Sophocles


Ajax

[This play is against hubris and carelessness of thought and action. Odysseus deals wisely with Menelaus. He was generous and respectful of courtesy in an enemies time of need and it resulted in an enemy becoming a friend.]

I see that our lives are nothing but illusion: fugitive shades. - Seeing this is so, let no haughty word against the gods escape your lips, nor be puffed up if you excel another in prowess or material gain. A single day can level down or level up every human enterprise. pg. 9

[Reluctance of Ajax's sailors accepting the rumor and offering reasons. pg. 9]

Such are the calumnies whispered by Odysseus, breathing them into all-too-willing ears. A plausible tale he tells, and everyone who hears it enjoys the hearing more than the teller of the tale, crowing over you. That's the way it is: if you aim your arrows at a noble spirit, you won't miss, but if at me anyone aimed such slanders he wouldn't be believed. It is the one who has that envy stalks. And yet little men without the great, do not suffice to guard the walls; it needs little and great together the great being helped out by the little. The shallow refuse to listen, like those inveighing against you. Without you, our king, we have no way to stop the things they charge against you: unchallenged by your eye they go flittering like a flock of birds. But should you suddenly show they would huddle petrified: mute before the glorious eagle. pg. 10

'Wife, women are beautify when they keep their mouths shut.' Schooled so, I held my tongue, pg. 14

[Ajax's remorse]

People in his condition can be swayed by the words of friends. pg. 15

Mind what you say. Do not heal hurt with hurt or make the remedy worse than the disease. pg. 17

What use is regret for what can't be undone? Nothing can be what it is not. pg. 17

Meanwhile, the gloating villains have gone scot-free, though I am not to blame. If a god is out to hurt even a coward can outdo a man of courage. pg. 19

When a man finds no respite from sorrows, it is beneath his dignity to cling to life. What joy is there, from day to day, taking one step forward and one step back - from dying? I despise a man fueled by inflated hopes. To live and die well is the only way. pg. 20

There is no greater hardship for mankind than a fate imposed on them by force. I was the daugter of a freeborn father, richer than the richest Phrygian, and now I am a slave. pg. 20

a man should cherish any act that gave him pleasure. Kindness engenders kindness still, which if a man forgets he is no longer honorable. pg. 21

may you prove luckier than your father but be like him in all else. You'll be no milksop then. I envy your innocence - oblivious of our tragedy. Ah, life is at its sweetest before one has to grapple with pleasure or pain! pg. 22

what weepers you women are! pg. 24

No physician is so naif as to chant over injuries that need the knife. pg. 24

Discretion is a virtue. pg. 24

A bit late in the day to change my character now! pg. 24

Surely it's better when hopelessly sick to be burried in Hades, for he the noblest of the battle-tested Greeks is no longer true to his nature but lost in alien fancies. pg. 25

The long uncountable years drag truth from the darkness, then bury it from vision. Nothing is a surprise - nothing: the unbreakable oath is broken, so too the obstinate will. Look at me, once hard as smelted steel, now melted by this woman, and filled with regrets at leaving her a widow, with an orphaned boy a prey to enemies. pg. 26

How true the saying is: gifts from enemies are no gifts at all and profit nothing. pg. 26

They are in command, so we must bow to them. How otherwise? Why even the strongest and most indomitable of things have a season for bowing. Winter's snow and blizzards give way to fruitful summer and the taught sphere of intransigent night dissolves before the white coursers of day bring in the light; and the loud blasts of wind-bursts dwindle over an encalming sea. Even sleep the all-powerful lets go and unlooses those he has bound and does not keep them imprisoned forever. Surely, then, we must learn to show some balance. I for one shall, having lately learned that the enemy we hate today will be our friend tomorrow, just as the one we help today may one day be our friend no longer: because for most mortals friendship is elusive. pg. 26

In Time, the majestic, all things fade: nothing's beyond belief, I'd say: like Ajax forgetting his anger against the Atreidae. pg. 28

I am ready, and not just with words. Swift action is the thing. pg. 31

But how useless mourning is! pg. 32

You were hopelessly set, yes, hopelessly set on driving yourself on to a tragical doom. pg. 34

contest of wills pg. 34

Hollow men never know the good in their hands until they lose it. And though his death is bitter for me and sweet for them, it was his pleasure, the fulfillment of his will, the death he longed for. pg. 35

People like to kick the fallen. pg. 36

a man of passion, peevish in old age, who loses his temper over nothing. pg. 37

He never listened to me when alive, the hallmark of an inferior being, a subordinate that won't take orders. Without law and order no city functions, and without fear and respect no army can be governed. Even a man of massive physique should remember that he can be toppled at a touch. A man who has some fear in him, therefore respect, can be certain of his safety, but where insolence and willfulness are rife a city that seems to be sailing along quite well will plummet to the bottom. A certain appropriate awe is in order. Let us not imagine that we can do whatever we please and pay no price for our pains. Reality is turn and turn about. This man had his turn at being hot and insolent, now it is my turn to be arrogant. pg. 39

I can't say I like letting the tongue loose like this when things are difficult. pg. 40

I once knew a man, a bombastic man who incited sailors to set sail in a storm, but when the storm raged at its height, he doubled up under his duffle and let any sailor trample over him a will. So will a puny cloud turn into a tearing squall that blasts you and your loud mouth to nothing and stoppers up your clamor. pg. 41

I, too, should be ashamed to have put up with a fool spouting folly. pg. 42

You men, don't stand around like women. pg. 43

When it comes to the crunch, it's not the broad-backed bruiser one relies on, it's the one with common sense - he scores. A big-boned bull is steered along the road by a small prod. pg. 45

