Aias: Ajax

Aias: Ajax

Aias: Ajax

Aias: Ajax

Synopsis

Based on the conviction that only translators who write poetry themselves can properly recreate the celebrated Greek tragedies, the Greek Tragedy in New Translation series offers new translations that go beyond the literal meaning of the Greek in order to evoke the poetry of the originals. Under the general editorship of Peter Burian and Alan Shapiro, each volume includes a critical introduction, commentary on the text, full stage directions, and a glossary of the mythical and geographical references in the plays. Brought boldly to life by Herbert Golder and Richard Pevear's translation and contextualized by Herbert Golder's eloquent introduction, this early Sophoclean tragedy tells the story of the Homeric hero better known as Ajax, who was second only to Achilles among the Greek warriors. In Greek tradition, Aias figures as the archaic warrior who dies in shame after his betrayal by the Greeks. Sophocles turns tradition inside out, portraying Aias' suicide not as a disgrace but as heroism. He endows Aias suicide with a meaning radically different from previous versions of the Aias myth--Aias is not the hero whom time has passed by, but rather the man who steps beyond time. Most previous versions and interpretations have equivocated over Sophocles' bold vision. This edition of Aias translates precisely that transformation of the hero from the bygone figure to the man who transcends time.

Excerpt

"The Greek Tragedy in New Translations is based on the conviction that poets like Aeschylus, Sophocles, and Euripides can only be properly rendered by translators who are themselves poets. Scholars may, it is true, produce useful and perceptive versions. But our most urgent present need is for a re-creation of these plays--as though they had been written, freshly and greatly, by masters fully at home in the English of our own times."

With these words, the late William Arrowsmith announced the purpose of this series, and we intend to honor that purpose. As was true of most of the volumes that began to appear in the 1970s--first under Arrowsmith's editorship, later in association with Herbert Golder-- those for which we bear editorial responsibility are products of close collaboration between poets and scholars. We believe (as Arrowsmith did) that the skills of both are required for the difficult and delicate task of transplanting these magnificent specimens of another culture into the soil of our own place and time, to do justice both to their deep differences from our patterns of thought and expression and to their palpable closeness to our most intimate concerns. Above all, we are eager to offer contemporary readers dramatic poems that convey as vividly and directly as possible the splendor of language, the complexity of image and idea, and the intensity of emotion of the originals. This entails, among much else, the recognition that the tragedies were meant for performance--as scripts for actors--to be sung and danced as well as spoken. It demands writing of inventiveness, clarity, musicality, and dramatic power. By such standards we ask that these translations be judged.

This series is also distinguished by its recognition of the need of nonspecialist readers for a critical introduction informed by the best recent scholarship, but written clearly and without condescension. Each play is followed by notes designed not only to elucidate obscure references but also to mediate the conventions of the Athenian stage . . .

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