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Sophocles, the son of Sophillus, was a wealthy member of the rural deme (small community) of Hippeios Colonus in Attica, which was to become a setting for one of his plays; and he was probably born there, a few years before the Battle of Marathon in 490 BC: the exact year is unclear, but 497/6 is most likely.
Sophocles, with Aeschylus and Euripides, one of classical Athens’s three great tragic playwrights. The best known of his 123 dramas is Oedipus the King. Among his other notable works are Antigone, Ajax, Philoctetes, Trachinian Women, and Electra. Learn more about his life and works in this article.
Sep 29, 2013 · Sophocles won at least 20 festival competitions, including 18 at the City Dionysia. He also came second many times and never had the ignominy of being voted third and last in competitions. Sophocles was, therefore, at least in terms of victories, the most successful of the three great tragedians.
- Mark Cartwright
Sophocles’ long life spans most of the 5 th Century and coincides with the peak of Athenian political and cultural achievements. When Sophocles was still a child, the Greek city states won a decisive victory against the invading Persian armies in 490 BCE and again in 480.
- Early years
- Early history
The son of Sophilus, a well-to-do industrialist, Sophocles was born in Colonus near Athens and grew up in the most brilliant intellectual period of Athens. Nothing concrete is known about his education, though it is known that he had a reputation for learning and esthetic taste. He was well versed in Homer and the Greek lyric poets, and because of his industriousness he was known as the \\"Attic Bee.\\" His music teacher was a great man of the old school, Lamprus. Tradition says that because of his beauty and talent Sophocles was chosen to lead the male chorus at the celebration of the Greek victory at Salamis.
In 468 B.C., at age 28, Sophocles defeated Aeschylus in one of the drama contests that were then fashionable. During the remainder of his career he never won less than second prize and gained first prize more than any other Greek tragedian. He was also known for his amiability and sociability which epitomized the ideal Athenian gentleman (kaloskagathos). In public life he distinguished himself as a man of affairs. In 443-442 he held the post of Hellenotamias, or imperial treasurer, and was elected general at least twice. His religious activities included service as priest of the healing divinity, and he turned over his house for the worship of Asclepius until a proper temple could be built. For this he was honored with the title Dexion as a hero after his death. He is reported to have written a paean in honor of Asclepius. Sophocles had two sons, lophon and Sophocles, by his first wife, Nicostrata, and he had a third son, Ariston, by his second wife, Theoris.
Of approximately 125 tragedies that Sophocles is said to have written, only 7 have survived. Since we have but a fraction of the plays he wrote, general comments on Sophoclean drama are based on the extant plays. However, Plutarch tells us that there were three periods in Sophocles's literary development: imitation of the grand style of Aeschylus, use of artificial and incisive style, and use of the best style and that which is most expressive of character. It is only from the third period that we have examples.
The dates of the seven extant plays of Sophocles are not all certain. Three are known: Antigone, 442/441; Philoctetes, 409; and Oedipus at Colonus, 401 (posthumously). C. H. Whitman has argued for 447 for the Ajax, about 437-432 for the Trachiniae, about 429 for the Oedipus Rex, and 418-414 for the Electra.
The Antigone has been interpreted as depicting the conflict between divine and secular law, between devotion to family and to the state, and between the arete of the heroine and the inadequacy of society represented by an illegal tyrant. Oedipus Rex is a superb example of dramatic irony. It is not a play about sex or murder; it is a play about the inadequacy of human knowledge and man's capacity to survive almost intolerable suffering. The worst of all things happens to Oedipus: unknowingly he kills his own father, Laius, and is given his own mother, Jocasta, in marriage for slaying the Sphinx. When a plague at Thebes compels him to consult the oracle, he finds that he himself is the cause of the affliction. The Electra is Sophocles's only play that can be compared thematically with works of Aeschylus (Libation Bearers) and Euripides (Electra). Again Sophocles concentrates on a character under stress. Described as the most grim of all Greek tragedies, Electra suggests a flaw in the universe. It is less concerned with moral issues than the other two Electra plays. An oppressed and harassed Electra anxiously awaits the return of her avenging brother, Orestes. He returns secretly, first spreading the news that Orestes was killed in a chariot accident. Electra is constantly at the tomb of her father but is warned by her sister, Chrysothemis, about her constant wailing. Clytemnestra, disturbed by an ominous dream, sends Chrysothemis to offer libations at the tomb. A quarrel between Clytemnestra and Electra demonstrates the impossibility of reconciliation between mother and daughter. A messenger announcing the death of Orestes and carrying an urn with his ashes stirs up maternal feelings in Clytemnestra, despair in Chrysothemis, and determination to wreak vengeance on her mother and Aegisthus, her mother's consort, in Electra. The appearance of Orestes rejuvenates Electra, and together they do away with Clytemnestra and Aegisthus. The chorus rejoices that justice has triumphed. The Electra of Sophocles may have been written as an answer to Euripides's Electra. Matricide and murder are fully justified, Clytemnestra and Aegisthus are completely and utterly evil, and Electra avenges her father's death relentlessly and almost psychopathically.
