The plays of the Greek tragedian Sophokles have reverberated throughout the centuries, and the passage of time has done nothing whatever to diminish their force. The dramatist's last play, Philoktetes, written at the age of eighty-seven, summarized the wisdom gained by a lifetime of artistic struggle. The subject of Edmund Wilson's famous essay "The Wound and the Bow," the play may be seen as the first literary expression of the "nature-nurture controversy," which the author resolves with supreme insight into the question of human character in an unfortunately neglected classic that still speaks to the modern world.
Gregory McNamee’s spare and graceful translation of Philoktetes lets the light of the original—a light now hot, now cold, always piercing—shine through a dignified and accessible lattice of language. Accurate and assured, McNamee brings us face to face with the play. —Rachel Hadas
Philoktetes is perhaps the most philosophical of the surviving plays of Sophocles, dealing with the same complex of ideas as does Plato’s Kratylos: the extent to which the identity or nature of a person, or thing, or word derives from its parentage or provenance or etymology. McNamee’s translation preserves a surprising amount of the richness of philosophical implication, while giving us a clean, direct, idiomatic, and action-packed story. I especially liked the way he lets the play suggest its own stage directions; and also the way in which character is conveyed, not by an attempt at peculiar forms of speech, but by clarity of plot and motive. It feels both Greek and contemporary. —Frederick Turner
McNamee’s is the best version in English. —William Arrowsmith