Never let brute force take over and trample humanity underfoot. He, too, in the whole army was my worst enemy the moment I became possessor of Achilles's armor. Even so, I cannot fail to respect him or deny that except for Achilles he was the bravest of all the Argives that came to Troy. Therefore, I cannot dishonor him without injustice. That would be destructive not just of him but of the laws of heaven. When a brave man dies it is wrong to injure him even if you loathe him. pg. 48

you should not take pleasure in something ugly. - It's no easy thing for a ruler to submit to reverence. - But such should submit to a friend's good advice. - And a good man should submit to authority. - So be it! And to submit to friends is to be a winner. - Recall, however, the kind of man you are being kind to. - Yes, an enemy but a worthy one. - So what do you mean to do? Reverence this alien corpse? - Alien, no doubt, but I value his excellence more. - Typical of an inconsistent man! - Inconsistent, yes: friends one day, all hostile the next. - Is this the kind of man that you approve of? - What I don't approve of is a rigid mind. pg. 48

A universal truth!... That every man is out for himself. pg. 49


Electra

[Reading Orestes's words to his loyal servant I was struck by the thought that no matter how loyal a servant might be there appears to be limits to how much a person of noble birth will value them because they are seen as being on an inferior level, but are expected to mourn with greater intensity for the loss of less excellent people for the mere fact that they are of "noble" birth. Again, this is a cultural value system that must be rejected and another positive one put in its place.]

So before anyone comes out of his house you must plot your course. This is not a place for dithering but action perforce. pg. 58

Listen carefully and correct me if in anything I have missed the mark. pg. 58

Alone and secretly, without armed support and without an army, you must snatch by cunning the vengenance that is yours by right." Now since this is what the oracle enjoined, I want you to go into the palace when you get the chance and find out everything that is going on in there and bring us back an exact report. pg. 58

How can this hurt me: a fiction death and a live reality all poised for success. A fib that does you good cannot be bad! I have known many a wise man to be reported dead , but not dead at all; and they come back home with double the fame. The same with me: I shall emerge from this rumor alive, like a radiant star, blazing down on my enemies. pg. 59

The time is apt, and men must seize the opportune for every act. pg. 59

But, but no lamentation, no amount of earnestly praying will raise your father from the marsh of Hades, which all must go through. To abandon reason, to drown in irreparable sorrow, is grief run wild, grief destroying, nor will it ever annul the hurt; so why are you so devoted to anguish? pg. 61

Do not be angry beyond all sense against the ones that hate you. Nor yet forget. Time is a god that heals. pg. 62

Don't you see that self-pity is fueling your suffering and piling up more and more? You fabricate wars for your sorrowful soul. Bear with it. You cannot contend with these in control. - But a horrible life impels horrible ways, I know, I am well aware of intolerant frenzy. pg. 63

Stop adding grief to grief. pg. 64

Meanwhile, hear I am waiting still, in the depths of misery, for Orestes to come and put an end to this. His vacillation has destroyed every hope I had, every hope I could have had. So, my friends, as things stand, moderation makes no sense. The situation is intolerable and makes intolerable behavior abominable. pg. 66

Well, a big decision demands a big deliberation. - Really? There was no big deliberation when I saved him. pg. 67

But in this time of turbid waters I think it best to shorten sail and give the impression of acquiessence - it does no harm. I wish that you would do the same. I know that the truth lies with you and not with me, but if I am to live in peace I must submit in everything to those in power. pg. 67

My sustenance is to be true to myself. pg. 68

There is something in both your declarations. If only each of you could take something from the other! pg. 68

Simply to bend before the strong. - That kind of bending is for you. It's not my way. pg. 69

Then let's have catastrophe, if that means being loyal to my father. - But I am sure our father would understand. - Such are the consolations of a coward. pg. 69

Sometimes the tiniest trifle can make or mar. pg. 70

When an obligation is quite clear it is absurd to let two voices argue it. pg. 72

If you start inventing laws to suit humanity take care you don't invent for yourself pain and remorse. Because if we were swapping life for life, and you got what you deserved, you'd be the first to die. pg. 75

but your antagonism and behavior make me act against my nature. Bad example teaches bad behavior. pg. 77

[Amphiareus] pg. 83

Yes, I believe, and not on hearsay: with my own eyes I've seen the living proof. pg. 85

Listen, please for god's sake, and I'll tell you. Then see if I'm a fool or not. pg. 85

Our mother could not have done it either without our knowing. And its not in her character. pg. 86

Human life is not saddled by a single fortune. Ours has been full of awfulness, but today perhaps is the harbinger of happiness. pg. 86

there's no success without a struggle. pg. 87

Aegisthus is not such a fool as to let any children from you or me come into being and threaten him. pg. 87

for nobility of spirit does attract. pg. 88

Dying is not the worst, but not being able to die when one longs to. pg. 89

and you must finally learn to yield power when you are quite without. pg. 89

Caution and prudence are mortals' greatest safeguard. pg. 89

Disappointment? I am only thinking of your good. - So I'm expected to follow your idea of good? pg. 90

The truth's not always nice: it can hurt. pg. 90

There is nothing worse than muddled thinking. pg 90

Electra, remember this: you are the child of a mortal father and Orestes was mortal too; therefore, do not overdo your grief. This is a debt we all must pay. pg. 94

But remember that women can be martial too. pg. 96

Our terrible past never to be ridded or hidden or forgotten. pg. 97

Strange that I have hated and loved you in a single day! Yes, more than any other mortal. pg. 100

Death to all who decide to flout the law, then the prevalence of crime would be no more. pg. 105


Philoctetes

truth and right action against those of expediency. pg 109

Move quietly, and give me a sign if he's still living there; otherwise we will have to search elsewhere and I must discuss with you what course we ought to take and you and I can pool conclusions pg. 111

Only a wooden cup, crudely made, and some kindling. - What you descrive are his treasures. pg. 111

[Posting a lookout, Odysseus's lie and trying to gain Philoctete's favor by appealing to his hatred] pg. 112

Say whatever you like about me: heap me with abuse... it won't hurt me in the least. pg. 112

I know, my boy, it's not your character to lie or injure others; but success is always sweet if we get something we want. Just do it and we'll be proved right. pg. 113

