Sophocles(redirected from Attic Bee)
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See studies by C. H. Whitman (1951), A. J. A. Waldock (1966), R. P. Winnington-Ingram (1980), C. Segal (1981), and S. Goldhill (2012).
Born circa 496 B.C.; died circa 406 B.C. Ancient Greek playwright.
Sophocles was born in Colonus, a suburb of Athens. He was elected to important government posts and was close to the circle of Pericles. According to classical sources, he wrote more than 120 dramas and won his first victory in contests of tragic poets in 468 B.C. The following tragedies have been preserved in their entirety: Ajax (before 442), Antigone (about 441), Oedipus Tyrannus (about 425), Philoctetes (409), Trachiniae (date unknown), Electra (date unknown), and Oedipus at Colonus (staged 401). Many fragments of his other works have survived.
Sophocles’ world view reflects the complexity and inner contradictions of Athenian democracy at its height. On the one hand, the democratic ideology that arose on the basis of the “joint private property of the active citizens of the state” (K. Marx and F. Engels, Soch., 2nd ed., vol. 3, p. 21) saw the absolute power of divine providence and the immutability of traditional beliefs as its bulwark; on the other hand, because the individual had more freedom of development in Athens than anywhere else at the time, the tendency to free the individual from the relationships of the polis gathered strength. The will of the gods could not provide a satisfactory explanation for the tribulations that are the fate of man, and Sophocles, concerned with maintaining the unity of the polis, did not try to justify the gods’ rule of the world by any ethical considerations. At the same time, he was attracted by the active man who is responsible for his decisions.
In Ajax, the hero realizes that his actions are incompatible with the moral code of the valorous leader and finds freedom from shame and dishonor in voluntary death. In Oedipus Tyrannus, the hero’s relentless inquiry into the secret of his birth and past makes him objectively responsible for his involuntary crimes, although it does not provide any grounds for interpreting the tragedy in categories of subjective guilt and the gods’ revenge. Antigone is a person of integrity and unflagging resolve in her heroic defense of the “unwritten” laws against the arbitrary actions of an individual clothed with the authority of the state.
Sophocles brought out only the essential features of his characters; his heroes are not excessively personalized and are moved largely by ideals. By introducing a third actor, Sophocles was able to increase the tension in the unfolding of the plot and enrich the portrayal of the persons involved in the action. Although he increased the chorus to 15 persons, the choral parts are much smaller and much less important in his tragedies than in the works of Aeschylus.
The themes and images of Sophocles were used by later classical writers (Accius, Seneca) and by modern European writers from the classicist period (J. Rotrou, P. Corneille) to the 20th century (J. Giraudoux, J. Anouilh, B. Brecht). In their research and pronouncements on the theory of tragedy, G. E. Lessing, J. W. von Goethe, A. W. von Schlegel, F. von Schlegel, F. Schiller, and V. G. Belinskii showed a profound interest in the work of Sophocles. Since the mid-19th century, the tragedies of Sophocles have been performed in theaters all over the world.
WORKSSophocle: Tragédies, vols. 1–3. Paris, 1955–60.
In Russian translation:
Dramy, vols. 1–3. Translated by F. Zelinskii. Moscow, 1914–15.
Tragedii. Translated by S. Shervinskii. Moscow, 1958.
REFERENCESRadtsig, S. I. “K voprosu o mirovozzrenii Sofokla.” Vestnik drevnei istorii, 1957, no. 4.
Lesky, A. Die tragische Dichtung der Hellenen, 3rd ed. Göttingen, 1972. Pages 169–274.
V. N. IARKHO