Sophocles, The Great Attic Tragedian

Playwright Outlook

How many Attic Tragedians are still alive in the readers’ minds for their unique contributions in the field of drama? The majority must say three, Aeschylus, Sophocles, and Euripides. Yes, these three Greek tragedians are still very much alive through their plays. And, according to Great Greek philosopher Aristotle, Sophocles’ most remarkable contribution was the introduction of scenery on the Greek stage. That means the famous Attic tragedian was probably the first to have the essential requirement for staging a play, i.e., stage building.

Sophocles was perhaps the first tragedian who had successfully made people understand the importance of stage decoration as per the requirement of the scenes. A drama consists of different important scenes, and their successful portrayals on the stage are possible only through proper ornamentation. Sophocles was the first and most refined perfectionist who, with his unique talents, revealed how to design the drama stage to represent more evidently different scenes, like, a place, a forest, the sea-shore, and many others.

Apart from stage building, the great Greek tragedian also appeared as the pioneer for raising the number of actors from two to three for the first time. And it emerged as a great innovation. In ancient tragedy, one individual actor appeared in each scene. During the early stage of the Aeschylean tragedy, it went up to two. That means only two individual actors had the authority to carry on the dialogues, although mute characters were present. Sophocles first broke this tradition and introduced the three-actor plan.

His intention behind introducing this new plan was to make every part and scene of a play more vivid to the spectators. An important thing is his timeless classic tragedies are less heroic and more human. As a dramatist, his exceptionally unique way of sketching human characters is different from Euripides, one of the three Attic tragedians. Even the majority of the spectators and readers, till now, choose him as the most effective playwright among the three Greek tragedians. Drawing tragic contrast as per the requirement of the situation and depicting character depending on that situation was the incomparable signature style of Sophocles.

Sophocles’ one of the most remarkable earliest tragic plays is Antigone. It draws a problem of human life. In addition, it unfolds a conflict between “duty to the family” and the “state.” Antigone represents the first one, while Creon represents the latter one. It is the Greek tragedian’s skillful style of drawing the play’s plot, which makes it a more complicated one compared to other contemporary playwrights’ tragedies heretofore. Moreover, the drama always appears to be “less in the past” and “more in the present.”

The other two remarkable tragedies of the great Attic tragedian are ‘Women of Trachis’ and ‘Ajax.’ These two plays demonstrate the insertion of more action in the Greek tragedies and the playwright’s tendency to present those events on the stage. As a result, the spectators of his age, for the first time, saw some new inventions on the stage which were different from the, so far, old, tedious, boring action scenes.

Another significant Greek tragedy of Sophocles is Oedipus Rex. It is a masterpiece with the finest dramatic art concerning the plot construction. However, this remarkable play could not attain the first position when produced for the first time. But, the playwright found his drama very useful in enhancing his admirers. Even his most astounding ageless play, Philoctetes, also appeared victorious in acquiring admirers’ accreditation through a plot consisting of the conflict that is “entirely human” and at the same time “purely psychological.”

One surprising thing is many Greek tragic plays contain problems, although, from the modern point of view, they are not problem-plays, which usually exhibit a thesis. Some critics opine that Philoctetes is also a modern play. And characters of this drama unearth the probability of several problem facts. But, Sophocles never answered those problems directly and only unveiled the reaction of human minds to those facts. Nonetheless, Philoctetes is still the most exemplary instance among all the Greek tragedies of crucial inter-reaction of events and characters.

As a dramatist, Sophocles’ most successful play is Philoctetes. Through this ageless drama, the famous tragedian made a grand entry into the domain, portraying the conflict in the souls and minds of men. And in drawing the conflict in discharging duties to individuals as well as society.

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