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Tragedy of my own choice: which one to pick?

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Tragedy of my own choice: which one to pick?

Postby GJCaesar » Wed Dec 04, 2013 8:02 am

Dear fellow fanatics,

I am priveleged to choose any tragedy by Sophocles or Aeschylus for a course in my final year at university. I have to admit that I am not very familiar with tragedy as such, but that is what the course is all about: getting familiar with it.
Since there already is a Euripides course, my teacher said that I can choose any tragedy I want from S. or A. , and we will discuss/translate/interpretate it all together (I am probably on my own, so this is a great oppurtunity to learn more in a short amount of time!)

So my basic questions are:
-Aeschylus or Sophocles?
-What tragedy? (I thought Ajax (S.) looked quite interesting, but they all do really.. )

I thank you in advance for any advice. Feel free to send or tell me anything you'd like.

Kind regards,
Gaius Iulius Caesar
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Re: Tragedy of my own choice: which one to pick?

Postby Scribo » Wed Dec 04, 2013 10:30 am

It really does depend what you're after, in terms of sheer difficulty I'd usually suggest the Medea with Mastronade's commentary which introduces most of the workings of the genre and language painlessly, it might be worth going through that anyway before you start.

A&S: Are all good, really, though I'd personally recommend Aesc. Seven against Thebes, easily my favourite Greek tragedy.
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Re: Tragedy of my own choice: which one to pick?

Postby GJCaesar » Wed Dec 04, 2013 10:59 am

Thanks for your response Scribo.

I will look into the possibility of the Seven against Thebes. I just emailed my professor to see if there are any catches. I was actually more tended in the direction of Sophocles, but maybe Aeschylus is good for a change! I'll spend some time tonight to look for more information and differences between the two.

GJC
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Re: Tragedy of my own choice: which one to pick?

Postby cb » Wed Dec 04, 2013 5:41 pm

hi, i suggest before you make your choice you read a great book called surviving greek tragedy. if the title repels you (as it did for me when i first saw it), having read it several times, you can understand the word "surviving" in the title to mean "the tragedy that's survived to our times", i.e. "extant", rather than "coming through tragedy with psychological wholeness" or some other modern idea that's beyond me. it goes through the different plays that have been popular/most commented at different points in the history from then to now and so may help you make your choice -- there are better ancient/byzantine/modern resources for some plays compared to others.

my personal favourite is ajax. i keep printed near my PC at work, as well as sappho's first poem (one of my oldest daughter's favourite songs for bedtime) and my favourite quote from heraclitus "ἀνθρώποις γίνεσθαι ὁκόσα θέλουσιν οὐκ ἄμεινον", these lines from the ajax: 125 ὁρῶ γὰρ ἡμᾶς οὐδὲν ὄντας ἄλλο πλὴν 126 εἴδωλ᾽ ὅσοιπερ ζῶμεν ἢ κούφην σκιάν.

but then if you read that book i referred to above you may find yourself leaning to aeschylus or euripides…

you can't really go wrong though with a choice, i think this topic just allows us all to voice our personal preferences :)

cheers, chad
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Re: Tragedy of my own choice: which one to pick?

Postby Scribo » Wed Dec 04, 2013 6:06 pm

cb wrote:hi, i suggest before you make your choice you read a great book called surviving greek tragedy. if the title repels you (as it did for me when i first saw it), having read it several times, you can understand the word "surviving" in the title to mean "the tragedy that's survived to our times", i.e. "extant", rather than "coming through tragedy with psychological wholeness" or some other modern idea that's beyond me. it goes through the different plays that have been popular/most commented at different points in the history from then to now and so may help you make your choice -- there are better ancient/byzantine/modern resources for some plays compared to others.



Oh my Gods please someone write that, an essay at least. My oh my. :lol:
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Re: Tragedy of my own choice: which one to pick?

Postby Markos » Wed Dec 04, 2013 6:37 pm

cb wrote:...there are better ancient/byzantine/modern resources for some plays compared to others...


Are there any available simplified Ancient Greek paraphrases of any of the tragedies similar to Gaza's Greek paraphrase of the Iliad?

The most innovative, if not one of the best, modern resources for a tragedy might be:

http://www.amazon.com/Paralinear-Oreste ... paralinear

Steadman's edition of Oedipus Rex is available on line, but not yet, I think, through Amazon.
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Re: Tragedy of my own choice: which one to pick?

