I wasn't as intrigued by Hippolytus and thought his Electra was pretty bad. I found the "Trojan Women" and Helen" to be good once they got going, but were slow starters. Like Sophocles' Electra, I found Euripides Bacchae to be just "meh". It took me awhile to work through this great volume. Each play was introduced with historical background, plot information, and analysis. Within the play, there were copious notes explaining translation choices, meanings from the times, etc. And the book concluded with some short appendices that were very useful. Overall, an outstanding achievement by Mary Lefkowitz and James Romm.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Stewart Simpson

    These ancient greek plays are unique to that age and really shows how sophisticated the greeks were. My favorite play was the Agamemnon because of all the ironies that were displayed in it. A great thing about this edition is that there are tons of footnotes that help the audience understand all the references that are made in the play.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Josiah Gray

    I've read about four of them. All terrific!

  15. 4 out of 5

    Louise Filou

    Working my way through one play at a time.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Hayden Simpson

    this is a great collection of greek plays. I thought that the notes were very helpful in more understanding what i was reading.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Cara

    This book holds beautiful translations, succinct and enjoyable introductions to each play, and an overall beautiful collection of some phenomenal tragedies from the ancient Mediterranean.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Mariel

    Prometheus Bound 2/25/2020

  19. 4 out of 5

    Philip Thiel

  20. 4 out of 5

    Alexis T

  21. 5 out of 5

    Harper Alexander

  22. 4 out of 5

    Jim

  23. 5 out of 5

    Kristi Thomas

  24. 4 out of 5

    James

  25. 4 out of 5

    Bob

  26. 4 out of 5

    Tanaya Sen

  27. 5 out of 5

    Akayla Lewis

  28. 4 out of 5

    Bret

  29. 5 out of 5

    Mittagessen

  30. 5 out of 5

    Justin

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