It's not my nature to deceive. That's just the way I am. So was my father. I am ready to take the man by force but not by fraud. pg. 113

but I'd rather make an honest blunder, my lord, than triumph through a lie. pg. 113

I too when I was a lad kept a ready arm but a careful tongue, but now when it comes to the test I see that for us mortals it's the tongue rather than activities that directs events. pg. 113

But telling lies is shameful, don't you think? - Not if the lie brings salvation. - How can one face oneself as a liar? - You're a loser if you hesitate. pg. 114

You'll have the reputation of being both intelligent and brave. - Fine, I'll do it, scruples and all. - Then do you remember my instructions? - Of course, especially as I now agree. pg. 114

How does this sad man keep going? What devious decisions of heaven! What a blighted race is man - and life unkind. pg. 116

I lay the blame not so much on him as on the commanders: the whole state and army are under their control and undisciplined men become criminals because of them. pg. 122

even cleverness sometimes is brought down. pg. 124

And let me say in short: death picks off the good, not the second-rate. pg. 124

Nothing disreputable is known to perish. The gods take precious care of that. They seem to delight in keeping perverts and criminals out of Hades while dispatching the righteous and noble there. How can we explain this? How can we possibly applaud when we look to the divine and find it devilish? - From my part, you sone of a father from Oeta, I shall keep my distance both from Illium and the sons of Atreus and be wary of them. When the inferior man flourishes over his better, when goodness wilts and the coward is in power, I refuse to countenance such people, and from now on my craggy Scyros is good enough for me, and I'll be content to stay at home. pg. 124

We have to seize the chance, be ready on the spot and not too far away. pg. 125

A generous spirit shrinks from meanness and glories in good works. pg. 125

or more likely, the messengers took little notice of me (as was natural) and hurried homewards. pg. 126

The fortunes of mortals are fraught with anxiety and the constant risk that success is followed by disaster. It behooves us when free from trouble to antipate the fearful, and when we are all safe and sound then most of all we must be on guard against the creeping of disaster underground. pg. 126

Take care that though you are now so clement, you are not a different person later on when thrown together with his disease. pg. 127

but patience made me learn to put up with necessity. pg. 127

Speed when needed can be followed by sleep and rest when the task is done. pg. 131

Whoever knows how to be kind when a kindness has been done is a proven friend beyond all price. pg. 132

Heracles on his pyre, passed away to the gods-incandescent passed- through Zeus's fire. pg. 134

Why do you delay to act? The opportune moment demans execution: right is the victory of a prompt decision. pg. 137

It would be a disgrace to boast of a triumph founded on fraud. pg. 138

Everything goes against the grain once one acts against one's character. pg. 139

Even now it is not too late: be true to yourself. pg. 141

I am a man to fit the occasion, and when it comes to straightforwardness and honesty you will find nobody more meticulous. But I like to win, it's part of my nature to win. pg. 145

It is you yourself, you poor fate-entangled man, who have chosen this; from nobody else has come the power to enslave yourself, for when you could have been wise enough to choose the better you choose the worse. pg. 147

A man has a right to argue his case, but when he has spoken he ought to refrain from lashing out with a stinging tongue. pg. 148

If talking sense makes sense, it's better than cleverness. pg. 151

The wrong I did was shameful, and I mean to right it. pg. 151

With right on my side I have no fear of your forces. pg. 151

We mortals have to accept the fortunes the gods allot us but self-imposed ordeals, like yours, are inexcusable and deserve no pity. You are running amok and listening to nobody. If someone tries to tell you something, with every good intention, you simply turn your back on him, say he is just an enemy and against you. pg. 154

It is not the sting of the past that pains me but what I see now coming. Because once evil incubates in men's minds, it spawns more evil. pg. 155

And by not abetting criminals you will avoid being branded one yourself. pg. 155

beggars can't be choosers. pg. 155


The Women of Trachis

you cannot assess the quality of any human's life - whether blighted or blest - until they are dead. I on the contrary know only too well, long before I go to Hades, that my life is blighted-bitterly so. pg. 165

brought matters to a happy conclusion - if happy it really be - for now I am joined to Heracles as the bride he won and find myself hatching one worry after another on his account. They come to me at night and are gone the next. pg. 165

Even arriving late is its own reward if what we hear is what we have desired. pg. 168

Just as one watches wave after wave churned by blasts from the north or south with wallowing billows wildly following on the broad main, so is the stormy life like the sea of Crete. pg. 169

I cannot approve of your losing hope and fretting away. The son of Cronos Zeus himself, who orders everything, has not arranged for mortals to be free from pain. But the fixed revolving Bear brings to all suffering and happiness in turn. - The glitter of night, the sufferings of men, the trappings of wealth, losing or winning: none of it stays. They come and go. pg. 169

So I hastened here to be the first with the news...to be in your favor and do myself some good. pg. 171

[communication error] pg. 171

How good it is to announce success! pg. 173

Eurytus, supposedly, was an old friend, but when Heracles visited his house and hearth Eurytus heaped him with insults - coming from a sick mind. "You may have those inescapable arrows," he jeered, "but when it comes to archery my own sons outmatch you...besides, you are a slave, not a freeman at all." And at dinner, when Heracles was full of wine, Eurytus threw him out. Simmering with resentment, when later Eurytus's son Iphitus came to the cliff of Tiyrns looking for lost horses, with his gaze and his mind going in different directions, Heracles hurled him from the battlements. pg. 174

[honest dueling, criminal violence] pg. 174

All the same, a cautious mind is always nervous lest success is followed by collapse. For instance, these poor women that I see here, without a home, without a father, lost in an alien land, were probably once daughters of freeborn parents, and now they are slaves. pg. 175

