Sophocles Gets Homeric

Status: published

Sophocles' remaining plays\"\" all have some connection toHomer's stuff. Unfortunately, they are all horribly depressing and I don'treally have a lot worth saying about them. But I did enjoy them quite alot.

First up is Aias/Ajax. In it, Ajax flips out and goes on amurdering spree because Achilles armor was given to Odysseus rather than him.But Athena, cunt that she is, tricks him with illusions. He ends up killingsome cows and kidnapping the herdsmen. But he's totally convinced that he offedOdysseus. We he figures out what happened, he can't live with the shame anymoreand kills himself. It is such an awful way for Ajax to die. It's like Sophoclesjust wants to up the utter pointlessness of the Trojan war.

Then there's Women of Trachis. Which, despite the name, is aboutHerakles/Hercules. Hercules took some women as loot during one of his crazyadventures. His wife became jealous of one of the slave women. She then useswhat she thinks is a centaur-blood love potion on Hercules' robe. Turns out,the centaur really just told Hercules' future wife that it was a love potionbecause he was bitter that Hercules had just mortally wounded him with anarrow. So, when Hercules puts on the robes, it fucking melts him. Centaur bloodis apparently demi-god-dissolving acid. That's some nasty shit. And a prettyawful way for Hercules to die. On the bright side, we "know" from other"sources" that he just pops up on Mount Olympus and has since spent the rest ofhis immortality having a jolly good time. That's something, I suppose.

Sophocles does his version of the downfall of Agamemnon in Electra.Basically, he retells the time of Orestes' exile from Electra's perspective andsuggests that if Orestes had not shown up when he did, Electra was about toshank a bitch. The story deals heavily with the misery of helpless women. Whileher household falls into depravity, she is unable to actually do anything aboutit because she is a woman (her words, not mine). She has to stand by and donothing. Orestes, in contrast, is off elsewhere and only briefly witnessesElectra's miserable world. He doesn't even have to endure that brief taste ofher misery for long. Unlike Electra, he can just move straight to the goodrevenge bits. I find it kind of surprising that this misery of women due tobeing non-actors is such a rare trope. I guess male authors just don't thinkabout it that much. Other than Sophocles, the only good examples I can think ofare Tolkien's Eowyn and Ophelia of Shakespeare's Hamlet.

Finally there is Philoctetes. In Homer's stuff, there is mention ofa guy whom the Greeks had to leave on an island because the snake bite hereceived was so disgusting. Turns out, the guy had a really cool bow andOdysseus decides to go back with the son of Achilles, Neoptolemos, to try tosteal it. This seems to be an early example of Odysseus' transition from wisehero to trickster villain. The Romans knew him mostly as a total bastard.Medieval Europe continued that interpretation. Dante has him in Hell in asection reserved for false counselors. This character assassination is in manyways worse than the previous Homeric hero suicide and acid melting.

In short, Sophocles is a fucking dick.