In 1869, having read the Antigone with a pupil who at the time had a passion for the stage, I was led to attempt a metrical version of the Antigone, and, by and by, of the Electra and Trachiniae. I had the satisfaction of seeing this last very beautifully produced by an amateur company in Scotland in 1877; when Mrs. Fleeming Jenkin may be said to have 'created' the part of Dêanira. Thus encouraged, I completed the translation of the seven plays, which was published by Kegan Paul in 1883 and again by Murray in 1896. I have now to thank Mr. Murray for consenting to this cheaper issue.
The seven extant plays of Sophocles have been variously arranged. In the order most frequently adopted by English editors, the three plays of the Theban cycle, Oedipus Tyrannus, Oedipus Coloneus, and Antigone, have been placed foremost.
In one respect this is obviously convenient, as appearing to present continuously a connected story. But on a closer view, it is in two ways illusory.
- The Antigone is generally admitted to be, comparatively speaking, an early play, while the Oedipus Coloneus belongs to the dramatist’s latest manner; the first Oedipus coming in somewhere between the two. The effect is therefore analogous to that produced on readers of Shakespeare by the habit of placing Henry VI after Henry IV and V. But tragedies and 'histories' or chronicle plays are not in pari materia.
- The error has been aggravated by a loose way of speaking of 'the Theban Trilogy', a term which could only be properly applicable if the three dramas had been produced in the same year. I have therefore now
- Three Plays of Sophocles: Blackwood, 1873.