You are talking to a woman who is neither perverse nor ignorant of the ways of men and knows the inconstancy of the human heart. Anyone who has a boxing match with Eros is a fool. The god of love does exactly what he likes - even with the gods. If he rules me, then why not another woman in the same way? To blame my husband for succumbing to lovesickness is sheer nonsense, any less than blaming her, who hasn't shamed or harmed me in the least. Of course not! But if you are carrying out his instructions to lie, then you have embarked on a dishonest course, in which if you have made headway, and you cannot claim to be an honest man without being a thorough scoundrel. Come now, tell me the truth. No freeman wants to be labeled a liar. Moreover, you are bound to be found out, because you talked to a lot of people and they will tell me. You ought not to be afraid because if it is not knowing the truth that disturbs me what is so awful about knowing it? pg. 179

[The mistake of Lichas in telling others before lying] pg. 179

I do not intend to succumb to the malady of grappling with the gods - that is not my character. pg. 181

Overwhelming, the power that Aphrodite wields! Invariably, she conquers. But I shall not mention how she tricked the son of Cronus. pg. 181

I've slipped outside partly to tell you what I've been busy at and partly to have your moral support in what I am going through. I have taken on board the maiden - though I doubt she is a maiden anymore - rather like a captain taking on board cargo; but it is playing havoc with my feelings. Here we are, under the same sheets for Heracles to embrace, a man extolled for truth and loyalty, and this is my reward for keeping his home intact for all these years. I cannot bring myself to be enraged with a husband so besotted with his present malady, yet that woman could put up with someone sharing her life and marriage with the same man? Besides, I see her youth advancing to its bloom, mine fading. The lustful male eye turns away from those it has deflowered. And so you see my fears that Heracles, called my husband, is a younger woman's man. But as I have implied, it is no use for a sensible woman to be merely angry: let me tell you the remedy I have devised. pg. 183

I am not interested in reckless remedies, and I loathe women who go in for them. pg. 184

There's no way of knowing until you do: trial and error is the only formula. pg. 184

I shall warn people never to act precipitately in a risky project. pg. 187

No woman who cares for a good name can go on living with an evil fame. It is true that we must be wary of the worst, but we must not give up hope until it is a fact. - Hope? There is no hope when one has acted like a fool. - But when one has acted foolishly unwittingly as have you, there should be no bitterness or remorse. - It is easy to say this when not in the thick of trouble, but not for someone who has actually caused it. - Well, say no more about what you fear may follow. pg 189

for he realized, poor boy, that he had changed her in anger, having learned too late from the servants in the house that the centaur had tricked her to act in innocence. Her pathetic son has not stopped lamenting and crying: covering her with kisses, lying side by side, moaning and repeating how he had charged her falsely and weeping that now he was bereft of both father and mother. That is how things stand here. So if anybody counts on his days to come, he is a fool; for there is no tomorrow till today is done. pg. 196

[Prophecy of Dodona about being released from the labors] pg. 204

Mark the callousness of the deities allowing such things to be done. They are our origins, called our parents, yet they can look upon such sufferings. What is to come, no one can tell. What is here is painful for us, disgraceful of them; and for him who suffers this destiny - the hardest of all. pg. 207


Oedipus the King

It is because on life's unequal stage we see you as first of men and consummate atoner to the powers above. pg. 216

You must not let your reign go down as one when men were resurrected once - and once relapsed. pg. 216

If king of men (as king you are), then be it of a kingdom manned and not a desert. Fortress and battlement are useless when all is nothing but a waste of men. pg. 216

Your pain is single, each to each, it does not breed. Mine is treble anguish crying out for the city, for myself, for you. pg. 217

Where can one begin to search the long-lost traces of forgotten crime? - "Here," says the god. "Seek and you shall find. Only that escapes which never was pursued." pg. 218

Clues breed clues and we must snatch at straws. pg 218

So we thought, but with Laius gone we were sunk in miseries and no one stirred. - What miseries could ever let you leave unsolved the death and downfall of a king? - Sire, it was the siren Sphinx of riddles who sang us from the shadowed past to what was sorely present. pg. 219

Not for any far-flung friend , but by myself and for myself I'll break this plague. For who knows, tomorrow this selfsame murderer may turn his bloody hands on me. The cause of Laius is therefore my own. pg. 219

I am fainting of fear of what fate you will fashion me now, or turn in the turning of time. pg. 220

Sorrows in a legion. Sorrows none can cipher. No shaft of wit or weapon for a people stricken. pg. 220

[Oedipus is guilty even though reason wouldn't support his guilt, as he was "being too late your latest citizen".]

[His offering pardons, rewards, and penalities and making the penalty like the plague, justice. pg. 222]

Show me a man who can force the hand of heaven. - Then, the next best thing, if I may say it... - Next best, third best, say it-anything. pg. 224

And he'd be a brazen man indeed who could rest in peace after all your menaces. - Mere words will not stay one whom murder never could. pg. 224

What more rewarding for a man than stir himself to help where help he can? - Oh, what anguish to be wise where wisdom is a loss! I thought I knew this well. What made me come? - What makes you come so full of gloom? Please send me home. Take up your load and I'll take mine. Believe me, it is better so. pg. 225

Yes, safe. For truth has made me strong. pg. 226

What! A second time? This you will regret. - Shall I add to it and make you angrier still? pg. 227

unscathed, indeed, if truth is strength. pg. 227

These very gibes you mouth at me will soon be hurled by every mouth at you. pg. 227

Oh wealth and sovereignty! Statecraft surpassing art! Oh life so pinnacled on fame! What ambushed envy dogs your trail! pg. 227

Stealing up to overthrow and snatch! Suborning sorcerers, like this vamper-up of plots, this hawking conjurer, pg. 227

This is anger. He spoke in anger to. And both beside the point. pg. 228

Perhaps you are a king, but I reign too - in words. I'll have my equal say. pg. 228

I say you see and still are blind - appallingly. pg. 228

it shall be night where now you boast the day. Then where shall your yelp of horror not resound, where round the world not ring. pg. 228

Deserted by words, I live on hopes - all blind for today and blind for tomorrow. pg. 231

But oh among men where is the proof that a prophet can know more than me, a man? Yet wisdom can surpass wisdom in a man. But nevertheless, I'll not be quick to judge before the proof. For once the winged and female Sphinx challenged him and found him sound and a friend of the city. So never in my mind at least shall he be guilty of crime. pg. 231

We are convinced the taunt was made in anger, not coolly uttered by a mind at calm. pg. 232.