Postby Paul Derouda » Wed Dec 04, 2013 7:17 pm

I have only read two tragedies in Greek myself, Aeschylus' Agamemnon and Euripides' Trojan Women. I haven't read any other even in translation, so I can't really contribute much as to which tragedy would be most interesting for you. But one thing to note is that the Greek of some tragedies is much more difficult than that of others. Usually they say Euripides is easiest and Aeschylus is hardest, and Sophocles somewhere between. At least for me this seemed true, I read Trojan Women in a couple of consecutive evenings with not much trouble, without any commentary. Agamemnon, on the other hand, was really, really hard. There was scarcely one single sentence that wasn't difficult, even with all sorts of help. Aeschylus can be seriously hard, unless you're pretty good in Greek. If what they say is true and Sophocles is easier, that's a serious reason to read him first. If I had known how difficult Agamemnon was, I would definitely have left it for later and read more easier tragedies first.
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Re: Tragedy of my own choice: which one to pick?

Postby Paul Derouda » Wed Dec 04, 2013 7:27 pm

On the other hand, if you're going to get a lot of help from your professor, that might be a good reason to pick something hard, to get maximum benefit!
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Re: Tragedy of my own choice: which one to pick?

Postby GJCaesar » Wed Dec 04, 2013 7:29 pm

Paul Derouda wrote:I have only read two tragedies in Greek myself, Aeschylus' Agamemnon and Euripides' Trojan Women. I haven't read any other even in translation, so I can't really contribute much as to which tragedy would be most interesting for you. But one thing to note is that the Greek of some tragedies is much more difficult than that of others. Usually they say Euripides is easiest and Aeschylus is hardest, and Sophocles somewhere between. At least for me this seemed true, I read Trojan Women in a couple of consecutive evenings with not much trouble, without any commentary. Agamemnon, on the other hand, was really, really hard. There was scarcely one single sentence that wasn't difficult, even with all sorts of help. Aeschylus can be seriously hard, unless you're pretty good in Greek. If what they say is true and Sophocles is easier, that's a serious reason to read him first. If I had known how difficult Agamemnon was, I would definitely have left it for later and read more easier tragedies first.


Thanks for your input! I decided before having read all your nice comments, but I will go for Ajax ;). Guess I am good then, difficulty wise. I am ''moderately'' good in Greek, it's my major and everything, but I don't have any experience with tragedy. Your note about the easiness of Euripides is a good one, I read a topic somewhere else this afternoon that said the same!

I took a quick look at the Ajax' text and it looks okay. Guess all that remains is picking a good commentary and start my adventure with the well-known hero!

Again, thank you all so much!

(now, after my choice, I would have taken Agamemnon just for it's difficulty, but well .. Maybe that one is next!) :wink:
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Re: Tragedy of my own choice: which one to pick?

Postby GJCaesar » Wed Dec 04, 2013 7:30 pm

Paul Derouda wrote:On the other hand, if you're going to get a lot of help from your professor, that might be a good reason to pick something hard, to get maximum benefit!


That is so true. But I couldn't really decide so I just went for Ajax. I will read Agamemnon soon though! (I love difficult stuff :) )
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Re: Tragedy of my own choice: which one to pick?

Postby Paul Derouda » Wed Dec 04, 2013 7:56 pm

Hmm... This thread made wonder why I haven't read any Sophocles myself yet. I even have one completely untouched Loeb by Sophocles (actually precisely the one with Ajax, which is the first play in the book!). Maybe I'll start reading it myself! I don't know about this Loeb, but generally I think the new Loebs are great. Anyway, if you want discuss some passages with other people than your professor, post here and probably somebody will get interested. :)
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Re: Tragedy of my own choice: which one to pick?

Postby GJCaesar » Wed Dec 04, 2013 8:32 pm

Paul Derouda wrote:Hmm... This thread made wonder why I haven't read any Sophocles myself yet. I even have one completely untouched Loeb by Sophocles (actually precisely the one with Ajax, which is the first play in the book!). Maybe I'll start reading it myself! I don't know about this Loeb, but generally I think the new Loebs are great. Anyway, if you want discuss some passages with other people than your professor, post here and probably somebody will get interested. :)


What a coincidence! I guess you should start with it as well then. I might buy the Loeb, but my university library has quite a great collection on Ajax, and it also contains the expensive Finglass commentary, as well as the Jebb commentary (the old one AND the revised one). And I know for a fact that the Loeb is there as well. Only problem is that I can't take the books out, since they are in the ''open room'', so not available to lend. :cry:

Maybe I will bump into an old Loeb, then it will be mine for sure!
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Re: Tragedy of my own choice: which one to pick?

Postby Scribo » Wed Dec 04, 2013 8:33 pm

The new loebs are by Lloyd-Jones, so of course they're phenomenal. The Aias has an absolutely phenomenal commentary by P Finglass but if you're just having trouble reading it I'm told the commentario cum translatio by Garvie (Aris and Phillips?) is a wonder, but that's second hand information. If you're set on the Aias (and why not?) then I suggest you try and get a copy of the latter.

