17 Oct
Sophocles - Wikipedia




Happiness is born in wisdom.

When we deal with the Gods

We must behave with piety.

The great words of the proud

Are punished with great blows.

We learn this as we grow old.


Many years ago I travelled to London, to the Old Vic, to see Jonathan Hyde and Tara Fitzgerald in a new production of the Antigone: a breathtaking version by Declan Donnellan. My tickets were for the matinée so I found myself surrounded by children from heaven knows how many schools. But they behaved impeccably and I soon became engrossed in the superb performance.

The play concerns serious matters, the unbending hubris of a king, the dehumanising impact of revenge upon perpetrator and victim alike, the cascade of grief down the generations, the disaster awaiting those who insult the deities.

The Gods are not mocked.

At the end of the play, with the dying words of the chorus, the stage lights dimmed. For seemingly endless seconds there was a stunned silence before the audience broke into a roar of applause. Eventually the acclaim subsided. In the seats behind me two girls gathered their things, getting ready to leave with the rest of their class. I heard one say to the other ‘that was a nightmare, a nightmare!’ I was gratified to think that Sophocles (497-406 BC) had conveyed his warning across two and a half thousand years. Through the craft of Donnellan’s writing and the brilliance of a fine cast, Sophocles had struck to the marrow of these young girls’ hearts and souls. ‘I tell you, it was a nightmare, Philippa, a nightmare . . . . . there was no interval!’

Tragedy comes in many forms.


Altiora recommends:

Sophocles [ed Declan Donnellan] (1999) Antigone, London, Oberon Books.

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