The seven remaining plays of Sophocles are considered the height of ancient Athens’ achievements with themes of army, city, family, the human race and independence within and without family. Acceptance of place or rejection? What does it mean to be an outsider? What should we do when forced to choose?
Life and Times
Sophocles had a long, successful, productive and happy life. He was fairly wealthy and well educated. He lived in Athens during the golden or classical age. Pericles, an important political figure, was a personal friend of Sophocles. After age 60, the city of Athens began to experience turmoil. He worked in Athenian theater all his life and introduced scene painting, increasing the chorus members from twelve to fifteen, and bringing in a third actor (a “tritagonist”) which allowed three-way dialogue and deeper relationship explorations. Sophocles’s plays seem more modern because he de-centered the chorus to focus more on the characters. He created realistic characters who explored issues such as when is it appropriate to compromise? Should I be a hero or take the course of moderation? He won first prize at the Great Dionysia while still younger than thirty. He composed over one hundred and twenty plays. He had so much charm of character that he was loved everywhere, by everyone. Sophocles’s participation in public life suggests that he was seen as a trustworthy and wise member of the community. He was married and had five sons, one of whom became involved in the theater. He lived past the age of ninety.