Tuesday 18 April 2023

Oedipus the King - Sophocles translated by Bernard Knox - Enriched Classic Edition

Oedipus the King
The Theban Plays 1
Bernard Knox (Introduction)
Bernard Know (Translator)
William Frederic (Supplemental Material)
Cynthia Brantley Johnson (Series Editor)
Enriched Classic Edition
ISBN 9781416500339
eISBN 9781451686043

I picked this up to read because my daughter in grade 11 was reading it. She is reading it in English class and I remember reading it in Drama class in high school. In fact we did the trilogy of the three Theban plays. The version I read when younger was still called Oedipus Rex, And though this edition has been around since the 1950’s it and was created specifically for the classroom it was not the version I had used in school. This edition has a lot more supplemental material. And this is part of a series from Simon & Schuster, called Enriched Classics that has numerous other volumes. These Enrich classic editions are very reasonably priced both as paperbacks or eBooks. 

The chapters in this edition are:

Chronology of Ancient Greek Theater
Chronology of Ancient Greece
Translator’s Preface
The Characters
Oedipus the King
Interpretive Notes
Critical Excerpts
Questions for Discussion
Suggestions for the Interested Reader

And the description of this volume are:

“The famed Athenian tragedy in which Oedipus’s own faults contribute to his tragic downfall.

A great masterpiece on which Aristotle based his aesthetic theory of drama in the Poetics and from which Freud derived the Oedipus complex, King Oedipus puts out a sentence on the unknown murderer of his father Laius. By a gradual unfolding of incidents, Oedipus learns that he was the assassin and that Jocasta, his wife, is also his mother.

This Enriched Classic Edition includes:
-A concise introduction that gives readers important background information
-Timelines of significant events in Greek history and theatre that provide the book’s historical context
-An outline of key themes and plot points to help readers form their own interpretations
-Detailed explanatory notes
-Critical analysis and modern perspectives on the work
-Discussion questions to promote lively classroom and book group interaction
-A list of recommended related books and films to broaden the reader’s experience

Enriched Classics offers readers affordable editions of great works of literature enhanced by helpful notes and insightful commentary. The scholarship provided in Enriched Classics enables readers to appreciate, understand, and enjoy the world's finest books to their full potential.”

At the beginning of the Translator’s preference Knox states:

“This translation is an “acting version.” It was made for those members of the Stratford Shakespearian Festival Company of Canada who performed in a series of four filmed lessons on the Oedipus the King of Sophocles in 1958. The films were made by the Council for a Television Course in the Humanities for Secondary Schools, and this edition of the translation was published for use by students studying the play with the aid of the films.

There are now many translations available, some of them written with performance in mind. But when the films were made, none of the existing versions met the demands of the situation. The films, which were aimed at students in their junior year of high school, required a version that would be immediately intelligible, in performance, to an audience which had had no previous acquaintance with Greek tragedy and little acquaintance with the theater in any form. The translation has to be clear, simple, direct—its only aim the creation and maintenance of dramatic excitement. To put it another way, it had to be a version which would place no obstacles between the modern audience and the dramatic power of the play.”

I read this and other sections in the notes to indicate that there were films and therefore books but I have been unable to find the other volumes at least from this series. And the films mentioned were not in used in my daughters class either. That being said I can see why this version is used in class. The supplemental material is first rate. It has an excellent time line of both Ancient Greek Theatre and Ancient Greece. The play itself makes up roughly half of the volume. 

Many people are family with the broad strokes of Oedipus’s story and the capriciousness of the God’s as they play in the lives of men. This is an excellent edition to read for leisure or academically. I read it and used adaptive technology to listen to the Play a second time. It flowed perfectly both ways.  

Knox ends his note with these words:

“I wish to thank Mr. Douglas Campbell, of the Stratford company, who gave me his expert (and overwhelming) advice on those parts of the translation which are used in the films, and an actress friend (who does not wish to be named) who went over every line of my text to test it for stage delivery. It is because of their patience and generosity that I have the confidence to call this translation an “acting version.””

This volume has stood the test of time it has been used in classrooms for over 5 decades now. I can easily recommend this edition for personal reading or for class use.

Surviving Plays by Sophecles:
Women of Trachis

Theban Plays:
Oedipus at Colonus

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