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Sophocles the Kolōnos (c. 496 - c. 406 BCE) was one of the many famous and also celebrated authors of tragedy dram in old Greece and his enduring works, composed throughout the 5th century BCE, include such classics as Oedipus Rex, Antigone, and Women of Trachis.

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As with various other Greek plays, Sophocles" occupational is not just a record of Greek theatre but also provides an invaluable understanding into many of the political and also social elements of ancient Greece, from household relations to details the Greek religion. In addition, Sophocles" advancements in theatre presentation would provide the foundations for every future western dramatic performance, and his plays proceed to it is in performed this day in theatres around the world.

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The three an excellent Greek tragedians to be Aeschylus (c. 525 - c. 456 BCE), Euripides (c. 484 - 407 BCE), and Sophocles. Their works were usually very first performed in groups of threes (not necessarily trilogies) in such spiritual festivals as the competitions of Dionysos Eleuthereus, notably the City Dionysia in Athens. The theatre were often performed again in lesser theatres around Greece, and the ideal were even spread in written type for windy reading, maintained as main state papers for posterity, and also studied as part of the conventional Greek education.


Sophocles had an exceptionally lengthy career. His an initial competition entry remained in 468 BCE and also his critical (whilst tho alive) remained in 406 BCE when he to be 90. Plainly a an excellent admirer of his other playwrights, Sophocles even dressed the actors and chorus the his last play in mourning to mark the death of Euripides in 407 BCE. Sophocles won at least 20 festival competitions, consisting of 18 at the City Dionysia. He additionally came second many times and also never had the ignominy of gift voted 3rd and last in competitions. Sophocles was, therefore, at least in terms of victories, the most successful of the three good tragedians.

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As a child, Sophocles had actually been the cook dancer in the festivities come celebrate victory over the Persians in 479 BCE. Early in his career Sophocles even acted in his own plays, however due to a weak voice he worked out into the duty of writer only. The playwright, based upon his valuable experience of acting no doubt, appears to have had a favourite principal actor, one Tlepolemus. Regarding Sophocles" character we have clues from Aristophanes, the great writer that Greek Comedy, who defines his contemporary as "easy-going" and also "relaxed".

Outside of theatre life, Sophocles was additionally an active member of the Athenian polis. He was a state treasurer (hellenotamiai) in between 443 and 442 BCE and also a basic (alongside Pericles) connected with placing down the rebellion on Samos in c. 441 BCE. In 413 BCE he sat on the ten-man board of directors (the probouloi) which was convened to attend to the dilemm of Athens" failure Sicilian expedition versus Syracuse. In later on life the playwright was associated in a legal fight with his kid who claimed his father to be senile and so search his inheritance and control that the family members property. We recognize that Sophocles to be a pious individual and actually a priest in the hero cult that Halon. Following his death, the tragedian was self honoured v a cult as soon as he to be renamed Dexion.

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Approach & Innovation

Tremendously renowned in his own time, Sophocles to be also an innovative playwright, together he added a third actor to the tragedy beat format and also was the very first to employ painted scenery (to suggest a countryside scene, for example), occasionally even an altering scenery during the play. The use of three actors (playing lot of roles and also wearing masks) to be a significant breakthrough as currently much an ext sophisticated plots ended up being possible. Sophocles, therefore, stands in between the earlier Aeschylus and the later Euripides. Sophocles was an ext interested in realistic activity than his predecessors yet kept the chorus segment (a group of as much as 15 actors that sang fairly than spoke their lines) together a an ext participatory cast member than his successors. For Sophocles the chorus became both a protagonist and a commentator ~ above the occasions of the play, producing a closer partnership with the audience.


