The Cure at Troy

Posted by on Wednesday, January 26th, 2005

The Cure at Troy: A Version of Sophocles’ Philoctetes
Translated by Seamus Heaney
First performed at the Guildhall, Derry on October first, 1990. 

If you have any love of Irish drama or Irish dramatists, you need to read this.  I’ve been kicking myself for years for never having seen the original performance, though I had no idea this translation of the play existed until I was, well, not in high school like I was in 1990. 

Heaney has proved himself a fine translator.  Tackling both Beowulf and Sophocles is no task for a coward.  In this translation of the play, we find Philoctetes as a possible symbol for the injured nationalist Ireland–truly wronged, but perhaps short-sighted in clinging to that wrong and the need for vengeance for far too long.  Heaney is light-handed with his use of local dialects–we get some whinging and an och or two, but we’re not drowning in the peculiarities of Ulster’s speech in this ancient setting.  This retelling leaves the weight of Odysseus’s crime against Philoctetes on the Atrean shoulders, but also calls Philoctetes to account for his own stubbornness. 

Read it.  Savor the language from the simple sweet dedication to the late Robert Fitzgerald, to the painfully apt use of Auden’s poetry as an introduction, through to the redemptive end.  Read it.  It will be good for you.

Filed in Books | No responses yet

Trackback URI | Comments RSS

Leave a Reply