In heaven's name, what cowardice or lunacy did you detect in me to give you gall to do it? Did you think I would never spot such treachery, such slinking jobbery, or that when I did I'd not be one to fight? What madman's game is this: to go out hunting crowns unbacked by friends and money, when crowns are only won by many friends and well-crammed moneybags? - Wait! listen to my answer to your charge. And when you've heard me judge. - No. You're too good at talking. And I'm not good at hearing one found so laden with malevolence. pg. 232

Try to reason it as I must reason it. Who would choose uneasy dreams to don a crown when all the kingly sway can be enjoyed without? I could not covet kingship for itself when I can be a king by other means. All my ambitions now are satisfied through you, without anxiety, but once a king, all hedged in by constraint. How could I suit myself with power and sovereignty as now, if power and sovereignty once grasped were grasped in pain? I am not so simple as to seize the symbol when I can have the sweet reality: now smiled upon by all, saluted now, now drawn aside by suitors to the king, my ear their door to hope. Why should I let this go, this ease, and reach for cares? A mind at peace does not engender wars. ...do not judge me on a mere report, unheard! No justice brands the good and justifies the bad. Drive friendship out, I say, and you drive out life itself, one's sweetest bond. Time will teach you well. The honest man needs time, the sinner but a single day to bare his crime. - He speaks well, sire. The circumspect should care. Swift thinking never makes sure thought. - Swift thinking must step in to parry where swift treachery steps in to plot. Must I keep mum until his perfect plans are more than a match for mine? pg. 234

A lesson to all of how much envy's worth. pg. 235

Do not impeach a friend or lead him to disgrace; his oath annulled upon a word. pg. 236

how you hate, even in your yielding! But passion spent, compunction follows. Such men justly bear the tempers they created. pg. 237

How insensuate we'd be, what crass and total fools to abdicate from you who set this floundering ship, this suffering realm, back on her course and now again can take the helm. pg. 237

altogether leave behind these cares and be persuaded and consoled. pg. 238

pg. 238 [The prophecy fit against all appearances].

The fox: he sends along a mouthing seer and keeps his own lips lily pure. pg. 238

I was relieved by their response, and yet the thing had hatched a scruple in my mind that grew so deep it made me steal away from home to Delphi. pg. 240

Pride engenders power, pride, banqueting on vanities mistaken and mistimed; scaling pinnacles to dash a foot against Fate's stone. pg. 243

But what if a brazen man parade in word or deed impiety and brash disdain of principalities and canons? Then dog him doom and pay him pride wages for his haughty greed , his sacrilege and folly. pg. 243

For we are gone to pieces at the sight of him the steersman of the ship astray by fright. pg. 244

You told me, yes, but I was sick with fear. pg. 245

How can a man have scruples when it is only Chance that is king? There's nothing certain, nothing preordained. We should live as carefree as we may. Forget this silly thought of mother-marrying. Why, many men in dreams have married mothers, and he lives happiest who makes the least of it. pg. 246

But what's so sweet as looking into parents' eyes? pg. 246

pg. 248 [Jocasta's reaction to Oedipus's question, trying to let the truth remain hidden for what she might find]

Storm, then, let it burst! Born from nothing though I be proved, let me find that nothing out. And let my wife with all a woman's pride bridle at my paltry origin. pg. 249

Oh, the generations of man! His life is vanity and nothingness. Is there one, one who more than tastes of, thinks of, happiness, which in the thinking vanishes? Yours the text, yours the spell, I see it in you, Oedipus: man's patter of unblessedness. You who aimed so high! Who hit life's topmost prize - success! pg. 253

Their happiness of long ago, true happiness, now turned to tears this day, to ruin, death, and shame. pg. 256

What words are left for me to him? What title to sincerity and trust when all my past behavior's proved so wrong? pg. 259

A families ears, a families eyes, alone should know a families miseries pg. 259

He cannot see you now but still can weep and ponder on those bitter days to come, which cruel consort with the world will prove. No public holidays, no carnivals, from which you will not hurry home in tears. And then one day a marriage time will come, but who will marry you? Who on this earth will face the destiny that dogs our line? ...Such will be their gibes, so who will want to marry you? There's none, my children, no not one, and life for you is all decline to doom and empty spinsterhood. pg. 262

Abide in modesty so may you live the happy life your father did not have. pg. 262

All things have their time. pg. 262

Stop this striving to be master of all. The mastery you had in life has been your fall. pg. 263

Look on this Oedipus, the mighty and once masterful: Elucidator of the riddle, envied on his pedestal of fame. You saw him fall. You saw him swept away. So, being mortal, look on that last day and count no man blessed in his life until he's crossed life's bounds unstruck by ruin still. pg. 263


Oedipus at Colonus

It's little that I ask, and I make do with less. Patience is what I've learned from pain; from pain and time and my own past royalty. pg. 271

for we are only wanderers and must ask advice of citizens and do as they direct. pg. 271

Then quiet I'll be, while you hurry me off this path into the grove, until I hear just what it is they have to say. It's always wise to be informed before we act. pg. 275

Poor harassed stranger on strange soil! Learn to loathe what we find loathing. Learn respect for what we reverence. pg. 277

Let's not fight with what is fated. pg. 277

There is no blame attached to any who hits back where first he's wronged. You deceived us, so we are playing trick for tricking, paying back treachery with trouble. pg. 278

There never was a human being who, god-impelled, had hope in fleeing. pg. 278

When you tear me from my seat of stone and cast me headlong from the land? And all because you've merely heard my name! pg. 278

Why, even if I'd acted with full knowledge, it still would not have been a crime. As it was, where I went I went all ignorant toward a doom too known to those who planned it. pg. 280