Tragedy wise I'm basically exactly where I was last time this topic came up, all Sophocles and Aeschylus, slowly slowly making progress with Euripides but I generally can't stand him and really hate that I'm expected to have read them all. Awful poet for effeminate half men, Aristophanes got him right.

Aeschylus is a wonder, he writes like a man and reading the hepta I get the impression I'd very much like him at my back in a fight.

I think though that if you really want to do the Aias, do it, actually wanting to do something which make it much easier and its one hell of a play.
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Re: Tragedy of my own choice: which one to pick?

Postby GJCaesar » Wed Dec 04, 2013 8:41 pm

Scribo wrote:The new loebs are by Lloyd-Jones, so of course they're phenomenal. The Aias has an absolutely phenomenal commentary by P Finglass but if you're just having trouble reading it I'm told the commentario cum translatio by Garvie (Aris and Phillips?) is a wonder, but that's second hand information. If you're set on the Aias (and why not?) then I suggest you try and get a copy of the latter.

Tragedy wise I'm basically exactly where I was last time this topic came up, all Sophocles and Aeschylus, slowly slowly making progress with Euripides but I generally can't stand him and really hate that I'm expected to have read them all. Awful poet for effeminate half men, Aristophanes got him right.

Aeschylus is a wonder, he writes like a man and reading the hepta I get the impression I'd very much like him at my back in a fight.

I think though that if you really want to do the Aias, do it, actually wanting to do something which make it much easier and its one hell of a play.


You literally caught me in the act. I was just looking for commentaries, and I see that the Garvie one is only 20 euros, which seems a fair price to me! I have fond memories of the Aris and Philip commentaries. The Seneca one helped me quite a lot (I just don't like the guy.. I'm sorry :roll: ).

Maybe the library has it, but I might buy that one just to have a commentary at hand for when I don't study at the university. Thanks a lot Scribo. And yes, I do hope it's one hell of a play!
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Re: Tragedy of my own choice: which one to pick?

Postby Paul Derouda » Wed Dec 04, 2013 9:51 pm

Garvie's commentary on Odyssey 6-8 is super I think. If his Aias is anything even close, it must be good.
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Re: Tragedy of my own choice: which one to pick?

Postby Scribo » Sun Dec 08, 2013 7:35 pm

Yeah people seem to love it, I asked a student who used it and said it was very helpful and its on all the reading lists. The Aias seems to have been a popular commentary target though, I've noticed books by Stanford and Jebb too. Of course, how many of these are geared towards explicating the text for students and how many are meant for people working with the text is anyone's guess, though its always amusing to watch people complain that an OUP or CUP Orange isn't giving basic grammatical help, I swear some people are insanely self centred. There was one of those Tumblur blog thingies which was full of hilarious complaints.

So, I've cracked open my Sophocles again and started re-reading the Aias, I'm going to go back through Finglass too in case I'm missing too much, since my own notes might as well be in an obscure dialect of Chinese. I have forgot how wonderful this play is, I don't know I just love the use of language and just the overall...reaction it gets from me. Soph still doesn't topple Aeschylus for me though, but it really is rather good.
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Re: Tragedy of my own choice: which one to pick?

Postby GJCaesar » Mon Dec 09, 2013 8:07 am

Scribo wrote:Yeah people seem to love it, I asked a student who used it and said it was very helpful and its on all the reading lists. The Aias seems to have been a popular commentary target though, I've noticed books by Stanford and Jebb too. Of course, how many of these are geared towards explicating the text for students and how many are meant for people working with the text is anyone's guess, though its always amusing to watch people complain that an OUP or CUP Orange isn't giving basic grammatical help, I swear some people are insanely self centred. There was one of those Tumblur blog thingies which was full of hilarious complaints.

So, I've cracked open my Sophocles again and started re-reading the Aias, I'm going to go back through Finglass too in case I'm missing too much, since my own notes might as well be in an obscure dialect of Chinese. I have forgot how wonderful this play is, I don't know I just love the use of language and just the overall...reaction it gets from me. Soph still doesn't topple Aeschylus for me though, but it really is rather good.


It really is a good thing that there are written various commentaries for different target groups. That way, everyone can enjoy a tragedy in its own way :).

I will not start with the Aias until january, since I am not home yet, but it's good to have a fellow reader! :wink: I am excited to start reading it. I might do an Aeschylus one next summer, after I got my bachelor degree. I'm quite busy, but your comments about Aeschylus give me a little push towards the library once more.. :wink:
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Re: Tragedy of my own choice: which one to pick?

Postby GJCaesar » Mon Dec 09, 2013 8:49 pm

I just received a message about my Euripides course: Iphigeneia in Tauris.

Now I am even more excited to go back home! ;)
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