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Sophocles: Life and Career. Biography.

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Sophocles was the younger contemporary of Aeschylus older contemporary of Euripides. He was born in Colonus, a village just outside the walls of Athens, where his father Sophillus, was a wealthy manufacturer of armour. Because of his father’s wealth Sophocles was able to receive a fine education in Athens.

The relatively sketchy information about Sophocles’ civic life we have suggests that he was a popular favourite who participated actively in his community and exercised outstanding artistic talents.

-In 442 he served as one of the treasurers responsible for handling tribute money from Athens.

-In 440 he was elected one of the strategoi. He later served as strategos perhaps two times.

-At the age of 83 Sophocles became a proboulus one of 10 advisory commissioners who were granted special powers and were entrusted with organizing Athens’ financial and domestic recovery.

Sophocles won his first victory at the Dionysian dramatic festival in 468, however, defeating the great Aeschylus in the process. This began a career of unparalleled success and longevity. In total, Sophocles wrote 123 dramas for the festivals.

These few facts are about all that is known of Sophocles’ life. They imply steady and distinguished attachment to Athens, its government, religion, and social forms.

sophocles approach to writing
Sophocles’ approach to writing
  • He never intruded contemporary politics into the idealism of his tragedies.
  • It is said that he was appreciated by the community due to his generosity – this can relate to his plays as within in them there is no obvious villain or victim, he appears to portray characters with equal understanding.
  • He focused upon the interior intimate life of his characters, which was considered to be a fairly modern approach at the time he was writing- which was perhaps one of the reasons he was such a triumph among the people of the capital, Athens.
  • He integrates many rhetorical set pieces within his plays; to show his extensive skill as a playwrite.
  • He uses, for example, the chorus in his plays to represent ethical and political views shared by a majority of people watching his plays.
  • He does however, seem to work within the parameters of taste and expectation; his main aim is to simply win prizes and please the people.
oedipus the king
Oedipus the King
  • This play is the most canonised and famous plays written by Sophocles; according to Aristotle it is the perfect Greek tragedy.
  • This play is a good example of Sophocles’ style of writing where there is no clear cause to the tragedy but ones own actions. Oedipus the King is no doubt the cause of his own destruction.
  • As well as the rest of his works this play deals with the theme of fatalism, perhaps the most popular theme for Greek Literature. Another way of reflecting he was merely a writer to please the people and win prizes.
  • It takes an in-depth look into the lives of noble characters, such as Oedipus and his wife Jocasta.
  • As Sophocles was involved in politics in many different ways throughout his career, he could convey the full effect of a public scandal as seen in this play, as he would of understood how damaging it can be on a society and person – through this understanding he could make it as entertaining as possible.