Does this book dumb down Sophocles?
Peter Green’s appraisal [“Obsessed with Scapegoats and Outcasts,” NYR May 10, 2012] of our volume, The Complete Plays of Sophocles, ignores the comprehensive nature of the book: its detailed explanation of our goals, assumptions, and methods as translators; introductions that give our interpretations of each play; scholarly notes that provide discussion of the very subtleties in Sophocles’ text that Green claims we suppress; and the fact that ours is the first single volume containing all seven of Sophocles’ plays by translators whose versions of Athenian drama have been staged in over 65 productions worldwide. Worse, his charges that our translations are inaccurate or indifferent to Sophocles’ complexities contain characterizations and negative judgments that are demonstrably false. (Readers can judge Green’s assessment of their poetic quality for themselves by exploring the excerpts on this site.)
Green acknowledges at the outset that our volume is part of a generational shift of emphasis from reading Athenian plays as literature toward appreciating them as drama. Although he accepts the theatrical potential of our versions, he fails to discuss the demands that translating for the theater entails. He essentially mocks and discredits our clearly stated intent, to combine accuracy and playability, by condemning our translations en bloc on the basis of an eight-line passage from a single play, Oedipus the King. In this rebuttal I defend my choices in translating that passage and respond to other issues Green raises in his article: his main focus, that of Sophocles’ supposed intention for writing Oedipus the King, and his charges that we radically simplify Sophocles, overuse colloquial English, (more…)