The road is long, but travelers talk. pg. 281

Is not nobility it's own reward? pg. 281

What miserable and perfect copies have they grown to be of Egyptian ways! For there the men sit at home and weave while their wives go out to win the daily bread as you do, my daugters, just so your brothers, who should be the very ones to take this load upon them. Instead they sit at home like girls and keep the house. pg. 282

They were content at first to leave the throne to Creon and rid the city of the ancient family curse that has dogged our line. But now they are possessed. Some demon of pride, some jealousy, has gripped their souls, with a manic lust for royal power. They want to seize the reins of government. Eteocles, our hot-brained stripling younger brother, has snatched the throne from his elder, Polyneices, and driven him from Thebes. While Polyneices, we hear from every source, has fled to the vale of Argos, adds marriage to diplomacy and military alliances, and swears that Argos will either acquit herself with triumph on the Theban plain or be lifted to the skies in glorious attempt. pg. 283

How far the gods will go before they let some mercy fall, it's impossible to tell. pg. 284

The gods now bear you up, before they cast you down. pg. 284

watched me harried from my home, my banishment proclaimed. And if you say that such was then my wish, a mercy granted by the city- apt and opportune- I answer "No!" On that first day I wished it, yes, death was sweet- my soul on fire- even death by stoning, but no man was found to further that desire. In time my madness mellowed. I began to think my rage had plunged too far, my chastisement excessive for my sins. pg. 285

Shelter, devoted care, my daily bread, everything within a woman's power to give, these I owe to my daughters here. Their brothers sold their father for a throne, exchanged him for a sceptre and a realm. pg. 286

A single person of pure heart, I think, can make atonement for a thousand sinners. pg. 287

No trouble is too much for a parent anywhere. pg. 288

It hurts to stir up the memory time has let slumber, but we must know... - What now? - The story of suffering you have been chained to: the fatal ordeal without a cure. - For hospitality's sake, my friends, do not uncover my shame. - The tale of it echoes all over the universe. But the truth of it, tell us, how much is true? pg. 288

I was a child of exile too, fighting for my life in foreign lands - and none so dangerously. So never could I turn my back on some poor exile such as you are now and leave him to his fate. For I know too well that I am only a man. The portion of your days today could be no less than mine tomorrow. pg. 290

This is foolishness to sulk in time of trouble. - Wait till you've heard me out before you scold. - Proceed, I have no right to judge before I know. pg. 291

only to the gods is given not to age or die, all else disrupts through all disposing time. Earth ebbs in strength, the body ebbs in power. Faith dies and faithlessness is born. No constant friendship breathes between man and man, or city and a city. Soon or late, the sweet will sour, the sour will sweet to love again. Does fair weather hold between this Thebes and you? Then one day will ever teeming time hatch nights on teeming days, wherein this pledge this harmony, this hour will break upon a spear, slashed down for a useless word. pg. 292

Often bluff and bluster, threat and counterthreat can bully reason for a time, but when the mind reseats itself disquiet vanishes. pg. 293

Once in agony I turned against myself and cried aloud for banishment. Then it did not fit your pleasure, did it, to fit yourself to mine? But when my overbrimming passion had gone down and home's four walls were sweet, then you had me routed out and cast away. Fine affection that for family ties! And now again, the moment you perceive me being welcomed by this kindly city and her sons, you want to wrench me away, your barbed designs wrapped up in words of wool. Who ever heard of friendliness by force? You're like a man who spurns to grant a favor when he's asked, gives nothing, will not lift a finger for you, then when your hearts desire has passed wants to push that very grace upon you, now a grace no longer. Rather barren of delight, that gift, do you not think? Yet that precisely is the gift you proffer me, so fair in form, so hollow in reality. pg. 297

Hardship to those resigned is no dismay. pg. 298

Silly, obdurate man, who time has not made wise! Must you bring even dotage to disgrace? - Such a tricky tongue! I never knew an honest man who could dissertate and twist speech so. pg. 298

you are your own worst enemy, before and now: flying into tantrums with your friends - those damnable tempers that have ruined you. pg. 300

We will, however, judge him by the very laws to which he himself appeals. pg. 303

pillaging and taking prisoners at your will as if you thought my city was bereft of men or manned by slaves and I a nobody. pg. 303

I should know how a guest behaves on foreign soil. But you, you dishonor your own city, so undeserving of disgrace. pg. 303

[Creon's twisting his guilt back on Theseus.] pg. 304

Rage, remember, knows no age till death. pg. 304

[Oedipus argues that will is necessary to find fault] pg. 305

Oh, yes, I'm well aware you did not push yourself to this pinnacle of daring, this reckless outrage, without some help or backing. pg. 307

I'd rather furnish life with sparkling deeds than words, as I have proved to you, good reverend sir, making perfect everything I pledged. pg. 311

It hardly sounds to me important, and yet it puzzles me. There's nothing that a wiseman should dismiss. pg. 312

Give him a hearing at least. If you don't like what he asks, you needn't grant it. Where's the pain in that? pg. 312

Whatever pain his words may give, he cannot wrench your will away. And the sound of his voice - what damage can that do? Besides, it's talk that best betrays the foul design. You are his father, and even if his conduct plumbed the depths of wickedness, that would never make it right for you, dear Father, to pay him back in kind. So let him come! Many a man is pricked to anger by a renegade son but yielding to advice more reasonable and loving, is coaxed from harshness back to gentleness. Cast your thoughts on what has been, not what is now: all that your own father and mother caused you to endure. Ponder this, and the lesson that it teaches: catastropic anger brings catastrophe. Think no further than those two sightless sockets once your eyes. Come, give way to us! We should not have to plead for a cause so fair. Can one who has just felt mercy's touch then turn his back, not give as much? pg. 313

