Oedipus, the former ruler of Thebes, has died. Now, when his young daughter Antigone defies her uncle, Kreon, the new ruler, because he has prohibited the burial of her dead brother, she and he enact a primal conflict between young and old, woman and man, individual and ruler, family and state, courageous and self-sacrificing reverence for the gods of the earth and perhaps self-serving allegiance to the gods of the sky. Echoing through western culture for more than two millennia, Sophocles' Antigone has been a touchstone of thinking about human conflict and human tragedy, the role of the divine in human life, and the degree to which men and women are the creators of their own destiny. This exciting new translation of the play is extremely faithful to the Greek, eminently playable, and poetically powerful. For readers, actors, students, teachers, and theatrical directors, this new translation of one of the greatest plays in the history of the western world provides the best combination of contemporary, powerful language, along with superb background and notes on meaning, interpretation, and ancient beliefs, attitudes, and contexts.


The final stages of my work on the play overlapped with a Fellowship from the National Endowment for the Humanities, which was awarded for another project, but nevertheless contributed to the efficient completion of the book. I am deeply grateful to the Endowment for their support.

I completed work on this volume at a time when Antigone's lament about being between upper and lower worlds took on an intensely personal meaning as I faced a life-threatening illness. I cannot list all the friends, colleagues, and students, past and present, who offered their help, encouragement, and prayers, but they are all gratefully remembered. I would like particularly to thank my Harvard colleagues for their many kindnesses, especially Kathleen Coleman, Albert Henrichs, and Richard Thomas, chair of the department. I am deeply grateful to the medical professionals whose expertise and concern enabled me to finish my share in the volume and indeed to continue looking on the light of the sun: Drs. Christopher Colie, Keith Stuart, and David S. Rosenthal and Ms. Judith Podymatis, RN. My collaborator, Reg Gibbons, not only made several long trips so that we could work together in the best possible way, by face-to-face discussions, but remained a steadfast and involved friend on whom I could also count for support. I am grateful to George Steiner for taking the time to read the manuscript at a time when he was busy delivering the Norton Lectures at Harvard. To my wife, Nancy Jones, my gratitude for her ever-present love and devotion at a period of particular adversity goes beyond what words can express.

Cambridge, Massachusetts September 2001


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