The Burial at Thebes

In: English and Literature

Submitted By brmbrm89
Words 1668
Pages 7
Bianca Meier
Assignment 06
Option 2 Seamus Heaney’s The Burial at Thebes
How does Heaney attempt to make his play, as a reworking of an ancient Greek play written by Sophocles, relevant to a modern audience more than 2000 years later? How far do you think he has succeeded?
Seamus Heaney’s The Burial at Thebes is a reworking of Sophocles’ play Antigone from over two thousand years ago. In many ways The Burial at Thebes aims to rework the ancient Greek tragedy to make it relevant to a modern audience. This essay firstly analyses the challenges Heaney faced during the process of translation and writing including his own conscious effort to make the play suitable for a contemporary audience. Secondly, it describes how Heaney’s use of language aided in presenting modern ideas through poetic timbre and language, Irish diction and English idiom in an attempt to make the play more ‘speakable’. Thirdly, this essay identifies features of Greek theatrical conventions and how Heaney used these to shape his play. Heaney also presents social and political issues through The Burial at Thebes in a way that resonates with a contemporary audience.
Vital to understanding the challenges Heaney faced in his work, is his own assertion that his work is not a translation of an ancient Greek text but rather a version of it essentially because he drew from the existing translations by Jebb and the Loeb (Heaney, 2004, in Hardwick, 2008, p.222). For Heaney, it is imperative to be aware of tradition and the past, but not to be bound by it, because to do so would make progress and change impossible, “the problem is if you look at a verse translation–or a very good verse translation, you know –immediately, diction is always crucial, choice of words, you know, and so on. And you’re yearning for the right one. Then you see it in somebody else’s and that’s very dangerous stuff…...

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