Page:Sophocles - Seven Plays, 1900.djvu/30

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xxiv
PREFATORY NOTE TO EDITION OF 1883

to heroic grandeur in Dêanira, the wronged wife of Heracles, whose fatal error is caused by the innocent working of her wounded love.

It is strange that so acute a critic as A. W. Schlegel should have doubted the Sophoclean authorship of the Trachiniae. If its religious and moral lessons are even less obtrusive than those of either Oedipus and of the Antigone, there is no play which more directly pierces to the very heart of humanity. And it is a superficial judgement which complains that here at all events our sympathies are distracted between the two chief persons, Dêanira and Heracles. To one passion of his, to one fond mistake of hers, the ruin of them both is due. Her love has made their fates inseparable. And the spectator, in sharing Hyllus' grief, is afflicted for them both at once. We may well recognize in this treatment of the death of Heracles the hand of him who wrote—

 σὺ καὶ δικαίωυς
Φρέυας παρασπἀς ὲπὶ Λώβα
,

· · · · · ·

ἇμαΧος Υὰρ έμπαίζει θεὸς 'ΑΦρσδίrα[1].

 7. It is unnecessary to expatiate here on the merit of construction in which these seven plays are generally acknowledged to be unrivalled; the natural way in which the main situation is explained, the suddenness and inevitableness of the complications, the steadily sustained climax of emotion until the action culminates, the preservation of the fitting mood until the end, the subtlety and effectiveness of the minor contrasts of situation and character[2]

But it may not be irrelevant to observe that the acting qualities of Sophocles, as of Shakespeare, are

  1. {{float centre| 'Thou drawest awry
    Just minds to wrong and ruin. . . .
    . .  .  .  .  . . With resistless charm
    Great Aphrodite mocks the might of men.'
     Antigone.
  2. Cf. Sophocles in Green's 'Classical Writers.' Macmillan & Co.