In this play Sophocles poignantly raises the question, \\"Why can knowledge hurt?\\" He stresses the dilemma of the person who unintentionally hurts those whom he loves. The question of the role of knowledge in human affairs prepares us for the Oedipus, his greatest play and the work that Aristotle considered the perfect Greek play and many have considered the greatest play of all time.
No summary can do this amazing play justice. Sophocles brings up the question of justice. Why is there irrational evil in the world? Why does the very man who is basically good suffer intolerably? The answer is found in the concept of dikēbalance, order, justice. The world is orderly and follows natural laws. No matter how good or how well intentioned man may be, if he violates a natural law, he will be punished and he will suffer. Human knowledge is limited, but there is nobility in human suffering.
In the Philoctetes, Odysseus is sent with young Neoptolemus, the son of Achilles, from Troy to the allegedly uninhabited island of Lemnos to bring back Philoctetes with his bow and his arrows to effect the capture of Troy. Urged by Odysseus to do his assignment, Neoptolemus, after gaining Philoctetes's confidence suffers pangs of conscience over the old man and refuses to deceive him. He returns Philoctetes's weapons and promises to take him home. A deus ex machina finally convinces Philoctetes to return to Troy voluntarily. The Philoctetes clearly shows how man and society can come into conflict, how society can discard an individual when it does not need him, and how the individual with technological knowhow can bring society to its knees. The Oedipus at Colonus, produced posthumously, is the most loosely structured, most lyrical, and longest of Sophoclean dramas. It brings to a conclusion Sophocles's concern with the Oedipus theme. Exiled by Creon, in concurrence with Eteocles and Polyneices, Oedipus becomes a wandering beggar accompanied by his daughter Antigone. He stumbles into a sacred grove of the Eumenides at Colonus, and the chorus of Elders is shocked to discover his identity. Oedipus justifies his past and asks that Theseus be summoned. Theseus arrives and promises him asylum, but Creon, first deceitfully, then by force, tries to remove Oedipus. Theseus comes to the rescue and thwarts Creon. The arrival of his son Polyneices produces thunderous rage in Oedipus, who curses both him and Eteocles. Oedipus soon senses his impending death and allows only Theseus to witness the event by which he is transfigured into a hero and a saint.
\\"Many are the wonders of the world,\\" says Sophocles in the first stasimon of the Antigone, \\"but none is more wonderful than man.\\" Sophocles's humanism is nowhere more concisely manifest than in this famous quotation. Man is able to overcome all kinds of obstacles and is able to be remarkably inventive and creative, but he is mortal and hence limited, despite an optimistic, progressive outlook. Suffering is an inherent part of the nature of things, but learning can be gained, and through suffering man can achieve nobility and dignity.
Sophocles' last work, Oedipus at Colonus, presents the death of Oedipus; it was produced in 401 B.C., five years after the playwright's own death. Of all the surviving plays, the tragedies of the Oedipus Trilogy — Oedipus the King , Oedipus at Colonus , and Antigone — are the best known and most often produced.
Sophocles (Sophokles) was the second of the three great ancient Greek tragedians (after Aeschylus and before Euripides) whose work has survived. Only seven of his 123 plays have survived in a complete form but, for almost fifty years, he was the most-awarded playwright in the Dionysia dramatic competitions of the city-state of Athens.
Sophocles was an ancient Greek playwright, born in Colonus near Athens, Greece in 496 B.C.E. His father, Sophilus, was a rich member of a small community, the rural ‘Deme’. Sophocles was highly educated. He is one of three Greek tragedians whose plays have lived on.
- Sophocles wrote over 120 plays during the course of his life, but only seven have survived in a complete form: Ajax, Antigone, The Women of Trachis, Oedipus Rex, Electra, Philoctetes and Oediups At Colonus.
- For almost 50 years, Sophocles was the most celebrated playwright in the dramatic competitions of the city-state of Athens that took place during the religious festivals of the Lenaea and the Dionysia.
- He competed in 30 competitions, won 24, and was never judged lower than second place.
- Aeschylus won 13 competitions, and was sometimes defeated by Sophocles, while Euripides won 4 competitions.
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