Bagg’s goal has been to make accurate but idiomatic renderings of the Greek originals that are suitable for reading, teaching, or performing. What makes his versions "leaner, tauter, more luminous and Sophoclean than other translations," writes classicist Richard P. Martin, is Bagg’s "decision to follow the American poetic tradition of Stevens, Pound, and Frost rather than the English tradition" of most other contemporary translators. Readers and actors alike will find these translations loyal to Sophocles’ characteristic directness and concision, his pervasive irony, his unsparing descriptions of physical violence, and the music of his choral songs. Each character speaks with a distinctive voice; each play possesses a tone expressive of the issues that preoccupied Sophocles during the stages of his long engagement with the fate of Oedipus, his wife/mother Jocasta, and their children.
In the introductions, Bagg and his wife Mary discuss factors in ancient Greek social and cultural life that are likely to be unfamiliar to the general reader but are central to interpreting Sophocles’ meaning. They have also annotated each play to clarify mythological references and points of interpretation and translation. In their general introduction they explore the origins of Greek theater, the nature of the Athenian festival of Dionysos at which Sophocles’ plays were first performed, and the characteristic ingredients of Greek drama in performance. They conclude with a discussion of the known facts and surviving anecdotes of the playwright’s life.
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