Where is the man who wants more length of days? Oh, cry it out. There is a fool his dawdling years are loaded down his joys are flown his extra time but trickles on he awaits the Comforter who comes to all. No wedding march no dancing song: a sudden vista down dark avenues to Hades realms, then death at last. Not to be born has no compare but if you are, then hurry hence, for after that there is no better blessing. When one has watched gay youth pack up his gallant gear vexations crowd without and worries crowd within: envy, discord, struggles, shambles after battles till at last he too must have his turn of age, discredited and doddering: disaffected and deserted age confined with crabbedness and every dismal thing. So are we senile- he and I: lashed from the north by wintry waves like some spume-driven cape on every side lashed by our agonies those constant waves breaking in from the setting sun breaking in from the dawn breaking in from the glare of noon breaking in from polar gloom. pg. 314

Sometimes as words begin to flow, here they strike a spark of joy, there they fan up anger or bring a touch of tenderness, and anyhow, to the tongue-tied somehow give a tongue. pg. 316

Once seen to flinch, how could I put an army in the field again? pg. 321

Good generals do not stress their weakness but their strength. pg. 322

The future is in Fortune's hands whether we live or die. pg. 322

never-failing Time shuffling fortunes from the top to bottom? pg. 323

though many a state attack a peaceful home, though sure be the help from heaven (but exceedingly slow) against earth's godless men and men gone mad. pg. 326

yet one little word can change all pain: that word is Love. pg. 329

Dear children, think of this - He made a blessed end. So cease your crying. There's none alive that's free from trial. pg. 333

Weep no more, sweet women. Where death has dealt so kindly there is no room for sorrow or nemesis will follow. pg. 334


Antigone

Remind ourselves that we are women and as such are not made to fight with men. For might unfortunately is right and makes us bow to things like this and worse. pg. 346

How beautiful to die in such pursuit! To rest loved by him whom I have loved, sinner of a holy sin, with longer time to charm the dead than those who live, for I shall abide forever there. So go. And please your fantasy and call it wicked what the gods call good. - You know I don't do that. I'm just not made to war against the state. pg. 346

Perhaps, but I am doing what I must. - Yes, more than must. And you are doomed to fail. - Why, then, I'll fail, but not give up before. - Don't plunge into such a hopeless enterprise. - Urge me so, and I shall hate you soon. He, the dead, will justly hate you too. Say that I'm mad, and madly let me risk the worst that I can suffer and the best: a death that martyrdom can render blest. - Go then, if you must, toward your end: Fool, wonderful fool, and loyal friend. pg. 346

Now, naturally, there is no way to tell the character and mettle of a man until you've seen him govern. pg. 349

Nevertheless, I want to make it plain: I am the kind of man who can't and never could abide the tongue-tied ruler who through fear backs away from sound advice. And I find intolerable the man who puts his country second to his friends. For instance, if I saw ruin and danger heading for the state, I would speak out. Never could I make my country's enemy my private friend, knowing as I do, she is the good ship that bears us safe. pg. 349

No man is mad enough to welcome death. - And death it is. But greed of gain has often made men fools. pg. 351

Then we flew at one another, guard accusing guard. It came near to blows. There weren't no clue to end the quarrel. pg. 352

So 'ere I am, unwelcome I can tell, and un'appy too, for there ain't no one likes the bringer of bad news. pg. 352

No, from the first, there's been a group of grumblers in this town: men who could hardly abide my rule, who nod and whisper, chafing beneath my law, who are not in love with it at all. These are the ones, I'll warrant, who have suborned my guards with bribes. Ah, money. Money is a currency that's rank. Money topples cities to the ground, seduces men away from happy homes, corrupts the honest heart to shifty ways, makes men crooked connoisseurs of vice. But these plotters who have sold themselves, every man jack of them, will end up, gentlemen, with much more than he's bargained for. pg. 353

gold can glister from an even source. Ah! Money never makes as many as it mars. pg. 353

Training his agile thoughts volatile as air he's civilized the world of words and wit and law. pg. 355

Beyond imagining wise: his cleverness and skills through labryrinthine ways for good and also ill. Distinguished in his city when law-abiding, pious but when he promulgates unsavory ambition, citiless and lost. And then I will not share my hearth with him; I want no parcel of his thoughts. pg. 355

King, it's most unwise, I find, ever to promise not to do a thing. Now look at me! I could've sworn I'd not come scurrying back after being almost skinned alive by all your flailing threats. Yet 'ere I am against my oath. pg. 356

It made me glad and sad: bliss to get myself out of trouble, distress to bring it on a friend. When all's said and done, 'owever, the safety of one's own sweet skin comes first. pg. 357

[Transcendent religious values] pg. 358

I need no trumpeter from you to tell me I must die, we all die anyway and if this hurries me to death before my time, why, such a death is gain. Yes, surely gain to one whom life so overwhelms. Therefore, I can go to meet my end without a trace of pain. But had I left the body of my mother's son unburied, lying where he lay, ah, that would hurt! For this I feel no twinges of regret. And if you judge me fool, perhaps it is because a fool is judge. pg. 358

The toughest will is first to break: like hard, untempered steel that snaps and shivers at a touch when hot from off the forge. And I have seen high mettled horses curbed by a little scrap of bit. One who has no more authority than a common slave can ill afford to put on airs. pg. 359

So does remorse blurt out the secret sin... Although its opposite is even worse: crime detected glorifying crime. pg. 359

Where could I win respect and praise more validly than this: burial of my brother? Not a man here would say the opposite, were his tongue not locked in fear. Unfortunately, tyranny (blessed in so much else besides) can lay the law down any way it wants. - Your view is hardly shared by all these Thebans here. They think as I, but trim their tongues to you. pg. 359

Hades makes no distinction in its rights and honors. - The just and unjust do not urge an equal claim. - The "crime" (who knows?), may be called a virtue there. - Not even death can metamorphose hate to love. pg. 360

The dead of Hades know whose act it was. I do not take to those who take to talk. - Sister, do not scorn me, let me share your death and holy homage to the dead. - No share in work, no share in death. pg. 361

These girls, I swear, are crazed: one mad by birth, the other by attainment. - Yes, my lord, for when misfortune comes, he sends our reason packing out of doors. pg. 361

