Academic journal article Parnassus : Poetry in Review

"And the Half-True Rhyme Is Love": Modern Verse Drama and the Classics

Academic journal article Parnassus : Poetry in Review

"And the Half-True Rhyme Is Love": Modern Verse Drama and the Classics

Article excerpt

"And the Half-True Rhyme Is Love": Modern Verse Drama and the Classics Seamus Heaney. The Cure at Troy: A Version of Sophocles Philoctetes.Farrar, Straus & Giroux 1991. 81 pp. $20.00

Sophocles. Philoctetes. Translated by Carl Phillips with an introduction and notes by Diskin clay. Oxford University Press 2003. 118 pp. $10.95 (paper)

Antigone. A version by Bertolt Brecht, based on the German translation by Friedrich Holderlin, and translated into English by Judith Malina. Applause Theatre Book Publishers 1984. 64 pp. (Out of print.)

Jean Anouilh. Antigone: A Tragedy. Translated by Lewis Galantière . Random House 1946. Included in Jean Anouilh: Five Plays. Hill and Wang 1958, 1995. 340 pp. (Out of print.)

Antigone. Adapted by Lewis Galantière from the play by Jean Anouilh. Samuel French, Inc. 1946, 1974.

Tom Paulin. The Riot Act: a Version of "Antigone" by Sophocles. Faber and Faber 1985. 63 pp. (Out of print.)

Seamus Heaney. The Burial at Thebes: A Version of Sophocles' "Antigone. "Farrar, Straus & Giroux 2004. 74 pp. $18.00

Sophocles. Electra. Translated by Anne Carson, with an introduction and notes by Michael Shaw. Oxford University Press 2001. 127 pp. $10.95 (paper).

Ezra Pound and Rudd Fleming. Elektra: A Play. Edited and annotated by Richard Reid. Princeton University Press 1989. 103 pp. $19.95 (paper).

Wole Soyinka. The Bacchae of Euripides: A Communion Rite. W.W. Norton 1974, 2004. 97 pp. $12.95 (paper).

C.K. Williams. The Bacchae of Euripides: A New Version. Introduction by Martha Nussbaum. Farrar, Straus & Giroux 1990. 87 pp. (Out of print).

Euripides. Bakkhai. Translated by Reginald Gibbons and Charles Sega. Oxford University Press 2001. 150 pp. $12.95 (paper).

Euripides. Herakles. Translated by Tom Sleigh, with an introduction and notes by Christian Wolff. Oxford University Press 2001. 112 pp. $10.95 (paper)

Euripides. Cyclops. Translated by Heather McHugh, with an introduction and notes by David Konstan. Oxford University Press 2001. 77 pp. $9.95 (paper).

I.

In like a lion, out like a lamb. The weekend before Saint Patrick's Day in March of 1993 featured a blinding snowstorm that completely paralyzed the Northeast. Seamus Heaney was on his way from Cambridge to the Unterberg Poetry Center of the 92nd Street Y in New York to participate in a staged reading of The Cure at Troy, his adaptation of Sophocles' Philoctetes, to be directed by his friend Derek Walcott. Stranded on a train in Rhode Island for six hours, Heaney passed the time by re-drafting couplets for his play. Roscoe Lee Browne, who was to read the part of Philoctetes, had managed to get to New York from Los Angeles and was to be seen shambling around the Kaufmann Concert Hall stage in an old raincoat: the Greek hero as homeless person. One chorus member, arriving from Ireland, was so substantially delayed by the weather that her lines were given to another actor. Much to everyone's amazement, she bounced through the stage door just minutes before curtain time, having changed clothes in the taxi on the way in from the airport, and her lines were given back to her. Despite these tribulations, the hall was packed and the audience was both appreciative and wellentertained. But a question might have occurred to those in the audience: Why did Heaney choose to return to the classics in general, and to this classic in particular? As Edmund Wilson remarked at the outset of his essay "The Wound and the Bow," "The Philoctetes of Sophocles is far from being his most popular play. The myth itself has not been one of those which have excited the modern imagination." It tells the story of a Greek archer abandoned by his fellow soldiers on the way to Troy because of an infected foot. An oracle declares, however, that the Greeks cannot win the war without Philoctetes (or his bow), and Odysseus, who was part of the group that abandoned him, is sent back to Lemnos in the company of Achilles' son Neoptolemus to talk him back on board. …

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