Greek Tragedy Mask
Mark Cartwright (CC BY-NC-SA)

Sophocles was additionally a great user the theatrical metaphor, for example, remote in the Oedipus plays and bestiality in Women that Trachis, and his work-related in general sought to provoke and also disturb the audience indigenous their prepared acceptance of what is "normal" and what is not, forcing them v the play"s characters to make complicated or even impossible choices. Other methods he offered to convey meaning and focus were dramatic entrances and exits the actors and also the recurring use of far-reaching props such as the urn in Electra and the sword in Ajax. Finally, in the language itself the Sophocles used we see much more innovation. Rich language, very formalised but with flexibility added by running over sentences and including segment of much more "natural" speech, and the inexplicable use the pauses result in Sophocles achieve a higher rhythm, fluidity, and also dramatic stress and anxiety than his contemporaries.

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The dram of Sophocles, prefer those that his contemporaries, attracted on classic tales the Greek mythology. This was the convention of tragedy (tragōida), and the familiarity that the story and setup to the audience enabled the writer to focus on certain elements and also interpret lock in a novel way. Sophocles is very often no so pertained to with what occurred (the audience already knew this) but with how these occasions happened. Another typical feature is that among the major characters, there is commonly a hero number with outstanding abilities who over-confidence and also pride ensure a tragic ending.

One the his most well known works is Antigone in which the command character payment the can be fried price because that burying her brother Polynices versus the wishes of King Kreon the Thebes. That is a classic situation of tragedy - the political ideal of having actually the traitor Polynices denied burial rites is contrasted versus the ethical right the a sister seeking to lay to rest her brother. A theme that runs with Sophocles" work is best battling versus right and also that the characters are failure in their interpretation of events. Only once tragedy results, when in fact, the is all too late, carry out the personalities recognise truth.


Theatre the Segesta
Mark Cartwright (CC BY-NC-SA)

Sophocles" Works

We know that Sophocles wrote about 120 theatre in all however these have actually survived just in a fragmentary form. A reasonable chunk of the satyr beat The Searchers survives but in many instances only a few lines have endured the ravages that time. Sophocles" seven surviving complete tragedies are:

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Antigone (c. 442 BCE) about a mrs torn between public and private duty.Oedipus Rex aka Oedipus the King (429 - 420 BCE) about the well known king who loved his mother a small too much.Electra (date unknown) around two siblings that take revenge for their father"s murder.

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Below is a choice of extracts indigenous Sophocles" work:

Setting the disastrous scene:

ChorusAm ns deluded, or carry out I listen a lamentation just emerging in the house? What am i saying? someone is uttering no muted cry, yet one the sorrow, and also there is new trouble in the house. An alert how sadly, and with what a cloud upon right here eyes, the old mrs is approaching us to tell us something.(863-870, Women the Trachis)

How passion is difficult to master, and if left uncontrolled, have the right to lead to tragedy:

Whoever stands approximately Eros prefer a boxer is a fool; because that he rules me.(440-441, Women of Trachis)

That everything happens, one can frequently only blame oneself:

ChorusIt is you, whose fate is grievous, who have actually chosen this; this fortune has actually not concerned you indigenous one much more powerful; for as soon as it was possible to show great sense, you made decision to provide the worse, rather than the much better fate.(1095-1100, Philoctetes)

A cautionary tale and the ethical of the story:

ChorusGood sense is by far the chief component of happiness; and we should not it is in impious towards the gods. The great words that boasters are always punished with good blows, and also as they prosper old teach lock wisdom.(1348-1353, the final lines the Antigone)

That ultimately, one should accept one"s fate:

ChorusCome, cease her lament and do not arouse the more! because that in all ways these points stand fast.(1777-1779, the final lines that Oedipus at Colonnus)


Sophocles then, has not only noted us with several masterpieces the literature, but through his innovations he additionally helped develop the standard formula because that Greek Tragedy, which in addition to Greek Comedy, would specify the structures of all western theatre for millennia. The work-related of Sophocles has additionally escaped the borders of theatre and provoked discussion and also reaction in other fields, notably psychology and also the work of Sigmund Freud, i beg your pardon is possibly testimony come the depth and also difficulties of interpretation in the theatre of this great Greek master.