Guards, take them away and lock them up. No more roaming. They are women now. The breathe of Hades pressing close to kill can make the bravest turn, and turn the bravest will. pg. 362

put out in smoke and Hades's dust, and all because of headlong folly and the reckless speech of a frenzied heart. pg. 363

Hope, eternally gadding, alights on many with nothing but bliss, but just as blithely brings to others delusions and seething ambition. No man can tell what has come stealthily creeping over his life until too late hot ashes and pain sear his feet... Once long ago a sage famously said: "If evil good appear to any, the gods are near. Unscathed he'll go, and then they'll bring him low." pg. 363

Just what a right-minded son should feel: unremitting deference to his father's will. Such is a parent's prayer, to see grow up a race of filial sons to deck his home: ready always to avenge their father's wrongs, and of course to give his friends the selfsame honor that the father gives. But a man who raises a batch of worthless boys, what has he hatched for himself but nuisances, and jubilant sneers from the ill-disposed! Oh, Haemon, don't lose your balance for a woman's sake! Don't hug a joy that's cheap and cools: an evil woman for your bed and board. No wound is worse than counterfeited love. She is poison. Spit her out. pg. 364

How can I, if I nurse sedition in my house, not foster it outside? No. If a man can keep his home in hand, he proves his competance to keep the state. But one who breaks the law and flout authority, I never will allow. Unswerving submission to whomsoever the state has put in charge is what is asked: in little things as well as great, in right and wrong. And I am confident that one who thus obeys, will make a perfect subject or a perfect king: the kind of man who in the thick of flying spears never flinches from his post but stands dauntless at his comrade's side. But as for anarchy, there is no greater curse than anarchy. It topples cities down, it crumbles homes, it shatters allied ranks in broken flight that discipline kept whole: For discipline preserves and orders well. Let us then defend authority. pg. 364

I would not dream of criticizing yours or saying you were wrong, even if I could. But other men can reason rightly too. As your son, you see, I find myself marking every word and act and comment of the crowd, to gauge the temper of the simple citizen, who dares not risk his scowl to speak his mind. But I from the shadows hear them: hear a city's sympathy for this girl, because no woman ever faced so unreasonable, so cruel a death, for such a generous cause. She would not leave her brother where he fell, for carrion birds and dogs to maul. "Should not her name be writ in gold?", they say, and so the whisper grows. pg. 365

For sons and fathers crown each other's glory with each other's fame. So I beg you, father, don't entrench yourself in your opinion as if everyone else was wrong. The kind of man who always thinks that he is right, that his opinions, his pronouncements, are the final word, is usually exposed as hollow as they come. But a wise man is flexible, has much to learn without a loss of dignity. See the trees in floodtime, how they bend along the torrent's course, and how their twigs and branches do not snap, but stubborn trees are torn up roots and all. In sailing too, when fresh weather blows, a skipper who will not slacken sail, turns turtle, finishes his voyage beam-ends up. So let your anger cool and change your mind. I may be young, but not without some sense. Let men be wise by instinct if they can, but when this fails and nature won't oblige, be wise by good advice. pg. 366

You mean that men of my years have to learn to think by taking notes from men of his? - In only what is right. It is my merit, not my years, that count. pg. 366

He is young, his rage will make him desperate. pg. 368

Love, unquelled in battle, Love, making nonsense of wealth pillowed all night on the cheek of a girl you roam the seas, pervade the wilds and in a shepherd's hut you lie. Shadowing immortal gods you dog ephemeral man- madness your possession. Turning the wise into fools you twist them off their course and now you have stung us to this strife for father fighting son... Oh, Love, the bride has but to glance with the lyrical light of her eyes to win you a seat in the stars and Aphrodite laughs. pg. 368

Perhaps you aimed to high you dashed your foot on fate where justice sits enthroned. pg. 370

Pious is as pious does but where might is right it's reckless to do wrong. Self-propelled to death you go with open eyes. pg. 371

Panegyrics and dirges go on forever if given the chance. pg. 371

[Antigone's awareness of the objective just course] pg. 371

See how she goes, headlong driven by the capricious gusts of her own will! pg. 373

prudence is the best of all our wealth. - As folly is the worst of all our woes? - Yes, infectious folly! And you are sick with it. - I'll not exchange a fishwife's set-to with a seer. - Which is what you do when you say I sell my prophecies. - As prophets do- a money grubbing race. - Or as kings, who grub for money in the dung. pg. 377

It's hard to eat my words, but harder still to court catastrophe through overriding pride. - Son of Menoeceus, be advised in time. pg. 378

Don't trust to others. pg. 378

In the end it is the ancient codes- oh, my regrets- that one must keep: To value life then one must value law. pg. 379

how rash it is to envy others or to despair! The luck we adulate in one today, tomorrow is another's tragedy. There is no stable horoscope for man. Take Creon: he, if anyone, I thought was enviable. He saved this land from all our enemies, attained the pomp and circumstance of king, his children decked like olive branches around his throne. And now it is undone, all finished. And what is left is not called life but death alive. His kingly state is nothing to him now with gladness gone: vanity of vanities- the shadow of a shade. pg. 380

I shall not try to glaze the truth; for where is there comfort in a lie, so soon found out? The truth is always best. pg. 381

Lesson to the world that inhumae designs wreak a havoc immeasurably inhumane. pg. 383

I do not trust extremes of silence or of grief. - Let me go into the house and see. Extremes of silence, as you say, are sinister. Her heart is broken and can hide some sinister design. pg. 383

Oh, Death, pitiless receiver! Kill me? Will you kill me? Your mercy dwindles, does it? Must you bring me words that crush me utterly? I was dead, and still you kill me. Slaughter was piled high, Ah, then, do not tell me you come to pile it higher. pg. 385

Tomorrow is tomorrow and we must mind today. pg. 386

Where can I look? Where hope for help, when everything I touch is lost and death has lept upon my life? - Where wisdom is, there happiness will crown a piety that nothing will corrode. But high and mighty words and ways are flogged to humbleness, till age, beaten to its knees, at last is wise. pg. 386

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