The Complete Greek Drama, 2 Volumes

by: Editors - Whitney J.Oates and Eugene O'Neil, Jr.

THE aim of the present publication is to give English readers in a single book the complete corpus of the extant Greek drama. The plays themselves have been in the past available only in individual translations, or in translations of single dramatists, or in translations of a few plays selected from the total number that has survived. The editors have endeavoured to choose the best available translation for each individual play. In some instances they were faced with an embarrassment of riches, while in others they were constrained to include a version with which they were somewhat dissatisfied, yet which clearly seemed to be superior to the other renderings at their disposal. The main criteria for determining the value of a particular version were these: essential correspondence to the Greek. original considered as a whole, plus as close fidelity as possible to the original in specific detail. Whether the version was in prose or verse was not made a primary consideration in the process of selection, but careful observance of the main criteria resulted in collecting a group of translations, thirty of which are in prose, fifteen in verse, and two in a combination of prose and verse. The variety of translations should enable the reader to obtain a better conception of the originals than would be possible if all the versions were from a single hand, however dexterous.

Every effort has been made to impress upon the reader the extreme importance of the musical element in the Greek plays. To accomplish this end, all choral or singing passages in the prose versions have been indented, and broken up into their various choric constituents. Likewise, speeches which are attrihuted to the Chorus in the manuscripts, if they are written in the regular metre of the dialogue passages, have been assigned to the Leader of the Chorus, who thus becomes almost another member of the cast. Furthermore, all passages which were sung or chanted, so far as can be determined by their metre in the original, have been so indicated in the present text.

As much uniformity as was possible has been imposed upon the texts. Certain inconsistencies remain, but they are for the most part attributable to the idiosyncrasies of the particular translator. Complete unifonnity has hence been not only impossible to achieve, but also undesirable, since certain translations would have been impaired in the effort to bring about greater consistency. Many of the versions were almost completely lacking in stage directions. An attempt has been made to supply that deficiency, but no stage direction has been added which cannot reasonably be inferred from the text itself, since there are practically no such directions in the Greek manuscripts of the plays.

No verse translations have been altered in any particular by the editors. The anonymous prose version of Aristophanes has been exhaustively corrected and revised, while certain minor modifications have been introduced into the translations of Euripides by E. P. Coleridge. The remaining prose versions appear as they were originally published.

The General Introduction attempts to present certain material, both historical and systematic, which is requisite to the understanding of the plays. It treats, for example, such subjects as the nature of the Greek theatre, Greek Tragedy and Greek Comedy in general, and the lives and works of the individual dramatists. Accompanying each play is a short special introduction to that play, designed primarily to facilitate its understanding on the part of the reader. Each play also is accompanied by notes which endeavour to explain particular passages which otherwise might prove difficult to apprehend. A Glossary, mainly of proper names, appears at the end of Volume II, which renders unnecessary a number of specific notes on the individual plays. It is hoped that the Glossary will prove a useful and valuable adjunct to the book, being particularly important for the plays of Aristophanes with their wealth of topical allusions.

The editors wish to thank Professors D. R. Stuart, G. E. Duckworth, F. R. B. Godolphin, N. H. Pearson, H. C. Hutchins, and Dr. N. T. Pratt for invaluable assistance in the preparation of this book. They are particularly grateful to Professor L. A. Post for permission to use his introductions and revised translation of the comedies of Menanner. They wish also to express their appreciation to Mrs. Thomas S. Dignan for assistance in connection with the frontispiece for Volume I, and to Professor Margarete Bieber for permission to use one of her photographs as the frontispiece to Volume II.

The editors together assume the responsibility for the selection of translations. Mr. Oates edited the text, prepared the individual introductions and notes for the plays of AeSChylus, Sophocles and Euripides. He also prepared that part of the General Introduction which cleals with tragedy and the tragedians. Mr. O'Neill edited the text, revised the translation, and prepared the individual introductions and notes for the plays of Aristophanes, as well as that portion of the General Introduction which deals with comedy and the comic poets. He likewise compiled the Glossary.

The editors also desire to express their thanks to Random House for their courteous cooperation, and for their willingness to undertake this publication which, it is earnestly hoped, will further the understanding and appreciation of these masterpieces of Greek creative art.
Whitney ]. Oates
Eugene O'Neill, Jr.
May 6, 1938

Download: The Complete Greek Daram, 2 Volumes - Edited by Whitney J.Oates and Eugene O'Neil, Jr. (.pdf)


Tags: ClassicalGreece, AnceintGreece, Prose, Poetry, Tragedy, Drama


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