Three classic Greek plays translated by Robert Bagg, professor emeritus of English, have been published by the University of Massachusetts Press.
With "The Oedipus Plays of Sophocles: ''Oedipus the King,'' ''Oedipus at Kolonos,'' and ''Antigone,''" Bagg completes his translation of the three plays in which Sophocles dramatized the agony and destruction inflicted on Oedipus and his family, the royal house of Thebes. To the newly revised "Oedipus the King," first published in 1982, Bagg adds "Antigone" and "Oedipus at Kolonos." Composed decades apart in the fifth century BCE, these tragedies hold a central place in Western literature--not only because of the formal beauty and dramatic power of their poetry, but because of the shocking ironies that convey Sophocles'' understanding of divine malice and human vulnerability.
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.
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.
Robert Bagg taught in the English Department from 1965 until his retirement in 1996. He has published three volumes of poetry, including "Body Blows: Poems New and Selected," as well as translations of Euripides'' "Hippolytos" and "The Bakkhai." His translations have been staged in more than 60 productions in the United States and abroad.
Mary Bagg is a freelance editor and writer whose book reviews appear in the Boston Globe.
"The Oedipus Plays of Sophocles: ''Oedipus the King,'' ''Oedipus at Kolonos,'' and ''Antigone''" is available in an $80 library cloth edition and a $19.95 paperback edition.